Success E-Letter Vol. 9/1 Summer ‘09
How Choosey Can I be in a Tight Job Market?
Nina Ham, CPCC, LCSW
During a tight economic climate such as this, it's common to hear career changers or job searchers express an eager willingness to consider any opportunity that meets their bottom-line criteria. "I can't afford to be choosy" is the guiding belief.
While this is understandable, career professionals by and large agree it's misguided. "I can't afford to be choosy" often justifies a lack of focus about what you want. "Why take the trouble to figure it out if I'm not going to find it?" seems to be the unspoken
Actually, the opposite is true. Doing a rigorous self assessment that identifies your key skills and competencies, along with your sources of work fulfillment, will provide you with a compass for your search and will almost certainly increase the longevity and satisfaction of the career or job you land in.
However, questions often remain. Is it best to restrict what opportunities you'll consider, risking saying no and ending up with nothing? Or is it better to entertain all offers?
The answer? Some of each! Putting the effort into creating a clear and specific vision of what it is you want, within appropriately narrow parameters, will provide a core message for the wide range of inquiries and networking conversations you'll be doing. Think of the old fashioned gramophone, with a narrow funnel end for picking up sound signals from the source, and a much-enlarged bell for broadcasting it.
Let's use Diane as an example. Five years out of business school with an MBA, and well-traveled, she was home again and wanting a career change. Knowing she was only part-way clear on key parameters, she consulted me for help guiding her career search. She had a marketing background - clearly an in-demand skill set - but felt a mission-driven organization would be a better fit than returning to the corporate world. Savings were nearly depleted, necessitating an efficient career/job search.
Rather than broadcast her resume to postings for all jobs in careers that might be of interest, we spent valuable time fleshing out her career vision. I encouraged her to address three key
questions around which she would build her vision: What personal values must you honor? What learning or challenges in personal development do you want to address? What impact do
you want to have?
Here's the summary statement she came to: I want to use my business skills and international travel experience for a management position in an organization committed to empowering women in developing countries.
Now she had the core of her message. She was ready to cast it far and wide as she networked, using it to update her profile on social networking sites and enlist the help of friends and contacts. Her ground rule was to spend 75% of her search time each day telling
people what she was looking for and asking for help in locating leads.
More importantly, she knew she didn't HAVE to limit herself to this vision. Communicating it clearly, including sharing her story where appropriate about how she came to this vision, would give others a fuller picture that could morph into new opportunities or suggestions. While these opportunities might not be within her targeted objective, she would be creating options and making herself available for the fortuitous surprise.
So if you're struggling with how selective to be in choosing a new direction for your career, here's the answer. Take all the time you need to build your career vision. Using a career professional and/or a coaching program will be cost-effective in the long run. Once you
have that vision, broadcast it everywhere, and don't be afraid to detour or compromise. It will be there to return to.