Finding Career Clarity

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You want to leave your job and do something else. You want the next job to be a new change. So, the first thing you do is scour postings on job sites that seem interesting to you. You then either tweak the resume you have, or you create an entirely brand new one. You apply to postings and then wait for a response. Unfortunately, all you hear back is crickets. You make another round of attempts to apply, and once again silence. What happened?

This is a typical approach, and unfortunately, it is also a very common mistake made by job changers. When individuals don’t get results, it can lead to a lot of discouragement. This leads them to be stuck and then having a whole host of bad feelings, wondering why they don’t hear anything back. It’s at usually at this point, I get a call from clients saying that their job search is unsuccessful, and they want me to redevelop their resume. Sometimes I am able to help with a resume redesign and there are other times I cannot. The main reason I can’t assist these individuals in the latter situation is that a lot of them don’t know exactly what they are looking for.  

During a job search many people know that they want to leave their job but have difficulty figuring out what to do next. During their search, they might take their resume and randomly apply to all the jobs that appear interesting. Unfortunately, I have seen this method fail, time and time again. Most people who use this approach lack true career clarity. If you are trying this approach, I can say with some confidence that you might get lucky at finding something, but that’s all it will be. Your job search will be sheer luck. However, as they say, “Luck might not be a strategy, but setting yourself up to be lucky might be.” During  a career transition the best strategy is to set yourself up to be as lucky as you can possibly be.

One successful approach to this particular problem is to have clarity before you try to implement any strategy. When you decide to put out a resume and scour job postings, this is actually only one type of job search strategy. Without clarity in what you are exactly looking for, you will not be able to use other strategies or make the ones you are using more effective. Attempting to make a career transition without clarity is like trying to walk a tightrope with a blindfold on. You certainly can do it, but you make it way more challenging for yourself. I strenuously suggest that you never make a career transition without having deeper clarity for the role that you want to attain next. Otherwise, not having clarity can lead to great frustration, doubt and discouragement, when you are not able to reach your goals very quickly. Here are some suggestions for getting greater career clarity.  

Know What Are You Trying to Resolve?

There are any number of reasons to quit your current job. Many people will quit because the pay is not high enough or they don’t get along with their frontline manager or another supervisor. Others will think that the culture is ‘toxic’ or may be searching for better work-life balance. Whatever the reason, it’s important that you know exactly what you are trying to resolve prior to quitting your current job. Many people can overreact to an employment situation, sometimes quitting before knowing what they are jumping into next.  

This is exactly what occurred for millions of workers during the “Great Regret”. A study of approximately 2,500 workers found that 72% of job changers experienced either “surprise or regret” that the new position or new company they quit their job for turned out to be “very different from what they were led to believe.” For these people the grass was not greener on the other side. It’s important that you treat your job change as a strategic move, as opposed to a reactive one. If your move is strategic, then you will be better able to figure out what career options and alternatives would be most beneficial for you.

Be Clear on Your Specific Goals

As mentioned, job changers typically have a clearer idea of what they don’t want, as opposed to what they do want. Because of this, many people will try to remain open to many job possibilities and options. Keeping an open mind sounds very rational, doesn’t it? I agree it does. However, keeping an open-minded approach is not a great one when you are trying to conduct a job search, because employers are expecting the opposite.

When employers post for a position they are seeking a person with a very specific set of skills. They want a specialist to help them resolve a particular set of organizational problems, not a jack of all trades. As you might be aware, many software Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used to screen candidates out of the recruitment and selection process. Therefore, before you start putting out your resume, you must have a clear career objective and goals. Start to think about your own unique career outcomes and important factors, beyond pay and benefits. These may include social connections, skill/knowledge development, work-life balance, continuing education, growth and job flexibility. Write these down, keep them as priorities and make them central to your search. These are all key areas that you need to consider when making critical career decisions.

Be Future-Oriented

In my professional experience one of the most challenging job seeker to assist is the job-hopper. I have encountered many individuals who go through a series of jobs very quickly, appearing to lack interest in any specific job role. Seeing this on a resume makes a poor impression on hiring managers and recruiters when they are screening and reviewing applicants.

In a CNBC article involving manager’s attitudes about job-hoping, Amy Zimmerman, the chief people officer of Relay Payments noted that while job-hopping is “more acceptable than ever” now, a job switch under a year of tenure is still “too quick”. She then went on to mention, “It sends quite a few negative signals. Number one, you lack commitment. Number two, you lack perseverance. It tells me that if the going gets tough, you get going.” Many recruiters suggest that there is a sweet spot for switching jobs. As a prior recruiter myself, I also had difficulty forwarding these candidates on to employers, fearing that they would not stay in a job opportunity for very long. If candidates started to leave roles too soon, it would not make a positive impression on employers that I was recruiting for.

A key aspect in attaining a highly fulfilling and rewarding career is determining what roles are extremely satisfying to you. Identifying and finding these positions does not require job-hopping, it requires strategic exploration. Rarely do people find that ‘perfect’ role in the first or few initial steps, it requires a longer career journey and thinking about your future. Also, as discussed in the following section, many better paying and exciting roles, tend to be higher level ones. To attain these positions requires more knowledge, experience and expertise. You need to think about your career as a longer-term pursuit and journey. Your career is not Frogger, where you are surviving by constantly reacting to career obstacles and difficulties.

Understand Your Potential

Your potential consists of your career skills, interests, values and core personality traits. However, there are many people that attempt to fit into a role, without having any awareness of these key areas. How many of you have been in a job where you are not exercising your best talents? Have you ever been in a company where you were at odds with the organizational culture? It’s important that you gain inner awareness and insight of your “career self’. This will allow you to more effectively align to the roles, company and work environment that you are choosing.  

Also, the success of your career is based on the value that you can offer employers. If you are unaware of what distinctive talents and experience you have to offer, you will not be able to market yourself competitively. The  labour market is a highly competitive environment, especially when applying to top companies. If you do not know which areas of your potential you want to continuously grow and develop, you will always be at a disadvantage. People with extremely successful careers know how, where and when to leverage their career potential.

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