Getting job clarity is one of the simplest concepts in job search, yet one of the hardest steps to take. When I say job clarity, I mean the 2-3 specific jobs a person is pursuing in their quest to find a new job. It does sound simple, but my observation is that in reality, a job seeker is often troubled about clarity. I have seen people realize that due to their background and desires, they could head in a number of different directions – all valid, all confused.
One of the first questions I ask a person who seems to be struggling with their job search is what specific jobs they are pursuing. The answers I get range from an industry they want to focus on like “finance and banking” to something that resembles a word jumble. An industry is not a job title, nor is a word jumble. I know right then that their struggle in the job search is not a bad resume’ or work experience, it has to do with the fact that they haven’t focused on what they are in search of. It’s like saying they’ll find my home somewhere in the Northwest. It’s a direction, but so loose they really can’t begin an effective search. The chances of someone finding my home are almost zero. Your chances of finding a job without knowing what you are in search of might be about the same.
An effective job search entails a great strategic plan, but you can’t begin to form a plan, if you aren’t clear on what your goal or job is. As a result, a job seeker will end up jumping after every tip, every lead and many ads, because they all seem like something they could do. This lack of clarity drifts into the resume’ they develop, which without an understanding of what the job is, also lacks a clear message to anyone who receives it. When they speak to any of their network, the network walks away confused about what kind of help they can offer. In other words, any effort expended on the job search can often be ineffective and really a waste of time until the job seeker can zero in on a couple of jobs/titles they can focus on and believe in.
So what lends to this lack of clarity and what can a person do to clear up the muddy waters?
1. Too many jobs on the radar.
This is an issue I see a great deal. When a person is looking for a job and has had years of experience, they may look at BOTH the array of work they have done PLUS the array of work they could do. It’s wonderful to have so many transferable skills. It allows you to pursue a wide variety of positions with the belief you will be successful, because you have done that work before. The problem is that this often creates a lack focus and direction.
Solution: If you are lucky enough to be in this situation – congratulations! But, you need to make some choices. I have seen people avoid making a choice because they either thought it would reduce their chances of landing a job or they were interested in pursuing them all. You have to decide which 2 or 3 job titles you will enjoy the most, be the most competitive for and are perhaps the most abundant for you to pursue. You have to narrow down your choices. Once you’ve made your decision, you need to be convinced that your choices are right and move forward with confidence.
Changing career focus.
I’ve seen people use a change of job as a platform for making anywhere from a major career change to simply applying their work in a new industry. Certainly, if your situation and background call for that kind of shift, I say: Go for it! However, I have seen people let that shift confuse them or make them unclear about what that next career is. If you aren’t clear about what you’re looking for, imagine how unclear the universe of hiring managers is about where you belong.
Solution: Before you step into the job search, you need to explore your options, as well as yourself. If you’re doing a “slight shift”, you should be able to find job titles fairly quickly with some research. If you’re doing a wholesale career change, you have a whole self-examination process to go through to discover what you want to do when you grow up. Treat yourself like a research project. Go to work exploring your values, skills and passions and research where those can be applied. You do not make a major career change by launching a job search; if you do, you may not like the results.
Mistake an industry for a job.
This one I find fascinating. I can’t figure out what the internal process must be, but I have had people answer the question of “What kind of job are you looking for?” with things like “investments” or “banking” or “green technology”. Even after additional probing they are unwavering in their responses. An industry is not a job or a career – it’s a business classification.
Solution: You need to test yourself in this area. You could be what I call “tone deaf” to what you are thinking (and saying) around a job. You might think you’re crystal clear, but in fact, you aren’t at all. It’s also important to understand that if you are looking for a job, you need to be clear with your network and hiring managers. Find a trusted person with a critical ear who will give you some good honest feedback. Tell them what you’re looking for, and then ask them if you might be talking about an industry or a real job.
You may be holding on to the past.
For people that have been laid off or are facing the end of some dream career, you may lack clarity, because you’re looking backward not forward. You haven’t come to grips with the fact that your circumstances are now causing you to look for a job. You may be reluctantly trudging through the acts of looking for a job. You might be thinking you have to go do “X” because that’s all you can do. There are a variety of reactions when people are in this state of transition. If you think you might fall into this situation, you might lack clarity, because you can’t “see” yourself in that next job.
Solution: Normally, transition has its own timeline, but you may not. If you can afford to simply give yourself a space of time to allow your previous work life to end, it will free you up to think more clearly about your next job. If your circumstances simply won’t allow you to move through your transition at your own pace, then I suggest you consider a coach or someone who can help you process the endings. This can open up the possibilities for finding your dream in the next thing you do.
I heard a quote that I think applies here: “When you are clear, what you want will show up in your life, and only to the extent you are clear”. Chris and Janet Attwood. I think this summarizes it best. To maximize your job search, to make everything you do count, you have to get clear about the job you’re pursuing.