Job searching can be hard. Fact.
The uncertainty. The rejection. The interviews you never hear back from (seriously what’s with that?).
Part of what makes it difficult is so many of us don’t even know what we’re looking for. We’re not sure what our next career move should be. We’re more concerned what we think people expect us to do to figure out what we want, what lights us up, what we want to learn, what feels like the right move for us.
How are we supposed to know if we’ve found the right opportunity if we don’t know what we’re looking for?
What I’ve realised is we don’t need to figure out every single detail of our next role in order to land a dream job. In fact, I think it’s important to leave some grey, some room to be surprised, space for it to be even better than we can imagine.
My first job as a grad, all I knew is I wanted to learn as much as possible as fast as possible and work with great, supportive people. And that’s what I got.
Now I’ve just started the EXACT job I wanted and here are the questions I asked myself to figure what that was so I could go out and get it!
Where is the world going and what skills do I want to learn to future proof my career?
In my last job, I worked for an IT recruitment firm that opened my eyes up to just how far reaching technology really is in the world. I saw all of the cool things our clients were doing plus understood that there’s a lot more to working in tech than just coding.
My eyes were open and I wanted in.
So when I was searching for a job this time around, building skills in the tech sector, working in software development in some way was high up the list.
I could see that translating my skills into a more technology related role would future proof my career. When I had been job searching in London previously, there had been a lot more calls for a tech based business analyst than a process analyst. It was time to make that move.
So the question for you is, where is the world going? How do you want to be apart of it?
Do you want to translate your skills into a new industry like I have?
Are there emerging new skills or trends within your industry that excite you? Could you go somewhere that will expose you to those things?
The idea is to get beyond just looking for job where you can already do everything on the job spec. That’s boring and you don’t grow. You’re capable of way more than playing it completely safe.
Lean into the idea of, if I could go anywhere and learn anything, what would that be?
What kind of environment do I want to work in?
Think about the people you want to work with. What do they value? What’s important to them?
Is the office super formal? Or do you want to shoot nerf guns?
Consider how you want to dress. Are you after suits, stillettos and pantyhose or would you rather dress the way you dress on the weekend?
Do you do better in structured environments with clearly defined job descriptions, well laid out progression pathways, and clear expectations so you know exactly what’s required of you? Or do you thrive in a more start-up style, entrepreneurial environment where you can wing it, make decisions on the fly and make moves where you see fit?
This is not about choosing arbituary qualities like wanting to work for a small or large company. That’s like writing 6 foot or taller on your ideal man list, it doens’t tell you anything meaningful about what you’re looking for.
What is it about a small company that appeals? Maybe that you get to work beyond your job spec, building a wider range of experience. Or everyone will know everyone and the there’s next to no hierarchy in the team.
That reasoning beyond the superficial is way more helpful when figuring out whether a role is right for you.
What work/life composition are you aiming for?
Are you up for an all-consuming, learn as much as possible, as fast as possible kind of role? Or do you want a schedule that leaves room for other things?
At some points in our career our job can be our whole life. We’ll work fifty, sixty, (hopefully not) seventy hours a week, soaking it all up and growing exponentially. Everything else – friends, family, hobbies, fitness – are all secondary to doing a really great job. we’re all in and aiming to get to a certain level in our career.
That could be what you’re looking for in your next move.
And I want to take this moment to say that it’s completely fine if this is what you want to do. I actually edited this question to no longer say balance because it’s not about ‘balance’. It’s about understanding your current objectives and priorities and having the majority of your time going into those things. Meaning we’ll have phases focused on our career where our job gets 80% of our energy and phases where the priority is elsewhere so that percentage goes down.
Which is exactly what you’re thinking about with this question. How much of my energy, time, creativity do I want to channel into my job and how much do I want to use for my family, having kids, hobbies, building my own business, whatever takes your fancy?
For me it was pretty clear that I didn’t want an all-consuming job because I knew that would mean giving up An Independent Maven and my productivity coaching. It just wouldn’t be possible to do both. So when someone told me that the company I now work for are really hot on ensuring everyone sticks to their contracted hours, I was sold.
What have I learnt from previous roles that really works (or doesn’t work) for me?
This is a reflection process. What worked? What didn’t? What would you change? What would you stop doing?
This can help with the previous questions. Do you like your hours? Does the commute work for you? Do you like how the company is organised? What is your manager like?
Thinking about your current situation, and previous roles, in this way can be very enlightening about what does and doesn’t work for you.
In my latest job search, I was very clear that I wanted a role that was more project based. I’ve realised I work better with deadlines as opposed to churning out Business As Usual day after day. Plus I get bored easily so do better in jobs where things are changing all the time. Working on client projects, where everything starts fresh every couple of months, suits me and how I work best perfectly.
Go Out and Land that Perfect Job!
So I lied, it’s more like 56 questions to figure out your perfect role.
Don’t worry if you can’t answer all of the questions or sub questions, considering each one will give you plenty of guidance on what kind of role you’re looking for. And as I said earlier, leaving a little grey, a little room to be surprised, for it to be even better than you’re imagining is a good thing.
Dream a little. Don’t worry about whether it feels possible, just figure out what you WANT. So no filtering, no dumbing it down.
In some ways, moving into technology didn’t seem realistic. I knew I had a lot of crossover skills but I applied for a LOT of jobs in London identical to what I’m doing now and didn’t get past the application stage of a single one.
The point here is to create your vision, your dream.
This isn’t the time to compromise. Later in the process, when you’re debating whether it’s worth the time and energy to attend an interview, then you might evaluate whether you’re willing to forgo anything on your list. But right now, allowing doubt to water that vision down means you’re settling, you’re already selling yourself short.
Start positive. Stay optimistic. Give yourself to fully GO THERE and express what you truly want. You never know, you might just get it.
Are you currently job searching? It can be a lonely and frustrating process so if you want some support, book a free Discovery Call to chat about how I can best guide you through the journey.