A Great Job Search = A Great Career
The message of my title sounds obvious: target your ideal job, go after it with a well thought-out search (and a bit of good luck), and you will probably achieve your goal. However, what I’m getting at goes beyond the obvious and beyond one job.
Conducting a great job search relates strongly to having a successful career because career advancement uses job-search skills. To make this connection clear, let’s talk about the elements of a successful career.
What Is a Successful Career?
A successful career depends on one’s interests, goals, and values. For some, it’s all about earning money. For others, it’s about earning a comfortable living with good benefits, job security, and sufficient time off. Some seek productive, challenging work that they trained for and are good at with opportunities to learn and grow. Some seek to help people and improve society by working for an organization with whose mission they identify. You probably want to work with diverse, interesting, fun, and supportive colleagues and for a manager who can give your fair, constructive criticism and who also trusts, appreciates, and rewards you. You will likely want to advance and move up in your career and that’s where the relationship with your job search skills becomes apparent. Let’s examine some job search/career advancement skills.
Research about your target field or companies is an important part of the job search that can be approached in two steps. Step one is online research utilizing industry resource sites, appropriate professional associations, company websites and LinkedIn pages, news sources, and job descriptions. Step two involves actually speaking to people in the field at networking events or through informational interviews. Research is vital in deciding whether this job, field, or company is a good match for you and also enables you to present yourself as someone who is knowledgeable and engaged. Once you have the job, continuous research into new developments and trends in your field will be vital, too. You will also need to understand your organization and how you fit in. What is the stated mission of your organization? How is that changing? How does your organization make money or raise funds? What is the purpose of your job? Why was it created? Where is it on the organizational chart and how does it relate to others in the organization? If you understand the big picture, then you will also start to understand how you can contribute and take initiative to stand out and get recognized.
Informational Interviewing in the job search process is related to both Research and Networking. Its major function is to gather information and career advice but through it, you meet people who can recommend you or refer you to a position. We know from surveys that 70-80% of jobs are attained through some form of networking-based recommendation or referral. Networking is also valuable after you land the job. In order to advance, you need to know people whose knowledge you can tap. Whom can you help and depend upon later? Don’t overlook anyone in your organization, no matter what their role might be. Showing interest in and curiosity about your colleagues can have surprising results and, at the least, lead to a more pleasant work environment.
At the crux of a successful job search and a successful career are Communications. In the job search, your written communications (usually your resume, CV, cover letter, research statement, teaching statement, etc.) land you a job interview and your verbal and non-verbal communications during a job interview get you the job offer. On the job, you convince colleagues, customers, and stakeholders during meetings and presentations and with emails and reports. In the job search, you also need to communicate your brand—that is, your image, your personality, and your character. At work, your brand is your reputation—what it is you’re known for. A reputation for reliability will advance your career.
Equally essential to a successful job search are Organizational and Time Management skills. Keeping track of whom you networked with is vital because these people might help you with information, recommendations, and referrals. On the job, great organizational skills help you to meet deadlines, be more productive, and avoid mistakes. We have busy lives, juggling academic commitments, jobs, relationships, and family. Add in a job search and it becomes even more daunting. Time management is an organizational skill that keeps you from getting overwhelmed. Develop strategies like making to-do lists, scheduling job-search blocks of time, and communicating and coordinating your plans with family, friends, and colleagues. On the job, the good time management skills that you developed in the job search will enable you to multi-task, avoid pressure, and work well under pressure when necessary.
Teamwork has become vital since the 1980s. Projects are often complex and demand specialized expertise. None of us is as smart as all of us and things usually go smoother and faster with successful teamwork. The relationship of teamwork to the job search process is less apparent because it seems like such a solitary endeavor. However, it doesn’t have to be that way and assembling a great team to help you will improve your chances of success. The career professionals at the Office of Career Planning and Professional Development at The Graduate Center are part of your team. Industry professionals with whom you have networked and created relationships are also part of your team. Mentors, trusted family members, and friends might be part of your team, but do make sure they really know what they’re talking about.
While teaching the “Human Resource Management” course in the Business Department of Brooklyn College for a number of years, I became familiar with management literature on career success. A common theme is the importance of taking initiative on the job to solve problems, get recognized, stand out in your organization, and move forward in your career. Initiative in the job search can take the form of speaking to people, going to events, polishing your LinkedIn profile, reading job descriptions, following organizations, applying to jobs, and following up. However, even if you do all the right things, you will probably have more rejections and disappointments than successes. There will be bad days on the job as well. You will need to be resilient, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on. Pay attention to your health and wellness. Even if you don’t get the job that you really coveted, there will be other jobs and everyone gets a job in the end. So, even if you are disappointed, remember that you are using skills that will help you to achieve a great career.