How to Do an Intentional Job Search, with Hayden Iverson Todd

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If you’re looking for a job, you’re being intentional, right? Not necessarily, says Find Your Dream Job guest Hayden Iverson Todd. Hayden defines an intentional job search as knowing the type of position that will benefit your overall lifestyle. We spend too much time at work to apply for any and every job we come across. Hayden suggests approaching your job search by getting clear on your strengths, knowing the type of work that excites you, and exploring the resources your community has to offer. 

About Our Guest:

Hayden Iverson Todd is an assistant director of career and fellowship advising at Reed College. It’s a private liberal arts school in the Pacific Northwest.

Resources in This Episode:

Hayden welcomes connections on LinkedIn. Find her at


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 446:

How to Do an Intentional Job Search, with Hayden Iverson Todd

Airdate: April 17, 2024

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Do you let the openings you see on job boards drive how you look for work?

Step away from the computer, says today’s guest.

A better approach is to know your purpose and your strengths and reach out to your community.

Hayden Iverson Todd is here to talk about how to do an intentional job search.

She’s an assistant director of career and fellowship advising at Reed College. It’s a private liberal arts school in the Pacific Northwest.

Hayden joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Well, let’s get going, Hayden. Let’s start with “intentional job search.” What do you mean when you talk about intentional job search?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

The biggest thing that I mean when I think about an intentional job search is really taking a second to pause, and think, and plan about how you want to approach your job search before you start applying to jobs.

Oftentimes, when I am talking to students or other job seekers, one of the biggest things that I hear is, “I just need a job.” And that really drives the job search rather than taking a step back, creating a plan that is personalized and intentional, and is really going to be the roadmap for their job search process.

Mac Prichard:

Why is it important to do this, Hayden, to step back and create that plan? Why not just start sending out applications?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

I really think that one thing that can get lost in the job search process, particularly the stress of a job search, is, oftentimes, we’re searching because we don’t like the job that we’re currently in, or for students, it’s because you’re getting ready to graduate, or you feel like you need to increase your income, and when you are in that stressful situation, we’re not really thinking about the impact that our job has on our life, overall.

For most people, if you’re working full time, you’re spending at least 40 hours a week either at home or in an office working on your job, and that doesn’t even take into account the time that we spend thinking about our work as we’re washing dishes or you wake up and you’re drinking your morning coffee and you’re thinking about, “How am I going to approach my day in the office?”

That is a lot of our waking hours, and I want to support people thinking about their work as something that can benefit their overall happiness and their lifestyle, and not just thinking about this sort of throw-away thing that we go and we do 40 hours a week, but it’s not really a part of our lives.

Mac Prichard:

So, it’s going to help with the quality of your life if you think intentionally about your job search. How’s it going to help you as a candidate, Hayden?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, I think, as a candidate, it really helps you to be prepared to speak to your strengths, and an application process, an interview process, is all about your ability to speak to what you bring to the table, and if you haven’t taken the time to be intentional and thoughtful about what you bring to the table, every single time you write a cover letter, every time you update your resume, every interview that you participate in, you’re going to be struggling to find those things. I want people to take the time at the front end of their search process, really investigate what those skills and strengths that you bring are, and be prepared to talk about those throughout the application process.

Mac Prichard:

You work with a lot of students, graduates as well, alums. Do you find that most applicants look for work intentionally?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Absolutely not. I think, oftentimes, particularly at a liberal arts college, that isn’t necessarily focused for the four years of their education on how to be an employee or a job seeker, folks struggle a lot with even wrapping their heads around what is a job search process, outside of just, I need to find a job.

Mac Prichard:

What stops people from doing this, from looking for work intentionally?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

In my experience, one of the biggest things that stops people from searching intentionally is honestly a lack of confidence in their own skills and abilities. Folks approach the job search process just as a numbers game because they’re concerned that they don’t have that much to offer or they don’t know what they’re bringing to the table, and so, rather than it feeling like, “I’m applying to this job because I know I will be successful in this and I know I will be an asset to this team,” folks are sending out hundreds of applications, being like, “Well, I hope someone hires me. I hope that I’m good enough.”

That lack of confidence really stops us from approaching the job search in this intentional and self-confident way.

Mac Prichard:

Why isn’t that a good strategy, Hayden? I mean, you talk about how it reflects, perhaps, a lack of confidence, but I’m sure you talk to people who are in the job search market, and they say they’re tracking the number of resumes they’re sending out and the number of interviews that they’re getting.

What do you say to people who are following that strategy?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think one of the biggest things is that, first and foremost, I see a lot of folks apply to jobs that ultimately they don’t want. They are, again, looking at jobs that the end goal is just to get a job, not to get a job that is going to bring them joy, that they’re going to enjoy doing, or that they are committed to long term. It’s just to get a job.

And so, I think that one of the reasons that this is more valuable is that you are applying to jobs that you actually are interested in because you’ve taken the time to think about what that is going to be.

You also are putting yourself in a position, like I said, to understand your skills and strengths, and so you’re going to be applying to jobs that match your skill set, and that, ultimately, is going to give you a higher success rate. If you are applying to 15 jobs, but only a few of them are actually aligned with your skills and strengths, versus applying to 5 jobs that are all aligned with your skills and strengths, your success rate is going to be higher in the second scenario.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned the importance of paying attention to your strengths during an intentional job search, Hayden.

How about being clear about the job you want? How important is that, and what do you recommend someone do if they see the job that they want but they don’t have 100% of the qualifications?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, I think that understanding the job that you want is one of the first things that we’re doing in this intentional job search, and I think, again, when we’re thinking – I think that’s a great question because oftentimes, I have conversations with students who feel concerned because they don’t have enough of the skills, and one of the things that I really always encourage people to do is to shoot your shot. Apply anyways.

We want you to apply. If you feel like you match about 70% of the skills and experience, go ahead and apply. At the end of the day, a job description or a job posting; that is a wishlist for an employer. That is their ideal, absolute perfect case candidate.

We very, very, very rarely hire our perfect candidate, in terms of skills and experiences, and oftentimes the person who has 100% of those skills and experiences, they’re applying to the next job. They have already gathered all those skills, and they’re going to be applying to the next thing in the future.

I really encourage people, even if you don’t meet all of the qualifications, go ahead and apply.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how to do an intentional job search, and I know the first step that you recommend for doing this is to start with your purpose. How do you do this, Hayden, and why does it matter?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, so in our office at the center for the life beyond Reed, we talk a lot about purpose, and I think that when you hear someone talk about purpose, that can feel a little bit nerve-wracking, right? That’s really, a very personal question: what is your purpose?

And I want to start by saying your purpose is not this thing of like why you are on this planet; that’s also something that can change, and it will be in flex throughout your life and your career, but what I really mean by purpose is thinking about what excites you. Again, we’re thinking about, I want you to be in a workplace that brings you joy and, ideally, doing work that brings you joy.

To start this intentional job search, you’re going to be thinking about what work excites me? When I look back at all of the different jobs that I’ve had or the course work that I’ve completed in my academic career, or even volunteer experiences, what are the tasks that will really excite me every time? That might be that you are someone who absolutely loves spreadsheets; you probably want to do a job that allows you to do your spreadsheets. Do that thing at work that you’re like, “I will always raise my hand to do that task.”

Additionally, I want people to be thinking about, what are the areas and communities that bring us joy, that we light up, that we want to be a part of, and that we are going to be thinking about; what are the books that you read? What are the podcasts that you are always going back to? What is the one thing that you will always geek out over and talk your friend’s ear off, no matter how disinterested they are?

What are those spaces that really light you up, and then how can we start thinking about moving in a direction where you get to be in that space every day?

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. I want to stop and take a break, Hayden. When we come back, I want to talk about what to do with the answers to those questions that you ask about your purpose.

Stay with us.

When we return, Hayden Iverson Todd will continue to share her advice on how to do an intentional job search.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Hayden Iverson Todd.

She’s an assistant director of career and fellowship advising at Reed College. It’s a private liberal arts school in the Pacific Northwest.

Hayden joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Now, Hayden, before the break, we were talking about how to do an intentional job search, and the first step that you recommend for accomplishing this is to focus on your purpose and asking yourself a set of questions about what excites you, what interests you, and let’s talk about how you apply that knowledge.

What do you do with the answers to those questions?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, so the next step, after really thinking about, “What is the area that I really want to work in? What are these things that excite me, it’s going to be actually taking a second, again, to look internally and think about your strengths and skills, and this, for me, is really an integral piece of this intentional job search process. I think that even if you are in a position that doesn’t allow you to work in the space that is most exciting to you right now, that’s okay; that happens. I think that an intentional job search is not something that you’re going to do once in a lifetime. It may be something that you have to work towards to get there, but this skills audit is going to be really, really important for you as you’re starting to fine-tune what jobs you’re actually going to be applying to.

And so, I really want people to take time and think about, what are the skills that I have. What are the things that I know that I’m good at? And take time to ask colleagues and friends, potentially a partner, what are the things that they see in you that you’re really successful at? I think that oftentimes, we can forget that we have an innate skill set because we do it every single day.

We’re like, “Oh, that’s not really a skill. I do it all the time.” But no, taking the time and having someone reflect back to you, “These are the skills that I have.” This is going to be the next piece because then you’re going to be able to say, “Okay, when I see a job description, I see myself in that job description,” and that’s really what we’re looking for in this intentional job search, and that is going to be what makes the difference in applying to 20 jobs that don’t necessarily align with your skills, versus five jobs that are right in that sweet spot of your skillset.

Mac Prichard:

How do you make the connection between what you hear from colleagues, friends, and family about what you’re good at to the job postings that you’re seeing online or elsewhere? How do people see those connections?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, I think that one of the things that we’re going to be looking for is, oftentimes, in a job description, it’s going to be broken down in a few different ways. One of them is going to be the daily tasks and duties of the job, and that’s, oftentimes, going to be the sort of one-to-one work that we’ve already done. However, if you look at your purpose and decide, “You know what? I really need to do a shift. I want to shift into a new industry.”

We’re not only going to be looking at those tasks, but we’re going to be looking at those skills underneath them. So, what are those skills that are going to enable you to do those tasks? Additionally, oftentimes, on a job description, you’re going to see a lot of soft skills, and I think that really where that feedback from our co-workers, colleagues, friends, community members comes into play is looking at those soft skills.

That might be the ability to collaborate, someone who’s really good at conflict resolution, someone who’s particularly organized. Oftentimes, those, again, are going to be those innate skills that we have and that we’re not necessarily thinking of as a skillset.

Mac Prichard:

This seems very straightforward, but I’m curious: what stops people from getting clear about their strengths and making those connections between jobs that they’re qualified for? What barriers do people have to overcome in making those connections?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, I do think, again, like I spoke to earlier, one big thing is confidence. We know, based off of studies that have been completed, that women, particularly women of color, are less likely to apply to a job because they don’t think that they have enough of the skills necessary, and I think that ultimately comes down to confidence and imposter syndrome, and then also not taking time to really be intentional and stop and actually outline all of our skillsets.

I think that once you see all the skills and experiences that you have laid out on a list in front of you, it’s a totally different experience versus being in your head and thinking about it. I really encourage people when they’re going through this process, if you have a whiteboard, put it up big on the whiteboard, make a list in a Google doc, and make sure that you’re actually writing it down in a notebook so that you can actually see the physical evidence of the skills and abilities that you have, and when that list starts to become bigger than the list that they’re listing in a job description, you’re going to feel a lot more confident about applying to work.

Mac Prichard:

Step number one is to get clear about your purpose by exploring your interests and what excites you. Number two is understand your strengths so that you can know the positions that you qualify for.

I know your third recommended step for an intentional job search is to reach out to your community. What do you have in mind here, Hayden, when you talk about reaching out to your community to help you with that intentional job search?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, so I think oftentimes, what we hear in a job search process is networking. Network, network, network. It’s about who are the professional contacts that you have, and that is absolutely a part of reaching out to your community, but it’s not all about your community, so when I say reach out to your community or assess your community, I’m not just talking about the people or the colleagues that are a part of that. I’m also thinking of, again, your friends. Potentially, when I’m speaking to college students, I’m definitely thinking about the faculty that they have access, to the parents of friends that they have access to.

I’m also thinking about the tangible resources that you might have access to in that period of time. So that might be, if you are on a college campus, you’re going to have access to all sorts of different software and physical resources that you won’t have access to after you leave campus. If you’re in a role right now that allows you to take part in professional development, that’s a resource and a part of your community.

If you are someone who is not currently working and you’re in a job search process, maybe something that’s a part of your community is going to be a physical space where you can sit and be focused and actually work on your job search process. I want people to think about community as more than just the people, but also these physical resources that we can take advantage of to continue their job search.

Mac Prichard:

What’s the best way to reach out to members of your community after you’ve identified the resources and spaces that are available to you and you want to actually ask people for help? What have you seen be effective for making that ask?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, I think that there’s a lot of different ways that you can make the ask, in terms of modality, whether that’s going to be LinkedIn, or an email, or just popping into someone’s office, but I think the key point with that is that you have to ask and not be afraid to ask.

I tell students all the time, one thing that most professionals love to do is talk about their work, again, because we spend 40 hours a week doing it, and we are excited to engage with other people that are interested in our work and ultimately interested in us. And so, I think that the fear of stepping on someone’s toes or asking for too much can be a really limiting factor for people, and it stops them from reaching out.

Secondly, I think that once you actually make the ask, be thoughtful about the ask that you’re making. If you’re reaching out to a person and you don’t know them super well, or maybe you’ve never met them at all, our first step is not to ask them for a job. Our first step is to build a relationship. You really want to take the time to be thoughtful about “how do I build a relationship with this person?”

And that the outcome, the only outcome from this person, is not going to be for them to help you get a job or to hand you a job. The outcome might be that this is someone who can sit down and talk to you about your skills and strengths. The outcome might be that this is a person who can help clarify your purpose and values when it comes to the workplace.

Really thinking about the ways that someone can engage in conversation with you that is going to be helpful in this intentional job search rather than just thinking about the job and getting a job as the outcome of these conversations.

Mac Prichard:

It’s been a terrific conversation, Hayden. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

Yeah, for me, continuing to work for the Center of Life Beyond Reed, and continue to hone in this purpose-driven model. This is the model that we use in our office and really engaging with students who have pursued a liberal arts education to think about how does that education support their long-term professional goals and supporting students as a bridge between their college experience and those next professional steps.

Mac Prichard:

I know listeners can learn more about you and your work by connecting with you on LinkedIn and when they do reach out to you, Hayden, I hope they’ll mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to do an intentional job search?

Hayden Iverson Todd:

The biggest thing that I want someone to remember is to take a pause before you start your job search process. I want you to take a breath, and I want you to think about, “What do I really want out of my work, and how am I going to get that?”

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Sabrina Pomar.

She’s the talent sourcing specialist at the Cascade AIDS Project.

It’s a nonprofit that provides HIV services, housing, education, and advocacy.

You see a position on a job board.

You also find the same job on the employer’s website.

Where should you apply?

Join us next Wednesday when Sabrina Pomar and I talk about why you should use a company’s career page.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List.

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.