- Start with “I Don’t Know”
Don’t pretend that you know what you want. Start by being honest with yourself if you’re not sure what career path excites you. Start to reflect (another “key” component that I’ll mention again later) on three separate components, which I’ll list below. These are the three core components of what makes up a job. By starting to reflect, you’ll begin to figure out a high-level description of what you think you might want in terms of:
1. The function that you think you may enjoy doing (the actual verb, the things you enjoy doing)
2. The content area you enjoy learning about (healthcare, fashion, technology, politics, finance, etc.)
3. The environment you want to be in (the people you want to work with, the type/style of work you enjoy doing, how things should look and feel physically at the company, ie size)
Add these three components up into one sentence. You now have a mission statement. It will change and evolve. But it is a STARTING point.
2. Understand that it is a process
I’ll guide you through the next steps of the job search process in a second. But first, you need to buckle down and realize that it is a process. That’s why step #1 is just your starting point and not your definitive ending point. This will take a little time. Know that it won’t take that long if you put in a few hours each week, and know that it isn’t a hard process, but it is a process. If you’re ready for that because you’re willing and motivated to reach your career goals, then let’s get moving. Don’t engage in a job search until you’re mentally and physically ready and interested in spending the time and energy.
3. Networking is Actually Learning
To be more specific, a job search is (or should be) treated as not just any process, but a learning and explorative process. The way to learn is indeed networking; you’re going to learn from people the information you need to make decisions. Ask for introductions to people and ask for phone calls. Treat these conversations as a true learning opportunity and nothing more. Try to understand your target roles, companies, and industries. Try to deeply understand what those roles look and feel like, the career pathing, the differences between your target roles and your target companies, the nuances of the industry, and helpful experiences you can do to gain relevant skills in the arena. When you have 20–50 of these conversations for weeks at a time (depending on how many conversations you have per week), you will come out the other end knowing exactly what you want to target. You went from a high-level mission statement to a very specific one. I don’t know how else to describe this except to say that you’ll know the process is “over” when you feel confident that you have a specific mission statement — you know the specific role title, the specific type of company and environment you want to go after. You’ll have an “aha” moment.
4. Reflect & Re-Route
Reflection is so important to job searching. In adult learning theory, it’s proven that reflection is one of the best ways to solidify, cement and enhance you’re learning. As you go through step #3, in order to get to that confident outcome that I mentioned, you’ll need to re-route along the way. You’ll re-route by reflecting on the conversations you have, figuring out which are interesting and intriguing to you and which are not. By doing so, you’ll hone in on more and more on functional areas, roles, and companies that you think are awesome, and move farther away from those that you don’t. This requires you to get rid of the various stereotypes that you’ve heard about your target roles and companies. It requires you to genuinely apply what you’re learning from your networking conversations in order to make your own decisions about what feels right and exciting to you.
5. Be Honest With Yourself
This is critical during the reflection process but also in the interview process. Of course at this point you need to have strong interview skills (which I won’t go over now), but the most un-obvious piece of advice on interviews that I can give you is:
If you completed the above steps in a genuine way, it will lead you to have interview conversations that simply feel like an extension of those networking conversations above. If you’re in an interview for a role and a company you truly feel energized by, it will likely be a great, natural conversation. If you’re honest with yourself about what energizes and intrigues you, you’ll land interviews and offers that will lead to roles that will energize and intrigue you. These conversations are a strong signal as to how your experience at that company will feel, so be honest with how you felt in the interview before making a decision. Did those seem like “your people”? Did you genuinely enjoy the conversation and their company? A lackluster interview likely won’t lead to a job that you’re itching to get out of bed for. To figure out if you’ll really like the role, if you’ve done the above steps adequately, you need to now gauge how the interview (conversation) went and felt. But the trick is, don’t lie to yourself. Make hard decisions if it means saying no and to continue looking. Don’t settle; I can guarantee there is a company out there with a role, industry, and environment/culture that not only suits you, but makes you feel completely jazzed. When work is ~60 hours of our week, comprising the vast majority of our time, why would you settle for anything less than jazz?