You have had successful career. You may have had varying degrees of satisfaction with your career, from loving every minute and looking forward to tomorrow to detesting every minute and dreading that you need to do it again tomorrow. Wherever you fall on that scale you may at any time find yourself in the uncharted territory of job search.
You were educated in your profession, mentored to proficiency and excelled in all that you did. But it’s a whole new world now, no one taught you how to be unemployed. You feel unprepared, so you do what feels natural. You succumb to the allure of the hundreds of jobs posted on the internet. You apply to 3, 4 maybe 5 jobs a day, you get the application process down to a science. You can copy and paste into each field of the application without a lot of thought, you attach your resume and perhaps a cover letter and click submit. You can sit back and relax, you’ve had a productive day.
You can tell your spouse and family that you are doing all you can to find a job, “I applied to 30 jobs this week.” And truthfully, it probably is all you can do. At least it is all you know to do because you were never taught how to do a job search, you are learning by trial and error. Unfortunately, you don’t get feedback on your efforts, so you never really know what to change to be more effective. (For more on the futility of relying on job boards see my recent article, Phantom Job Postings.)
After a few weeks of little response to your efforts you become discouraged and the negativity begins to set in. This negativity could lead you to believe that you are doomed to a lengthy and unproductive job search.
But that may not be your situation at all. There are opportunities out there—and these tips for focusing your mental energies on the right things will help you find them.
No 1. Recognize your value
Just because you aren’t going to “work” doesn’t mean your value has decreased, recognize the value that you bring to the table: your analytical abilities, your critical thinking skills, your writing skills, and everything else that came along with your career. Ask others what they see as your career strengths. Don’t limit yourself to your work colleagues; go to Uncle Ted and your friends that work in other industries. They may recognize something in your nature that you hadn’t considered—strengths which may lead you in interesting directions.
No. 2 Put in the time.
When I ask people about their job searches, most say that they are fully committed to getting out of their rut and moving into a new job. But when I inquire about the actual time they are putting into it, I often find that they are dramatically underestimating the level of commitment required. Sending out a few LinkedIn invitations and submitting online applications to two or three jobs is not a job search that will soon result in success.
If you are sincere about making a major career transition, you need to put in some serious time. If you used to put in 40-50 hours a week to make your previous company a success, aren’t you worth that same effort? Set your schedule, monitor your activities, stretch your comfort zone and constantly improve your efforts.
No. 3 Manage your fears
Determine to accept some uncertainty in your future. There are aspects of your life and career that you control, and nothing about the new job can change that. For example, no matter the environment, you’ll still be in control of the effort you put into your job and the people with whom you associate. If you stay in control of what you can, the fear will go away.
Half of success is mental
There are two ways you can go about your job search. You could sit at your computer and mechanically start sending out emails and applications, hoping that something you’ve thrown against the wall “sticks.” That’s OK—even the person using a shotgun approach will eventually hit something.
But the far better method is to home in on a range of targets. You may have started your career thinking that you’d end up working in a particular area. By all means, continue pursuing that original goal if it still motivates you—but at the same time, exploring a few sideline ideas about other industries and other kinds of jobs can’t help but put more options on your table. If you combine this creative thinking with a bit of structured time and effort, you just may walk away with a very interesting next step in your career.
Rick Christensen: Director, Career Transition Practice
Rick has been a career consultant for almost 30 years, serving a very broad-based and diverse clientele. His specialties include effective group facilitation, one-on-one coaching and consultation at all levels including senior executives.
Rick’s passion is coaching individuals through career transitions, developing career management strategies and in identifying and sharpening competencies to open doors to new opportunities. His efforts have assisted thousands of individuals achieve their full potential.
Contact Rick at: Rick@CareerDevelopmentPartners.com