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Part I: Starting Your Online Job Search,
Step 2 - Decide What Job(s) You Want

By Susan P. Joyce

A generic I'll-take-anything job search is the hardest kind of job search you can do today. No one will really believe you can do "anything," including you. So you won't be very convincing when you speak with someone who might have or know about a job opportunity.

The I'll-take-anything response also sounds desperate, because it is. And most employers don't want to hire someone who is desparate because desperation makes people try to do things they can't.

Knowing what you want makes it much easier - better focus, better networking, better research, and faster success.

Step 2.  Decide What You Want to Do

"What are you looking for?" is the first question you will be asked when people learn that you are job hunting. People want to know what you want so they can help you find it.

When someone asks you what you are job looking for, you MUST answer with a job title or two (three at the most).

Don't just blurt out the first job title the pops into your head or the job title of your last job.  Look ahead to the job you want - to your next job - and give that job title. 

Include some useful details to help people understand your job search target: name a couple of employers you would like to work for and the field or the industry.  Your answer can be whatever is appropriate for you, continuing your current career or changing to a new field.

Help People to Help You - Be Specific

When someone is nice enough to ask what you are looking for, give them good solid clues about what you want, like -

  • Waiter at a high-end restaurant in downtown Boston or near the waterfront, like Legal Seafoods or the Chart House.
  • Senior administrative assistant to the manager of the branch office of a large bank or credit union in the northern suburbs, like TD Bank, Bank of America, or a similar employer.
  • Microsoft .NET project manager for a consulting firm or software company anywhere in the Metro West area, roughly between routes 128 and 495.
  • CEO of an energy product distribution company in the Northeast, preferably Massachusetts or Connecticut.
  • Or whatever you want and are qualified for...

Giving generic responses - like "I'll take anything!' "Problem solving!" or "Working with people!" - are not useful because they apply to almost everything, everywhere.  Don't make people drag the real job information out of you, because they might not make the effort and, then, you'll lose that opportunity to make a connection that could be THE connection you've been waiting for. 

Being as specific as you can (job titles and target employers) reminds people of jobs they know that might be open and who else they know who might be able to help you.

If you don't tell people specifically what you want, they will be unable to effectively help you. You will be wasting your time, and everyone else's time, too,  And the result is often a longer job search for you.

MYTH: You are "being flexible" and "keeping ALL your options open" when you say you'll "take anything."

REALITY:  No one will be able to help you because they won't know what you want.  You'll waste time chasing every job lead that looks remotely interesting, so you won't be focused and neither will your resume or your networking.

You will be more successful, more quickly, when you know what you want, and you go after it consistently.

Not knowing - or not telling people - what you want to do is the NUMBER ONE MISTAKE job seekers make!

Focus Your Resume and Online Profiles

If you don't have target jobs, your resume becomes a simple work history, filled with phrases from your past job descriptions.  That kind of resume gets largely ignored now because people have the technology for be more focused and to make the employer feel that the job applicant has a genuine interest in the employer.

You will be at a competitive disadvantage with a generic, one-size-fits-every-opportunity resume. When you are focused one or two jobs, you can customize your resume for each kind of job - emphasizing the skills, experience, and training you've had for that particular job.  This shows your fit for the job, and it also shows your interest.

Figuring Out What You Want to So

Most of us are intersted in many things, so finding focus can be difficult.  Here are some excelelnt options.

  • If you need help figuring out the answer to the "what do you want" question, the most frequently-used and highly-recommended book (for good reason!) is What Color Is Your Parachute, by Richard N. Bolles. If your local library has only one career guidance book, this book is probably the one.

    The guidance and self-exploring exercises in this book should provide eye-opening insights for you, and it is updated every year to keep it current. Dick Bolles Web site, JobHuntersBible (the nickname frequently used for his book), supplements the material in his book with material he personally selected - useful articles, information, and other resources.
  • Taking career assessment tests may be helpful to you.  Read the Career Assessments articles to learn more.
  • Professional career counselors are also available:

Thinking About a Career Change?

NEXT: Step 3 - Determine Your Online Reputation

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management since 2012, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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