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Strategies for Developing a Career Path that Works

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

“The things to do are the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to be doing.” – Buckminster Fuller

Maybe your job is not what you thought it would be, or you want to ratchet up, or you are burnt out, or something else seems more interesting…or you just got fired.

Consider these strategies to find a job you can love, even if it’s the one you are in:

  1. Nothing is wrong with you if you have not yet discovered your “passion” or “mission.” It can be as simple as “helping myself while I help others.” You can do that in any job.
  2. Nothing is wrong with changing jobs if:
    • There is no opportunity for creativity or growth.
    • You can’t earn more where you are at.
    • You want to work closer to home.
    • You dislike your co-workers, boss, or customers.
    • There is illegal or unethical activity going on.
    • This isn’t the third time you quit in the last two years.  If that’s the case, maybe you are the problem.
  3. Nothing is wrong with changing careers if:
    • The “story” of your career does not match up with the “reality” of your career.
    • You have grown far in that career and look to learn something new.
    • There is the possibility of working in a career that allows you to earn more or work in alignment with your passion, mission, etc.
    • You are financially set and want to do non-profit type work.
  4. Get out of the “grey zone” of uncertainty. Give yourself space and time to define your ideal career situation. Think both vertically and horizontally. For example, I’d like to be a lawyer for an environmental non-profit or I’d to be a games programmer at Electronic Arts.
  5. Interview people with your ideal career. Invite them to a coffee or lunch, or even offer to pay for their time.  Ask what they want and don’t like about their job.  Discover their story of how they came to be in this position.  Ask what they think the future holds for their career.  Last, ask what advice they would have for you.  I wish I had been smart enough to do this when I was younger.  Keep asking until somebody says yes.  It is worth the effort.
  6. Meet with a recruiter. Again, offer to pay for their time.  Ask for an evaluation of your resume, and what they believe your opportunities are and possible compensation levels.  Steps 4, 5, and 6 are all about gaining clarity.  Get facts before you make a career decision.
    • P.S.  See if they can run your resume through a resume screener to make sure you are using the right buzzwords. An example you can use yourself is https://www.jobscan.co/
  7. Don’t fear seeking part-time, temp or consulting work. Get your foot in the door and show them how amazing you are.  Do that, and they will want you as an employee.
  8. Don’t quit your day job until you have agreed to a new job. Then leave your company gracefully.  Provide them with two week’s notice.  Don’t bomb them on Glassdoor.  Don’t do a YouTube dance video. There is no good reason to create enemies.  Just move on.
  9. Get creative! Showing your resume online is not enough anymore.
    • Use your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts.
    • Use your alumni and school contacts.
    • Show up at industry association meetings.
    • See if your industry association has a hiring page, many do.
    • Knock on their door. This approach works best with smaller companies as you might get to meet the owner or president.
    • Network, but when you do, spend your time learning about them. See how you can help them.  That’s what gets people’s attention, not being needy.  Besides, needy is creepy.
    • Don’t forget the Yellow Pages.
  10. Know the companies that fit your career path. Many cities have a business publication that identifies the companies in your area. Then systematically figure out how you will approach them. Make your job! Send the owner an article you wrote or a blog post.  Mail it to them.  Offer to have a meeting to see how you can help them.  I have often got work by doing this.  “I’d like to meet with you for an hour to check your head and share what I know about ____.”
  11. Know yourself. Look for a career that fits you. Know your skills and motivators.  Take a few career assessments.  Take a few skill tests (see shl.com).  The better you know you, the more focus and confidence you will have.  One simple way to focus is to identify the five things you do best and circle the two things you enjoy doing best.  Find a job or career that focuses on those two things and you will find work nirvana.
  12. If you are out of a job, then make finding a job your whole priority. Make it a 5-day week, 40 hour-week job. Be relentless. Go all in!
  13. Keep learning. Lynda.com is a great resource for learning and free if you have LinkedIn premium (which you want if you are job hunting). Research companies, trends, challenges, etc.
  14. Create a week in the life for yourself. Three years from now, when you are doing work you love. What does a work week look like?  Spend a few hours noting this future with clarity and then bring that future into the present.  I have learned that you get what you ask for – just not when or how you would expect to get it.
  15. Be prepared. As the saying goes, success results from preparation meeting opportunity. Being prepared for an interview means researching the company website, news articles, LinkedIn profiles, Glassdoor reviews and more. Practice your interviewing skills with friends.  Interviewing is a sales job so know the questions you can be asked and how you would answer them.  Short and sweet answers are best. Also, be prepared with questions you may want to ask. Don’t ask questions you can find by researching Manta, Hoovers…or the company website. Consider questions such as:
    • Why is the position open? Did someone quit or get fired? Is it a new position?
    • How would you describe the company’s culture?
    • Where do you get your greatest satisfaction in working here?
    • What frustrates you working here?
    • What are the common attributes of your top performers?
    • What drives results for the company?
    • How does your performance appraisal system work?
    • What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
    • In one year from today, how would you know if my hire was a success?
    • What training programs do you offer employees?
    • Do you publish career ladders for the position?
    • What percentage of managers are promoted versus recruited?
    • What is the most exciting thing happening at the company?
    • How often does the CEO meet with the management team?
    • What type of company social events do you have?
  16. Follow up, even if they don’t. Send a written thank you note and ask for the job.
  17. Last, don’t stress about the future even if you are in a financial squeeze. Cut expenses to the bone and focus on taking action in the present, the only real power you have.

Download the Career Strategies PDF

Resources:

https://www.livecareer.com/ -resume builder, job search, more.

http://jobboardreviews.com job board directory

http://www.jobhuntersbible.com  from Dick Bolles, author of What Color is My Parachute

https://www.shl.com/en/  a great place to test your skills

https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/- great advice on job hunting

https://www.careercloud.com– job hunting advice

https://www.job-hunt.org/– job hunting advice

https://www.forbes.com/video/4573540723001 video from Forbes on avoiding the resume black hole.

https://blog.linkedin.com/2016/10/06/now-you-can-privately-signal-to-recruiters-youre-open-to-new-job– as the URL suggests, how to use LinkedIn

https://www.donphin.com/tools/– last but not least, some tools I’ve created that can help