5 Keys to Finding the Perfect Job for you

Looking for a job has to be one of the most humbling and often exhausting experiences we go through. It is estimated that the average person goes through 5 career changes in a lifetime – not just a job change, but a career change. In addition, the average job search for a professional or manager is three to six months. That is a lot of transition and a lot of time trying to perfect the job search process. So, I have complied what I have learned are the 5 keys to finding the right job for you. Note that this

is a comprehensive program and that addressing only one key is likely to land you either in front of your TV indefinitely or firmly planted in your office chair staring out the window as life slowly passes you by.

Key #1 – Discover your Life Purpose.

Yes, this does sound like a tall order but this is your job we are talking about. Don’t you want to spend your days doing something you love and doing something that fits with who you are? As a career coach, I find that the most fulfilling aspect of my job is coaching people to unite who they are with what they do. When these two forces come together, the results can be astounding. Many people go to work each day wishing they were doing something else, feeling unfulfilled, and feeling as though they are not reaching the level of success they are capable of. All of those feelings can be traced back to the idea of life purpose and the importance of finding a way to fulfill it through your work. The clearer people are about their life purpose, the more likely they are to experience success and fulfillment in their lives.

So the question becomes, how does one discover their life purpose? There are many books and programs that can guide you in the process but for a short exercise Marcia Bench, founder and director of Career Coach Institute, offers 10 clues to discovering your life purpose.

1. What do you love to do, whether in your spare time or at a work?

2. What parts of your present job or life activities do you thoroughly enjoy?

3. What do you naturally do well?

4. What are your ten greatest successes to date (in your eyes)?

5. Is there a cause about which you feel passionate?

6. What are the 10 most important lessons you have learned in your life?

7. Are there some issues or perceived problems that have occurred over and over again for you?

8. What do you daydream about doing?

9. Imagine you are writing your epitaph. What things do you want to be remembered for at the end of your life?

10. What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

The clues take time to answer and though they may not tell you exactly what you should do in your next job, if you are true to yourself in answering them, it is very likely that you will discover one or two themes emerging and the exercise will provide you with a bit of insight before you take your next career step. This exercise continues on from where many interest inventories leave off. Interest inventories, forced choice assessments where you choose between 2-4 job functions or situational desires, give you possible job options to fit your type. They are decent starting points; but, they often miss one critical factor. What is it you like to do? You may be really good at organizing and you may have a lot of experience doing something but you may absolutely hate it. Doing an exercise such as answering the questions above will give you a much more holistic perspective and it will allow you to get in touch with who you really are and where your passion lies.

Key #2 – Talk to people who are doing it, have done it, or are thinking about doing it.

This has always seemed to me the very best avenue to take when one is contemplating a job or career change but it is perhaps the most underutilized strategy. It is interesting to me that when people are buying a TV or some other major purchase they will shop 10 different stores, talk to everyone who is willing to listen about their pending purchase and solicit information from anyone who even looks like they may own a TV; however, when it comes to switching jobs or changing careers, many people just dive in head first without doing the research and leg work that could ultimately save them from making a big mistake.

If you are thinking about going back to school for a degree in finance because you really like numbers and think you would like to have a job at a bank, find people who have the job you are interested in and talk to them. Ask for an informational interview and learn all you can about what they do on a day to day basis, what kind of education they have, and what their career trajectory has been. Talk to the people in the finance department at your local university and ask them about their students, where students go after graduation, and what a degree in finance may ultimately prepare the students for. Shadow someone who does what you want to do. Spend a day or two as they do their job and pay attention. If you are considering a career change, this is the very least you should do. I am not saying this to deflate any excitement you have about a new career but I am calling attention to the recourses you have available and the fact that just because the grass may look greener, it does not necessarily mean it is. Do the work before you leap so you know what you are getting into. No matter what you do and what change you make, there are surprises that never could have been anticipated or learned beforehand; so; eliminating as much of the guesswork that you can in the beginning, will save you in the end.

Key #3 – Network – Take Advantage of the Unpublished Job Market

Chances are your next job or career change will be found through the unpublished job market. The unpublished job market accounts for approximately 80% of the total jobs filled each year and this percentage is probably even higher when you take strictly career changers into consideration. This is one area that is often the most intimidating for job seekers as it involves the nastiest 10 letter word in the job seeker’s handbook – networking. There are a small percentage of people who like networking but for the majority, this conjures up images of cocktail party schmooze fests where people are passing around business cards like candy and closing every conversation with “call me”. Although this may be part of the networking picture, it is certainly not its whole story.

Networking can be defined as meeting with appropriate people with a specific career focus or in a defined industry to find out more about what they do and perhaps the current needs of their company. So, the goal of networking is to gain information and referrals, not jobs, at least not right away. If you accept the idea that everyone knows at least 50 other people from different parts of their life and that all of those people know 50 people, the possibility that one or several of those individuals will know someone in one of your targeted industries is pretty good. Once you have a referral, draft a letter to the person explaining who referred you and why you are contacting them. Ask if they are available to meet with you briefly so you can learn more about their industry; but, do not ask for a job. Make sure you follow up with a phone call to double your response rate. Then, set up a specific time for the meeting and stick to it. If you are more than an hour away, a phone meeting is appropriate; however, getting in front of the person is generally the most effective type of contact if it can be arranged. When you do meet, the only thing you should bring with you is a list of questions. Do not bring a resume. If one is requested, you can always send it later. Keep the focus of the meeting on gathering information, not on getting a job. Your intention will show through. Finally, do not leave the meeting until you have asked the contact for other people you could talk to. This is the best way to grow your network. Even if that meeting did not go very well, you never know who that person may introduce you to.

Another way to tap the unpublished job market is through targeted letters. These are letters you send to a hiring manager in the company describing your current situation and background and how you could meet the needs of that employer. You should follow up with a phone call approximately 5-7 days after the letter is sent to request an informational interview.

Finally, look for articles or press releases related to new product launches, expansion information, or new offices opening to give you an opening in a targeted letter. A company that is expanding its corporate office may have room for more Human Resource professionals. Write a letter indicating that you learned about this new expansion and what you could offer their organization. Remember to follow up with a phone call and a request for a brief meeting.

The unpublished job market is where most career changers will find their next job. If you have education and experience in a different field, rather than sending off your resume for job postings that list multiple requirements that you don’t have, you are going to have to put greater energy into getting in front of people so they can see how you may fit. This will allow you to sell yourself and your skills and abilities more powerfully. As a career changer you are much more likely to get a job though a referral than by posting your resume on a job board such as monster.com.

Key #4 – Be Selective when using Published Job Market

This is perhaps the job search strategy with which most of us are intimately familiar. You search the paper for help wanted ads, you scour the Internet night and day to find the “best” job boards, and you send out hundreds of resumes and cover letters hoping that someone will choose you out of the pile. Well, although there is a place for some of these search strategies, the truth of the matter is that these methods only account for 20% of the total jobs filled in a given year. This may sound very defeating and perhaps if this is your only strategy I would be worried. But, if you are incorporating all of the other methods as well, you are casting a wide enough net to be confident that something will come soon.

The following are a few tips when working in the published job market.

1. If you are sending a hard copy of your resume to a company, don’t just send the same resume you have had saved on your computer for months. Make it fit the job for which you are applying.

2. Remember your resume is not designed to get you the job; it is to get you in the door. Do not include every job you have ever had or every job skill possible. Tailor it to the job and ask yourself whether or not this particular job duty or skill is applicable to the job for which you are applying. If not, leave it out. Your resume is your marketing tool.

3. When you see an announcement for a job that interests you, tell your fiends that you plan on applying for a job with so and so company and ask them if they know anyone who works for that company with whom you may be able to speak. You are not asking them for a job. You are simply asking them for a contact name. If this fails, call the company and ask for a name. Many times jobs will be listed by the department of human resources in general. Try to get a name to which you can address your cover letter specifically. Also, and this I can tell you worked for me every single time I ever did it, if you hear of a job you really want, craft your cover letter (see #4 below), tailor your resume, and send it priority mail. It does not cost a lot and it may help you stand out in a sea of other submissions. In addition, when you call the company to follow up on the packet you sent (which you absolutely must do) you can refer to this and they may be more likely to pull yours form the pile. They are much more likely to receive priority mail and they are also likely to open it sooner.

4. When you are writing a cover letter, make it short and sweet. You do not need to give them a litany of everything you have done but rather highlight what you have to offer the company. A great way to do this is to create a standard T letter. In the first paragraph, introduce yourself and tell them how you heard about this job. Then, make a T-bar. On the left side, use words from their ad or posting about what they are looking for in a candidate and on the right side, show them what you have to offer that fits with their requirements. This lets them know you paid attention to the job description, you meet their standards, and you value their time. Remember, a cover letter is not going to get you the job, but it does need to get you in the door.

5. If you are posting your resume to a job board, make sure that you are resubmitting your resume every 2 weeks. Most recruiters who search job boards rarely go back more than that to look for candidates. It is not ok to submit your resume and then sit back and think you are going to get tons of hits. Job boards may be convenient but you must continue to update, edit, and submit your resume on a regular basis.

Key #5 – Stand Out and Sell Yourself

Looking for a job is hard work and it is often the case that after weeks and maybe even months of searching, job seekers begin to start feeling bad about themselves. They start to question their own value and worth and begin to internalize every rejection letter they get. It may be difficult but this is the time to stand out and to continue to showcase why you are better than anyone else for this job. It comes down to numbers and there are simply too many people vying for one job. Give the hiring manager a reason to hire you over everyone else. If you lack some of the experience, make up for it in personality and ambition. Remember that you will get back what you put out there and if you speak to people with confidence and highlight your strengths and how they will contribute positively to the company, you will get a positive response. You must believe in yourself before you can ever expect anyone else to believe in you.

The final tip I will add is that you never know who you are going to talk to or meet during a job hunt. Someone may overhear you in a coffee shop talking to your friends about a job you want with their company. You may meet a hiring manager who really likes you but who does not consider you a fit for that job; however, that person may know of another job or another company who is hiring and if you really impressed them, they may be willing to pass that information on to you or better yet, make a call on your behalf. The bottom line is looking for a job is a full time job and you should consider everyone with whom you come in contact a potential networking partner. As difficult as it may be to accept, you are marketing yourself and you have to do some really good PR to get a job these days. Those who are willing to put themselves out there and cast their net far and wide are the ones who will get the jobs.

Melani Ward is a successful career and life coach and entrepreneur. To read more tips like the ones found in this article go to http://coachmelani.typepad.com or www.mhcareercoaching.com.

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