Do the Hard Work to Get the Right Work


Decades of HR work and I still am regularly amazed at those people who:

  • Think that their security clearance or some bundle of skills or being a vet or an academy graduate alone will get them a job.
  • Believe that just putting out their resume on job boards will result in a good job.
  • Have never thought of their next job as an investment which requires at least as much thought and research as buying a new house.

What does this mean for your job search?

To start your job search effectively and work smart during it, you are going to need a strategy, not just tactics.

You understand the value of planning and know that stuff happens – but a good strategy and plan allows you to leverage your interests and desires into a new success.

Strategic planning for your job search success is a simple process designed to help you think clearly about what you want. The point is to get you to a comprehensive view of

  • Where you want to go.
  • How you will get there.
  • Who you are — your strengths and interests.

The basics of strategic job search planning include analysis of both personal and environmental factors.

Look at the external factors which will influence your future. These include: global and national issues which impact your work or field, technological changes, educational requirements, and current/future market forecasts.

Look inward to define a classic SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In terms of your desired work:

  • What do you already have as strengths?
  • What weaknesses – and how can you deal with them?
  • What are the opportunities going forward for you?
  • Do you face any threats, such as health or family issues, job relocations?

Combining these internal and external factors with your desires for your future creates that desired purpose and job/field of work.

Exercise 1: Thinking about yourself.

When you meet someone new at work, what are you most likely to tell them about yourself?

When someone introduces you to someone else, how do they describe you?

What do you find exciting about your work? Your current/last job? Your life?

What five or six activities do you really love to DO in your job?

What would you hope other people would say to describe you to someone?

What is your emotional temperament? Style dealing with others?

Who relies on you for information? Advice? Assistance? Support? Mentoring?

Who do you rely on for these?

What four or five activities do you really love to DO in your free time?

While you are thinking about your next steps, ask people who know you well for ideas and suggestions. What do they think are your strengths and what types of work would fit? Don’t just ask current or past co-workers. Mentors, relatives, good friends, and people from other organizations you are active in can all add ideas.

Once you have collected several people’s ideas, look for patterns that can help you think about your interests and potential.

You also need to think about your needs and desires in terms of your work. Think about who you are and what makes you happy and energetic. Define what you need to succeed so that you can find organizations which match your needs.

Start with your values – and yes, this means you have to think about them first.

Consider making a list and then sorting them in order of importance. You could start with ideas like autonomy, professional development, wealth, integrity, respect, security, family time, health, recognition… whatever is important to you.

Do serious career self-analysis for a shorter job search and a career that is a better fit for you, long-term.

Exercise 2: What are the practical aspects your values and preferences may raise in the job hunt?

For example:

Do you want a place where you can learn a variety of new things or one where you will be seen as an expert?

Do you have commitments or interests that affect your work hours or location choices?

How important is it that the workplace include some social life–or keep out of yours?

Do you have organizations or jobs you will not consider because of your values? Or ones you prefer because they espouse your values?

Think of what matters to you and include all those values in your job hunt.

Exercise 3. Document your employment history.

Create a detailed record of every job you have ever held, including critical elements and your achievements.

This is not to provide to others but is for your use in developing your plan, resume, and interviewing strategy. It also will make filling out job application forms much easier when you need to do so.

Go through this history and identify most satisfying and least satisfying jobs.

What aspects (tasks, co-workers, boss, etc.) made a job best/worst? The “best” helps you identify what you need to succeed while the “worst” helps you see what to avoid.

Bottom Line

Invest the time to really assess what you want to do next and how you will achieve that for a far more effective job search. This reduces your frustrations and wasted time and increases your opportunity for an actual “perfect job for me.” While this strategic planning process may seem like too much work, it will make your actual job search much easier and faster.

Patra FrameAbout the author…

Patra Frame has extensive experience in human capital management and career issues in large and small corporations. She is an Air Force vet and charter member of The Women In Military Service for America Memorial.  Patra speaks and writes regularly on job search and career issues through her company Strategies for Human Resources (SHRInsight) and where she blogs advice for veterans and other job seekers. Watch Patra’s job search tips videos on YouTube, and follow her on Twitter @2Patra.
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