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Watch Where You Are Going in Your Job Search

By Susan P. Joyce

Landing the "right" job with the "wrong" employer can be both a waste of time and bad for your career.

You could also find yourself back in the job market too soon. And, in job interviews, you would have the added obstacle of carefully explaining why you didn't stay in that job -- needing to avoid looking like a "job hopper" or someone who is "difficult" to manage or work with.

My Not-Paying-Attention Career Mistake

Several years ago, feeling unappreciated and underpaid, I was very unhappy in my job, and decided to leave. I focused on leaving my old job, without paying sufficient attention to the job offer I was accepting.

I just wanted a new job - almost any new job - anxious to leave a boss I no longer respected or trusted. It ended up being the classic "out of the frying pan, into the fire" situation.

Because I wasn’t paying attention, the new job and employer were not a good fit for me. I left in less than a year. Not good for my resume or my confidence.

How to Avoid My Mistake?

It’s not that hard, but it does take some time and effort to focus on your future.

The payoff will be enormous, but sometimes we get into such a gotta-get-of-here rush that we don’t want to take the time to pay attention to where we are going.

Ignore the need to rush, and you’ll be happier in that next job, hopefully for a long time.


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  1. Know what you want to do.

    It's much more difficult to succeed in a job when are you don't enjoy it. So take the time to identify exactly the work you enjoy doing. That's your "target job." It's probably OK to have a couple of them, but don't have more than two or three.

    Having a specific target jobs won’t limit your options. Being vague about what you want to do makes your job search much more difficult. People who want to help you can’t, from your friends and your network to recruiters and employers. No one else knows what you would enjoy doing – particularly if you don’t know and/or you don’t tell them.

    Knowing what you want to do enables you to focus on those opportunities that will be the best jobs for you. Jobs you could stay in happily for many years.

    In my situation, I just wanted to leave my old job, and made the classic mistake of not focusing on what I really wanted to do. If you don’t know, and many of us don’t, then buy or borrow the classic book for job seekers – What Color Is Your Parachute.”  If your local library has only one career book, this is the one, and for good reason. Author Dick Bolles, an amazing person, updates it every year.

  2. Target good potential employers.

    You don’t want to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin, so researching potential employers before you apply is a good way to spend your time.

    Which employers in your location (or where you will be moving if you are not staying where you are now) hire people to do what you want to do?

    Start your list of potential employers by looking through the telephone company Yellow Pages (online and off-line, too!). Browse through the categories to see the possibilities in your target location. And, remember that if you are interested in one of the classic “staff” functions like administration, finance, information processing, and marketing, most employers need those functions – from business and non-profits to education and government. So don’t limit your options to just one business sector.

    Job-Hunt also provides you with a great deal of help here:

Once you have a list of possibilities, check the appropriate local branch of the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any customer complaints, particularly with smaller employers.

Google and Bing the potential employers, by name, to see what is being written about them. Check the organization’s website – what do they say about what they do?  Are press releases posted announcing new products or services or people?  Job postings? 

If you find negative comments about an employer posted by former employees, take them with the proverbial “grain of salt” unless you see a large number of them from many different people. Angry people are more apt to make their feelings known than happy ones, generally.

  1. Network. Network! NETWORK!

    Once you know what kind of job you want, and have identified good potential employers for you, it’s time to put your network to work for you. It’s also time to expand your network, and yes, you DO have a network of people you know now and have known in the past, people you went to school with, people you’ve worked with. The resources below will help you identify and find your network.

    For help with networking, Job-Hunt offers you plenty of help:

Taking the time to plan and strategize this job search should result in a better job for you this time, and in an easier job search next time (and there will be a next time).

Good luck with your job search!


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 recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, 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 Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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