So you’re trying to find work, or you’re looking to make a career change. In either situation, when starting the job search, it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for before you start applying for jobs.
But how are you supposed to know exactly what you want for your career?
Well it’s about gaining perspective, understanding what you want in your career, and asking yourself the right questions to find that perspective. What are those right questions? That’s what we’re here for!
1. Why do I want/need to make a move?
Honing in on why you want to make a move might reveal that by making a couple key changes to your situation could enable you to make major progress towards your career objectives. Remember that in each career it’s an individuals’ unique characteristics and objectives that should guide the way not what someone else says or does. Stay true to what is important to you. If after careful consideration the situation you’re in is a good one, then perhaps a move doesn’t make sense right now.
2. What kind of situation am I looking for?
Once people move past survival and “I need a job” the first thing you should consider is, what's the situation. When you are employed your perspective is very different than when you are not employed and for how long you’ve not been employed. The situation is about the growth trajectory of the company, the approach of your immediate supervisor, the leadership team, the opportunity for advancement, the culture of the company and the day to day demands. As you can see this is much deeper and career effecting than how much money you’ll make.
3. Work/life balance or career progression?
So many people don’t effectively evaluate the impact of this consideration on their overall career happiness and effectiveness. Get this wrong and everything else that’s not right will get amplified. Everyone’s objectives and desires are different, change at different stages of life and are unique to them. In it’s simplest terms if you get this wrong you will either quite or get fired. So what’s more important to you now and in the future? Really think about this. This is an area that doesn’t just effect you it effects your personal life to a large degree especially if you have kids. Here’s some clues:
How quickly is the company growing?
Who owns the company (privately held, investment bank, publicly traded, crown corp)?
What industry demand for R&D and change
What is their financial performance look like in the last 3 years
If you’re looking at an opportunity in a company that is owned by private equity or an investment bank and they are thirsty for reporting you may very well be in for some longer hours so if you need to be home by 5:30 each day it could be a real problem, but on the other hand if you don’t care about that and you simply want to move up quickly if you’re able to perform then this scenario could be perfect.
4. Who do I want to work for?
Your boss is as important, if not more important than the company you work for.
You must evaluate, research and find out all you can about your boss and those that you’ll report to. Remember your high school teachers? Can you remember one who made their subject come to life and how it effected you? Good teachers made difficult or potentially boring subjects interesting because of there approach. Good bosses can do the same. If you can find a good boss in a challenging company that may be a great situation for you.
5. What is my market value?
What does total compensation look like for people at your level? This involves tenure and performance characteristics. What is the range and where do you fit into it currently? If you don’t have a good grasp on this equation, then you could be in for a bumpy ride. If you base your compensation target on one data point or piece of advice, it could be quite damaging and cost an offer. If you’ve taken the time to establish a two-way relationship with a good recruiter they can assist, online resources can give clues but take them with a grain of salt, peers at other companies with the same skill set and industry associations can all be good resources.
Remember to look at total compensation not just salary.
6. How will my next role get me closer to my long term career objectives?
This of course assumes you have a clear long term career objective. What projects, systems and people will you be exposed to in your next role.? One of the fundamental career management principles is that of “goodwill”. This principle says the more goodwill you have the more options you have and the easier it is to navigate the job market based on your terms. If you can find a situation where you will be able to amplify and build goodwill at a quicker deeper rate than elsewhere this is very likely a good one.
7. Who can actually hire me?
One of the biggest problems people who are looking to make a career move have is that they don’t know enough people who can actually hire them. They have friends who work in companies they may want to target or they approach a bunch of recruiters but very few of the people in their network can actually hire them. This builds on the principle of goodwill and how much of it you have in your market. This is one of the key reasons people always need to be networking, volunteering and exchanging value with those in their area of expertise. This is a proactive planned initiative that so very few people do effectively in a meaningful targeted way. The key here is that these types of initiatives must be done over a long period of time consistently for great results.
8. Who do I need to tell I’m going to be making a move?
If you’ve got well established goodwill, then making it known to your network that you are up for a move to a better situation is a snap. Telling your current boss likely isn’t the best but if you’ve got a great one it may be although he/she may not be too excited about it. Simply updating your LinkedIn profile doesn’t really count here.
9. What does my digital footprint say about me?
Your digital footprint is becoming more and more important so if there is something in your resume that isn’t backed up by your online presence, or lack thereof, then it could be detrimental. Do a quick audit to see what is out there. Matching the information on your LinkedIn profile with what’s on your resume is a great start.
10. How will I handle the bumps along the way?
Career management and change is an active “contact sport”. Making contacts isn’t always easy especially for those who haven’t done so for a while or never made the effort in the past. Non responsive people and long time lag between messages sent and sometimes rejection is to be expected. Decide and understand that in most cases these are not personal its just part of the reality of the process. Work on becoming familiar to your target market. The more familiar people are with you (provided it’s in a positive way) the more dexterity you will have in managing your career and changing paths when you see fit.
11? What will happen when I give notice?
This top 10 list wouldn’t be complete without this final bonus question. This final point is often overlooked but, you do need to formulate a plan to exit gracefully.
What will you do if you get a counter offer? Plan as though you will get one and don’t assume you won’t. If you’ve thought through all the items above there is no reason at all to stay, it’s time to make that next move.