Hellooooo, very recent graduates with your commencement photos still circulating through all your contacts and social media connections!
Hellooooooo, young alumni with college degrees firmly in hand and busy schedules believed to be vital for establishing yourselves in workplaces around the world!
And, hellooooooo, mid-career or seasoned professionals looking to make your next career move or possibly transition into a whole new field or area of interest!
The “doctor” is back in, and this post is for you!
Because, this Lucy has noticed there’s one common topic that always rises to the top of your conversations around this time of year:
job searches and/or finding a job, career, temporary adventure, or whatever
Sooooooooooooo, as someone who has spent a good chunk of her adult life searching for (and landing in) her “happy place” in the world of work, I am always on the ready to give my unsolicited advice on things job/career related.
With that said, here are my…
5 Basic Steps for Conducting a Meaningful Job, Career, or “Happy Place” Search
Step #1: Search… yourself.
Ok, first things first.
Before searching for a job (or anything, for that matter), you should take some time to search yourself – meaning, look earnestly within your heart to learn and decide what it is you really want and/or need for your success and security at this particular time in your life.
Are you looking for a job – a legitimate/legal source of income for the sake of paying bills and other financial obligations? Are you looking to start or continue a career – a path of professional work with increasing levels of responsibility, training and development, and (let’s hope) income? Or, are you looking to find your “happy place” (or “sweet spot“) – a job, a combination of jobs, a long-term career, or a career move intended to provide a steady income as well as an opportunity for personal growth through training, mental/emotional/physical development, and varying levels of authority or leadership.
At this or any stage in the process, the choice is yours to make but should depend heavily on what you want and need out of life “in the now.” Remember, you are free to change your mind, reevaluate your needs, or choose a totally different path based on new interests and ideas later in time.
But, the bottom line remains – you can’t find it if you don’t know what it is that you’re looking for.
So, now that you’ve taken some time to consult with your heart and decide what it is that you’re looking for at this moment, you should hopefully have a better sense of which direction to face and focus your “search” energy towards.
That direction could be towards visible paths leading to a more easily defined job or to establishing/continuing a specific career. If that’s the case, you should be able to skip this next step and jump on down to Step #3.
BUT, if the direction you find yourself facing is one towards a path less traveled or not already marked clearly for you by mainstream society, proceed to Step #2.
Step #2: Search… your interests, talents, passions, and skill sets.
To navigate uncharted terrain between you and your employment/career/”happy place” destination, you have to gather your tools, get a sense of your surroundings, and sketch a personalized map for yourself to follow.
By identifying what your strongest interests, talents, passions, and skills are now … as well as those you utilized in the past and/or would like to work towards strengthening or developing for use or enjoyment in the future.
For me, I accomplish this by brainstorming every possible thought, word, or idea that comes to mind when I think of my own interests, talents, and skills – past or present. And, I continue listing them out until all are exhausted…or start repeating themselves in my notes. Then, once “exhaustion” is reached, I begin grouping together all the words and phrases I’ve listed into categories based on commonalities or emotional connections.
Many refer to this process as making a mind map.
No matter what you call it, the point is taking a personal inventory of what you continually find yourself doing or being drawn towards doing will help you clear those not-often-used pathways to see which route (or routes) will lead you to your heart’s desire. Essentially, you need to see what you’re working with.
Also, look for any patterns – in areas of sustained interest, with skills you find yourself using on a regular basis, in feelings you have for past hobbies you’d like to restart, or with talents that help you create a connection (with your inner self, your personal community, or with others in general) you’d like to maintain.
Once you’ve brainstormed your essence to exhaustion, the end result should be a diagram or outline listing your “areas” of strength – interest, talent, passion, and skill. Now, you’re ready to explore your employment/career/”happy place” terrain deeper.
- NOTE: This exercise could be done in one sitting… or over the course of days, weeks, or maybe even months. It all depends on how thorough you want your inventory to be and how detailed a map you want to make of yourself.
At this point (especially if you haven’t already), now would be a good time to consult with a professional career counselor/coach to figure out how your “map” of strengths and interests translates into established or emerging jobs and career fields.
And, ta-dahhh! Your alma mater could provide this very service to you at no charge! So, definitely check into whether you still qualify to receive this benefit by contacting your office of alumni relations or campus career center.
Step #3: Search… for information.
What do I mean by this? Well, as they say, knowledge is power.
The more informed you are, the better prepared you will be to take advantage of (or scoop the news on) job openings and career opportunities as they become available.
Often times, people think conducting a job search can only be done if/when you’re searching for a job. But that’s not the case – in the same way a person can go on an “informational” interview, a person can conduct an “informational” job search.
Job descriptions can be very informative:
- by helping you define what it is you’re willing and able (wanting or NOT wanting) to do, and
- by providing you with a sampling of job titles, outlines of responsibilities, salary ranges, and lists of education/experience requirements for comparison.
- BONUS: You might also discover new key words to search or related career paths to consider as a possible fit for you.
So, dive deep into the internet. Type into your search engine of choice: “jobs in…” or “careers with…” and the words or phrases on your “map.” Then see what appears in the search results. You may find blog posts, research papers, magazine articles, YouTube videos, business promotions, or any number of things in addition to actual job listings.
Along the same vein, research professional associations and their publications. These associations can provide you with insight on the standard path practitioners normally take towards career advancement in their specialized areas. Their member magazines or newspapers can also be a great resource for job listings specific to a degree, program, or career field – especially when licenses or certifications are required to do the job.
Lastly, scanning job ads in the newspapers (and government or company websites) of your current geographical region or dream job/career location can also help you navigate this unfamiliar terrain from a slightly different perspective.
By “reading between the lines” of job listings, you can gather what the employment market/hiring cycle is like, determine average salary/income ranges (and if that will cover your cost of living expenses), and discover what opportunities – if any – are available to join or create a community for those with similar skills, talents, and interests as yours.
Step #4: Search… for opportunities.
While searching for information, you will hopefully find great employment opportunities to pursue that are more in line with your “map,” your goals and desires, your truer you.
Something to keep in mind when conducting your search are answers to the “5 Ws and 1 H” (the questions most consider basic in information gathering or problem solving): who, what/to what extent, where, when, why, and how. These will help you stay focused and intentional with your time spent in this process.
Here are some examples of questions to ask yourself:
- Where – where did you see postings or information that resonated with you or your goals the most?
- Were you on a particular job search engine or professional association page?
- Did you come across a website, publication, or resource library (or library section) you’ve not visited before?
- When – when did you come across your targeted listings most often?
- Was your search most fruitful on certain days of the week or seasons of the year?
- For example: in North Carolina, state government job listings update every week on Wednesdays. A similar posting schedule may be the case for others.
- Why – why did this posting or professional opportunity catch your attention?
- Were you interested only because of the job title? The salary range? The company’s core values or community service commitment? The location? Or a combination of all these plus some more?
- Would it meet your personal requirements in a job or provide a better work/life balance for you?
- How – how could this opportunity factor into your goals, game plan, or timeline?
- To achieve your personal/professional end result, how would this job provide you with the necessary: work schedule or hours, flexibility, creative freedom, location, hands-on training, pay?
- If you participated in this training or networking opportunity, how could you grow your contacts to find professional guidance or your skills to move closer to your goal within a set period of time?
- What/to what extent – what would you need (or need to do) to qualify for this job?
- If this is an opportunity that matches what you currently do, what could you do to stand out from other applicants?
- If this would be a new career move or transition, are there classes/training you could start taking now to meet the requirements later? Volunteer or paid programs you could participate in to gain some experience or build your network in support of your efforts?
And, last but definitely not least (in my opinion)…
Step #5: Search… outside “the box.”
Sure, you may have heard Steps #1 to #4 many times before in other articles regarding this subject. But, here’s the difference – I encourage you to not only be honest with yourself about what you feel in your heart that you want to do now and years from now…
I also encourage you to think beyond convenience, conventional thinking, and conversation to ultimately find the right solution for you – not for your parents, your spouse or mate, your peers, nor for society and its take on what “gainful employment” or “career success” means.
Be bold and allow yourself the right to live true to you, with intention and meaning.
If you are new to the job market and wondering how to start your employment search…
- Think about the companies and/or brands you have had a casual affinity for or die-hard loyalty to for some time. Then go on their websites to see what opportunities they have available.
- Consider taking advantage of your flexibility and freshness by participating in a national service program like AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, or Teach for America.
- Explore opportunities to work overseas or for companies with branches in other countries. Teaching conversational English abroad, working as a nanny or au pair, or landing a spot on a Disney cruise ship all come to mind.
If you find yourself in an unhealthy work environment, take the necessary steps to change your scenery – meaning a number of things. Figure out what makes work “unhealthy” for you, and find ways to heal, resolve, or break from the madness.
- Lack professional development opportunities at your work place? Find other ways to get the training you seek. Maybe there is a local nonprofit organization that supports diversity retention in your area, and therefore, provides workshops at no cost to employees of businesses and companies like yours.
- Feeling stifled by your work schedule, management practices, or interoffice politics, tap into your interests and talents to find release – take a painting class, join a gym, start a band!
If you want to make a career move or transition and wonder how to make the change without creating a gap in your work history, consider adventurous and/or alternative forms of employment or work experience. Participate in a fellowship, apprenticeship, or even a service trip abroad.
Besides the usual job postings, take note of other opportunities you come across during your search that may prove beneficial to future job searches, professional development plans, and career explorations or transitions.
Examples would be:
- types of professional development programs offered by companies, nonprofits, and/or government agencies,
- specialized training sessions and conferences in your current field and/or newly identified areas of interest,
- local/regional/state/national organizations that serve as a resource or network for job seekers, employers, nonprofits, higher education institutions, career fields, social causes, arts (performing, visual, creative, etc.), government agencies…
In the end, all of these steps are meant to be repeated at whatever stage you find yourself in now, with an eye towards the future.