Chances are good that you’ve recently made or will soon be making one or more decisions that will impact your career success, although you might not realize that if your decisions are made without looking at them from all sides first. Being clear about what you’re aiming for in terms of career results is sound advice–a good place to start. Ben Stein (an American writer, lawyer, actor and commentator) put it this way: “The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.”
Career Decision-Making Has Two Parts
The first part is to do what Stein suggested; that is, determine what your goals are–both long-term and short-term career goals matter. And be as clear as you can about what you decide you want from your career. Fuzzy thinking on this score could cause you a lot of professional and personal grief in the long run.
Look carefully at the factors that are influencing your decisions. For instance, are you attracted by the idea of a job in a career field that tends to pay big salaries and not looking so much at the price to be paid to get and keep one of those jobs? Does the apparent glamor of a particular choice generate so much excitement that you’re ready to leap into pursuing it without careful thought?
Among other considerations, ask yourself these questions:
- What will I need to do to be competitive in this career field?
- What are the expectations for sustained growth (plenty of opportunity) in this field, industry, etc.?
- What demands will such a job make on my personal life, and am I reasonably sure I’m prepared to accept that?
- What’s my Plan B if my first choice turns out to be unsatisfactory?
Career Decision-Making: After the Choice is Made
The second part of career decision-making involves actually deciding. Waffling back and forth is ineffective at best and can present you as indecisive or a “non-decider” to other people, possibly including your boss and potential future bosses. The impact such behavior can have on your career success is not pretty! Once you’ve made a decision–chosen a direction to pursue–you need to stick with it and give it your best shot if you expect it to work out well.
This is not to say that you can’t change your mind down the road a ways, if there’s a compelling reason to do so. However, that shouldn’t happen often if you’ve thought decisions through carefully beforehand and put your best effort into executing them.
With all that’s been going on in the world during the past months and years, you might roll your eyes at the very thought that you could pursue career success without fear this year, and it would be hard to blame you. However, I’d like to offer some encouragement with this thought: fear paralyzes; hope energizes.
I know it’s easier said than done to tell you to put fear aside as you plan your career steps this year. Like you, I’m not immune to the jabs that fear can take at us when we try to move forward in a desired direction. What helps each of us might not be the same for all, but for me, looking beyond my own admittedly limited resources plays a key role. The main point is to find what works best for you and put it into practice.
No Fear in the New Year
Jon Gordon revises his newsletter column titled “No Fear in the New Year” every year, and I always enjoy reading it. His experience 14 years ago might inspire you to look differently at your own situation, however challenging it seems, so I encourage you to read the entire article (signing up for his newsletter is easy and free).
One excerpt that resonates with me is this: “You will always feel fear. Everyone will. But your trust must be bigger than your fear. The bigger your trust the smaller your fear becomes. And the more you trust the more you become a conduit for miracles.”
He then goes on to explain how a financially grim picture was completely transformed in ways he couldn’t have predicted at the start. Within four short years he was in an amazing place in his career and his life. What’s to say you couldn’t experience a similar transformation in terms of your own career success, whether it’s a short-term job search or a longer-term career change?
Big Leaps Can Bring Big Rewards
Making a big leap in your career management (including things like a major job change) can seem really daunting at times. It’s what a respected colleague of mine once called “big gulp” time!
Now I’m not advocating an action such as the adoption of bungee-jumping as a spur to tackling difficult career challenges (although that might work for some of you!). I’m just saying that we sometimes need to move well outside our comfort zone if we hope to achieve a significant growth goal in our career–or in our life, for that matter.
For me, personally, this view has meant considering–and now actively planning–a cross-country move from California to Massachusetts to be near my sister. Many aspects of this planned relocation are challenging, not the least of which is eventually driving myself, my son and two small dogs more than 3,000 miles. Until now, my idea of a long drive has been 3-4 hours, tops.
I can’t foresee all the possible obstacles to be overcome in achieving this goal, but I do know I have a strong reason for doing it, and that motivates me. That might also be what helps you to move forward–to get past the fear you feel at the thought of making a big change in an uncertain world. I certainly hope it does and you reach the end of 2015 with a resounding “YES!” at how far you’ve come.
Did your new year get off to a strong start? If not, don’t worry. There’s plenty of time to make a course correction. However, if you were thinking about launching a new job search this year, you’ve already missed your chance to gain early momentum (late December would have been a good time for that). As the saying goes, though, “all is not lost.” You just need to get cracking!
Key Points for Your Job Search
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” That’s probably as true for job searching and career management requirements as for anything else in life. While keeping that in mind, the following are still potentially valid points to consider in planning and conducting your next job search:
- Last year’s trends might not be this year’s trends. Be aware of them and remain alert to signs that the “old” ones are either strengthening or diminishing in the coming weeks and months, but don’t get fixated on them as you develop and adjust your career management plan throughout the year.
- Complacency is not your friend. Don’t allow the comfort of your current situation (if comfort exists) to lull you into a false sense of security, as a result of which you let active job search energy dissipate into nothingness.
- Revitalize your network. Touch base with key people in your network to (a) see how their year is going, ask how last year was for them, etc.; and (b) share with them appropriate information about what you’re up to. The main point is to demonstrate sincere interest in them, and you’ll probably find that interest reflected back to you.
- Ignorance is definitely not bliss. Although you don’t necessarily have to be on your (mental) toes nonstop, you shouldn’t assume that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Make it an important part of your job search and ongoing career management to stay on top of emerging developments that could affect your career and/or your job prospects, either adversely or favorably.
Job Search Preparation and Execution
Preparation is the process of getting ready for something or taking the steps necessary to make it happen. While getting ready for your job search (making plans) is certainly important, remember that plans that are never executed do not produce desirable results–they can’t. A job search that stays in your mind amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking.
Wishful thinking never accomplished anything worthwhile. Note: This is different from dreaming and visualizing a goal that impels you to take action to achieve it. Action is a key component of that process.
Where do you really want to be at this time next year? What do you want to see yourself doing? Figure that out as soon as you can and begin moving in that direction.
Do or say it now, as in Go ahead and call him—there’s no time like the present. This adage was first recorded in 1562. One compiler of proverbs, John Trusler, amplified it: “No time like the present, a thousand unforeseen circumstances may interrupt you at a future time” ( Proverbs Exemplified, 1790).
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary, Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
The thought that no one hires toward the end of the year is a topic I’ve covered before, but I think it’s worth another quick look as Christmas and other holiday celebrations take center-stage in people’s lives.
Year-End Hiring Dormant or Nearly So?
Conventional wisdom often says that you might as well “hang it up” until at least the first of the new year as far as job searching or other career management activities goes. However, as I’ve said before, I’ve had clients who proved this theory to be less than solid. Hiring probably does slow down, although how much is perhaps arguable, but it doesn’t necessarily stop.
What might happen if you do put your job search or other career-related activities on hold until after the holidays is that someone else who’s more active and better prepared will land the job you could have filled quite well. That doesn’t mean they’re a better performer on the job than you are–just that they didn’t wait for a “better” time.
When Should You Look for a Job?
What’s the best time of year to look for a job? According to Nick Corcodillos of Ask The Headhunter, it’s now (that year-end period where “nothing is happening”).
In his article, ‘Tis the season to land the right job,” Corcodillos says, “Companies are indeed hiring. They’re just not doing it the way you’d expect. They’re in a hurry but they don’t want to make mistakes….Some managers are under great pressure to fill precious slots before the year ends and budgets close (or are cut). Thus, employers are not hiring slowly because they can, but because they can’t get the right candidates.”
If you follow his reasoning, you should be actively seeking and establishing relationships that lead you to people within the organizations you want to target. Corcodillos emphasizes the fact that many hires come through trusted referrals and personal contacts with influencers and decision-makers.
As he puts it, “If you are the candidate a manager needs, you can capitalize on the rush to hire….Be ready to articulate your value, but do it face-to-face or on the phone.”
Along with this comes the need to recognize and acknowledge that there probably aren’t 50 or 100 jobs out there that you’d be the perfect candidate for. If you do it right, you only need–and can only take–one job at a time. That makes selectivity in your job search approach a high priority in terms of success probability.
Definition of Insanity
One definition of insanity goes something like this: Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. It applies just as well to your job search and career management planning.
Maybe now is the time to re-think what you’ve been doing, especially if your answer to the question, “So how’s that working for you?” is “not so great.” Make 2015 your year-to-remember for all the right reasons.
As a professional resume writer, I have to acknowledge up front that I have a bit of bias on the subject of resumes–especially when I read (as I usually do) a column by Ask The Headhunter’s Nick Corcodillos, who basically considers resumes most suitable as garbage-can liners!
In a recent post, titled “The Magic Resume Calculator: Save 95% of your job hunting time!,” Corcodillos does, however, make good points that I can agree with and still feel good about creating resumes for my clients.
What You Should Know about Recruiters & Your Resume
According to Corcodillos, who is a headhunter (recruiter), there are two things that he cares about when he receives a resume:
- Is the sender someone I know? If it isn’t, he deletes it.
- Is the information useful? In other words, does it make clear (and quickly) why he should bother to read it?
He amplifies these points with a few telling statements:
- “Don’t send a resume to someone you don’t know who doesn’t know you.”
- “We don’t have time to figure out what to do with you.”
- “In a contest between a trusted referral and your blind resume, you will always lose. I won’t open your resume, and what’s in it doesn’t matter.”
- “What matters most to an employer or headhunter reading a resume is that it came via a personal introduction from someone we trust. Your competitors will almost always come in second.”
What Does This Mean to Your Job Search?
For starters, it means you can and should be putting some real effort and thought into your job search, That definitely includes making the effort to get personal introductions to key people related to the position you’re pursuing.
If you haven’t been reading Corcodillos’ blog yet, I encourage you to start. While I don’t necessarily endorse all his opinions (which he undoubtedly wouldn’t care about if he knew), I know he’s as savvy as they come in his area of expertise.
Yes, this approach is more work (maybe a lot more) than many of you might be used to putting into your job search. However, when you do it–and do it right–I’ll bet you’ll see some impressive results, not the least of which is getting a leg up on your competition.
So maybe now, with the relative slowness of the holiday season, would be a good time to strategize and plan how you’re going to jump-start your job search by connecting with key people in your target companies. Think about it, but don’t just think: DO!