Before you head out looking for your next job, it pays to get ready. This post covers a few things that will save you time and energy in your search while improving your overall chances of success.
The best time to do the following things is when you are not urgently looking for a job. The last thing you want to do is rush through all sorts of preliminary steps, in addition to worrying about applying for jobs and preparing for interviews.
Do the following things first, and when you are ready to jump into the job market, progress will be swift, and you can enjoy the ride.
Build a vision for your future
Would you ever get in a car and start driving without a clue as to where you are going? Probably not! The same should be true for your career. Before you start looking, get clear on what you want. Write it down and revise it over the course of a few weeks. If you are not sure what you want, take your best guess and refine it over time. Consider all the elements of your ideal lifestyle, for which your career is a piece. These factors include things like your desired income, working hours, the projects you want to focus on, the people you enjoy working with, among other things.
When I work with Executive Coaching clients, we work with 6-month goals, but also spent time thinking very long term (10-30+ years depending on age) to get clear on lasting impact. I invite you to try a similar approach. Let me know if I can help you with this.
Improve another area of your life
A common mistake I witness with job seekers is that they focus solely on improving just their work situation. Sometimes this is helpful, but mostly it ends up creating undo stress. This approach saps momentum. Instead, I recommend that my clients take a 360-degree look at their lives, and pick a few (2-3) areas that are worth improving outside of just their careers. These areas may relate to health, finances, relationships or personal development, for example. When progress occurs in one part of life, other areas inevitably benefit from the positive momentum. This also will allow you to switch focus across different goals based on your interest and motivation. Variety can be helpful.
Create your resume, from scratch
If you have not updated your resume in years, it is worth doing. In fact, I recommend doing it from scratch. Don’t use an old resume as a starting point. The point in this is not just to create a piece of paper that can capture the attention of your dream employer; it is to get you in the mindset of celebrating your past accomplishments and thinking about what you want to create for your career in the future. Writing is thinking. Creating your resume, particularly when you are not actively looking for a job, is a forcing function to get you clear on your accolades, experience, and skills while uncovering some potential gaps you should close to make your resume appealing for whatever comes next.
Activate your network
Your network is the biggest asset to your career over the long term. Just ask anyone who has plopped down $100K to get an MBA. It is the connections made that end up being the most valuable part of the experience, or so I’ve heard. I’m basing this on anecdotal data from many friends who attended top-tier MBA programs!
According to data from LinkedIn’s official blog, companies in highly technical fields tend to hire more people from their employee networks.
How big is your network? With how many of those people have you bothered to stay in touch? Don’t wait until your job search becomes urgent to remain in contact with people who could hold the key to your future dream job. Take genuine interest to keep in touch with people. Say hello. Comment on things they share on social networks. Mingle at parties and have productive conversations with people outside of your immediate circle of friends. Lastly, if they are in need of something that you can support them with, offer them a hand.
Adopt a positive mindset
A positive mindset is the most important precursor to a job search. The average worker today in the U.S will stay in his or her job for 4.4 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The youngest workers will remain at their posts about half as long as the rest.
Given the expectation for high turnover, any professional with a long career will have a bunch of different jobs. Along the way, there are bound to be some rejections and plenty of interviews. Your mindset will go a long way to getting you through the challenging times and also give you the courage to ask for what you deserve, be that a raise, a promotion or both!
Work on cultivating a positive mindset by getting clear on what you want in your ideal career, why you want it, and identify any setback as a learning experience that will ultimately help you over the long-term. Keeping a positive mindset is easier said than done, but with practice it is entirely possible to minimize stress and enjoy the journey. Meditation and proper breathing help immensely.
Take a class or volunteer
Learning something and contributing to others are great ways to get you outside of your current work context. From a broader perspective, you will be able to spot new opportunities. There is also something interesting that happens we are learning. When we learn, we start to spark curiosity and interest in our minds. Learning also literally rewires your brain. If you are looking to stretch yourself to a bigger and better job, why not improve your brain a little first?
The natural flow states that emerge as we learn a new skill stokes intrinsic motivation that will help a lot when you start actively looking for a job.
Not to mention, honing your skills and volunteering are highly appealing to any future employer. If nothing else, making a trail, serving meals or building a house for those in need, makes you feel good deep down inside. That alone makes it worth doing.