Does this sound familiar?
You’ve been contemplating a career move. One rainy Thursday evening when you’ve finished binge watching the latest Netflix show, you start scrolling job openings on Indeed. You begin to imagine yourself becoming a professional dog walker, or going back to school, or moving across the country for cheaper rent and higher pay. You get excited by new opportunities, discouraged by salary ranges, hopeful about better work environments, and nervous about the need to upskill. By the time you realize it, an hour just flew by and you feel guilty about losing out on sleep.
If you’ve been there, you’re not alone.
It’s extremely common for job seekers to get lost and waste valuable time when there are too many options available. You can avoid that trap by narrowing your choices.
Focus your job search by answering 3 questions
When it comes to your next job…
- What are your “must haves?”
- What are your “like to haves?”
- What are your “love to haves?”
Start a spreadsheet and type out your answers. Respond on post-it notes and stick them on your bathroom mirror. The key is to document your answers so you can revisit them often.
Why setting parameters is helpful
As much as we’d like to believe we can be anything we can be, most of us have immediate responsibilities that must be taken into account when job searching. For example, how much money do you need to cover your monthly expenses? What type of work schedule will allow you to meet outside-of-work obligations? What kind of work can your physical and mental health handle?
Making a career move is also a labor intensive undertaking and most folks do it to make life better in some shape or form. So what are those aspirational elements to your job search? If you are to pinpoint it further, where is the line between “like” and “love” to have? Are there certain benefits that you are looking for? Are there specific professional development goals you want to achieve? Are there particular teams you prefer to work with?
When you create parameters to focus your job search, you can easily say no to any opportunity that doesn’t meet your “must haves.” (Dog walking won’t pay your mortgage? Let’s drop that for now and focus on other roles.) By weighing your “like to haves” and “love to haves,” you can begin to prioritize your time. If a wonderful opportunity checks off most of what’s on your list, then it may be worthwhile to give it an extra push to supplement your tailored application with a robust networking strategy.
Focus your job search to gain multiple benefits
A routine of revisiting your must/like/love list provides structure for reflection. You are constantly learning about your needs, desires, and aspirations as you job search, so refocus your list as you gain insights about yourself and the labor market. You have permission to tweak your list as you go.
Another benefit to having a clear focus is that you’ll be able to clearly tell others what you’re looking for. This makes it so much easier for others to help you! Imagine if someone told you they’re looking for a job and they’re open to anything related to numbers. At that point, you might wish them luck. Now imagine they told you they’ve been researching ABC Company because of their excellent internal training program for new accountants. Your ears perk up because your aunt works at ABC Company’s client services department. In this case, you’re much more likely to consider introducing your aunt to this enthusiastic job seeker for a coffee chat because less effort is required on your part to make the mental connection.
Don’t forget that recruiters love to ask, “What interested you about this role?” You’ll stand out as a well-prepared and thoughtful candidate when you confidently state the connection between what the role offers and what you want in the next stage of your career.
So if you haven’t already, write down your must have, like to haves, and love to haves! If you’re looking for inspiration, check out the free job search assessment. It’s a printable workbook that will guide you through different aspects to consider in your next role.
Crystal Lee, MPH, CPCC is a holistic career coach who helps relocating job seekers and career changers find clarity, confidence, and community. Let her know if you have a career question! If you find her content helpful, please consider donating to her tip jar.