Find Your Dream Job, Episode 321:
The Biggest Mistake Most Job Seekers Make, with Markell Morris
Airdate: November 10, 2021
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.
Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.
Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume.
There‘s one error applicants make again and again. Avoid it, and your next job search becomes easier, shorter, and more rewarding.
Markell Morris is here to talk about the biggest mistake she sees many job seekers make and what to do instead.
Markell is the founder of Futures in Motion. She helps her clients take charge of their careers, navigate the job market, and reach goals with confidence.
She joins us from Long Beach, California.
Well, let’s jump right into it, Markell. What is this mistake that you see too many job seekers make? What’s the biggest mistake of all?
Well, Mac, when I work with a job seeker, and particularly those who are changing career direction or reentering the job market, one of the biggest challenges that they face and mistakes that they make is keeping their options open really broadly and so that they lack focus in their job search efforts.
And why is that a problem? Shouldn’t you be open to all possibilities when you’re looking for work?
It’s definitely important to be flexible and open to a variety of different options when you’re searching for a career direction or changing career direction. But if you think about the job market and the world of work, there are so many possibilities that a person can pursue. There are many different directions. So without focus, it’s really hard to determine where to put your energy, and it’s hard to determine who you might contact, what opportunities to go after, and how you’re going to present your qualifications. So getting focused helps you to direct your energy in such a way that you can eliminate a lot of the overwhelm that happens in a job search.
What does focus look like, Markell? How do you define that when you work with your clients?
Focus looks like defining what it is that you want to do for work, how you want to show up in the marketplace, what skills, knowledge, and abilities that you want to apply for certain outcomes. So it’s a way for you to envision what would be satisfying, based off of factors that are most important to you.
And in practical terms, does that mean that you pick two or three job titles and come up with a shortlist of companies? How do you translate that into day-to-day tactics when you’re looking for work?
Eventually, you’re going to get to the point where you identify some specific types of jobs that you would want to compete for, and that would include, you know, specific job titles as well as levels within different job bands, as well as particular employers. But before you get there, one of the challenges is that people jump to the tactics without really knowing what it is that they’re looking for. So they get overwhelmed and frustrated because they haven’t defined, beyond just the job titles and companies, what they actually want to do there.
And when you say jumping to the tactics, what are you thinking of? What are people doing that is a mistake? And why shouldn’t they do that?
The kind of tactics that people typically, or most often, start off with is trying to update their resume, cover letter, maybe update their LinkedIn profile, start networking, and start applying for jobs. And so they start doing that without actually knowing what it is that they’re looking for, how they want to stand out to employers. So they get really overwhelmed and frustrated when they don’t get the outcomes that they desire, which would be interviews or the right types of interviews and job offers.
And what stops job seekers from getting clarity, and getting that focus, Markell? Why can’t they do it?
There are, I think, a couple of reasons. One is that they don’t know that they should be doing these kinds of things or how important those types of activities around getting focused are. And oftentimes, people lack the confidence in what they’ve already accomplished and that there would be value to that to other employers. So those are the two common reasons why people have a challenge starting off by getting focused.
Okay, well, let’s talk about how you get focused. And I know you’ve written an article about this that you shared with me, and it outlined four steps, and I’d like to go through them one-by-one. The first step is that you recommend that you go beyond job titles and define what you’re looking for in a job. How do you do this, Markell?
Well, first, I mean, the important reason why you should do this is because without having some clarity, you might come across a little bit confused in your job search, and so the reason why this particular step is important, to go beyond job titles and define what it is that you’re looking for, one is that it can build your confidence, and it can enable you to communicate your strengths with confidence. And the ways that you can do this would be to take some time to take inventory of your skills and not just the skills that you have, but those that you enjoy using the most.
Oftentimes, when people have been established in a career, they lose sight of how wonderful they are, and they’re having a hard time really identifying what their preferred skills are, what their natural strengths are. They even have some challenges with defining what their preferences are. Like what kind of work environment or work style will they thrive in? They may not have a great or clear sense of the kind of leadership style that they work really well with. The type of coworkers that they might do well with or jib really well with.
And so I encourage my clients, and we walk through different inventories and assessments for assessing their knowledge, their skills, their natural strengths, and their preferences, and this gives them a reliable way, then, to start sorting through the options and pinpoint those that are going to be most satisfying and viable to them.
For someone who might want to do this on their own, are there particular exercises you recommend or kinds of lists that are helpful for people to create?
So there are different ways that a person can approach this. So, on your own, there are thousands of different books that a person may read. But online, there are some different tools that are really helpful.
There are career assessments, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strong
Interest Inventory, Clifton Strengths, SkillScan; those are some common career assessments that people are very familiar with, and there are a host of others that people can go online to, say, the ONAD, or the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Career One-Stop is another, My Next Move, and they have some free career assessments that help people to identify their skills, their preferences and connect those with different types of jobs that they may have an interest in doing.
And once you go through this process and you’ve taken that inventory, what do you do with this information?
So that’s one of the valuable roles that a career counselor or career coach has. When you’re working on your own, it’s difficult sometimes to be able to integrate those results into something – a plan that you can take action with.
When you’re working with a career counselor, they can guide you through a broader assessment. So those give you some, you know, specific types of information and connects it with job opportunities, but what they don’t do is to help you to see common themes from the knowledge and experience that you’re already bringing to the equation, and how the different roles can align with that, and that’s where the value of working with a career counselor, or career coach can come in to play.
And for listeners who might be on a budget, Markell, there are free services, good free services, available. Aren’t there?
Oh, yes. So in most cities and towns, especially in the United States, a person can go to a One-Stop and can get free or inexpensive career counseling and job search support. So you can look at those opportunities that are available through your local county or city.
And then, I also encourage people to look at community colleges. Many community colleges offer career planning classes, and they’re not free, but they’re very, very inexpensive for someone, and those classes are going to be taught by career counselors and career practitioners. So not only will the person who takes those classes have an opportunity to go through a career exploration and career planning process, career assessment process, they’ll be guided through that process by a counselor and can use office hours to get some one-on-one support.
Yeah, great tips. You mentioned One-Stop, and often those services are available through state employment departments, which listeners might be more familiar with, and then, of course, if you’re a graduate of a community college or a university, often the career services office will provide some services to graduates or alums.
I want to take a break, Markell, and when we come back, I want to talk about the other steps that listeners can take to get focused and tackle that problem that, again, is one of the biggest mistakes you see job seekers make.
So stay with us. When we return, Markell Morris and I will continue to talk about that big mistake and what you need to do instead.
Here’s another mistake job seekers make.
Sending out the same resume year after year.
Find out how to best update your resume.
Go to macslist.org/topresume.
An expert writer at TopResume will review your resume for free.
Go to macslist.org/topresume.
You’ll find out how to improve your resume right away.
And if you don’t want to fix it yourself, you can hire TopResume to do it for you.
Go to maclist.org/topresume.
Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Markell Morris.
She’s the founder of Futures in Motion.
Markell helps her clients take charge of their careers, navigate the job market, and reach goals with confidence.
Now, Markell, before the break, we were talking about the biggest job search, or biggest mistake rather, you see job seekers make, which is a lack of focus and what people should do instead, and we were starting to walk through four steps you recommend that job seekers take when trying to get that focus, and the second one, I know, is you suggest that people explore your options and research actual examples of the jobs that interest you.
Why is it important to do this?
This step is really important because it can serve as a bridge to what you imagine a career path or a job is going to be like and what it’s actually like, and also, in exploring the options, it gives you a chance to perhaps get some visibility among – with people who may ultimately be able to give you leads in the future or may actually hire you for jobs. But really, this is a way to get a reality check, and in doing so, you will be able then to start seeing real opportunities emerge and actual steps that you can take to get from where you are to where you want to be.
So I encourage my clients – we spend actually a lot of time doing this – it’s exploration – because it really does help them to get focused and intentional about what they’re going to do next.
How do you find these people?
There are different places where you can find people. When you start thinking about it, everybody already knows people. Right? So you have people who are already in your built-in communities. If you attended college, you have your alumni community. If you think about the hobbies that you might be pursuing, you have people who are associated with that. If you’re a part of faith communities, you have people that you already know. And I encourage my clients to just sit down and think about the people that you already know, and even if they don’t do the job that you’re considering, you can still ask them to maybe connect you with someone they may know who’s doing the different types of jobs or roles that you’re considering. So those are the first places that you might go.
There are also professional associations that people can tap into. The board of directors is often, you know, published visibly, and you might reach out to those people to do informational interviews.
So when you start thinking about all the ways that you might be able to connect with people and who you already know, and who you could get to know, the list becomes easy to generate.
How do you approach these people? What do you ask for? And after you have the conversation, what does success look like?
So it depends on the person’s goal. So if the person is just really just exploring and wanting to educate themselves about a career possibility, I would say that. You know, “I’m going through some exploration about different career possibilities. You came up, you were referred to me by, you know, X, Y, Z person, or I came across an article that you wrote in this publication, or you came up in my LinkedIn search, and I wondered if you have ten minutes or fifteen minutes to answer this question for me about what this career is like. If you’re not able to talk with me, can you refer someone else to me?” So that is a good framework to follow if, of course, a person can personalize that ask for themselves. But that’s a good framework to follow, and if you’re contacting people that you already know, that makes it a lot easier for someone to reach out.
And then what success looks like is – well, you come in prepared with questions or outcomes that you want to achieve by talking with that person. So, for example, you want to know what the work culture’s like. You want to know if you – what education and preparation you might need. Whatever goal is that you have for that conversation, and then if you leave with that information, great. In some cases, when my clients are doing these informational interviews or coffee chats, one of their goals is to continue to expand their network, and so success would look like for them if they leave that conversation with one other person that they can reach out to that they’re referred to.
Well, let’s talk about networking because that’s the third step that you recommend, which is a great way to get clear about your focus, is to leverage contacts in your community and build your network. Why is it important to grow your network when you’re trying to get clarity about your next job, and what you want to do, and what the focus of your job search should be?
Because that’s somewhat tied to the first step of going beyond job titles, and one phrase I always share with my clients is that people hire people, and, you know, jobs are comprised of people doing things. Right? And so, it’s important that you leverage your community, the relationships that you have because that embodies people who are doing work. And so, as you’re learning about different types of roles, different industries, different types of jobs, what company or department culture may be like, you’re getting insight from actual people, and leveraging the communities that you’re already a part of is important and valuable because you already have something in common with those people.
So there’s that familiarity that’s already embedded into the affiliation that you have. So, for example, I’m an alumnus of USC Santa Barbara, and so I’m very involved with, you know, various alumni committees or groups underneath that umbrella.
There are local groups that you might already be a part of if you’re a part of athletic teams, or your children or other family members are part of athletic teams, that’s built-in. Those are built-in communities. You know, I’m very involved in my professional associations, both locally and nationally. So there are organizations that you can become a part of if you’re not already, and you already have common ground because you share an interest or an affiliation with people who are a part of those groups. So it makes it just easier for you to reach out for information, to make connections, and to learn about opportunities.
The final step you recommend, Markell, to get the clarity about focus is to have a job search action plan. What does a good job search action plan look like?
So a good job search action plan is going to be composed of various elements. One is your goal, and so that would be, for many people, the big goal obviously is to get that next job. So a good job search action plan would be framed by that goal and having that defined as clearly as possible and in as much detail as possible.
But then, there are many other milestones towards reaching that goal. So, for some people, their job search action plans might roll out in phases, and I encourage my clients to break down their job search into ninety-day chunks so that they come up with a thirty sixty, ninety, day plan that moves them closer to the bigger goal.
And if you think about a job search, Mac, you know that there are so many different activities that a person can do, and so many steps that a person can take or should take in their job search without having a clear direction, without having clarity about how they want to – how much time they have to devote to their job search and how they’re actually going to spend that time, and then putting it on a calendar with accountability. It can be really, really overwhelming, and what happens when people get overwhelmed is they don’t do anything.
So when you work with your clients to help them both with accountability and avoid that sense of being overwhelmed, what specific steps do you recommend? Do you actually have them write out calendars and set thirty, and sixty, and ninety, day deadlines?
Actually, I do. So they have their ninety-day plan, and we obviously work together for them to craft that plan. So we have – they identify their goal. So when you look forward at the end of ninety days, where do you want to be? And for some, it may be that I want to get visibility among XYZ group in this industry. Whatever the goal is, it doesn’t really matter. It just has to be personalized to them, unique to them, and we make it a SMART goal. You know, people are familiar with SMART goals.
So we have a SMART goal, and then we get real. You know, people think that they’re gonna spend twenty, thirty hours a week at a job search, but I have my clients truly and realistically determine how much time do you actually have to spend looking for a job or working towards your goal in this given time frame?
And so, if they say well, realistically, I have five hours a week. Then, we sit down, and we say, okay, how are you going to spend these five hours a week? Given what your goal is, and given that you have to do these ten activities, where are you gonna plot these out? And they create a calendar, they share it with me, and then when we do our coaching check-ins, we just, I check in with them on how they’re doing, what’s working, what might need to be adjusted.
And so, I have them kind of frontload the thirty days, because what you do in the first thirty days is going to inform what you do in the second thirty days, and then the third thirty days, and then the goal is not to necessarily get that job within ninety days, although that can happen. The goal is, initially, is to build your momentum, and build your confidence, so that you can get closer to that ninety-day goal.
Well, it’s been a great conversation, Markell. Now, tell us what’s next for you?
What’s next for me is – so I’ve taken a lot of this advice, and I have created a program, an online class, and group to help people create luck in their job search. So it walks people through getting clarity about their job target, helping them to, then, identify ways that they can get the visibility that they need and present their qualifications in a compelling way for the jobs that they want as well as to create their job search action plan. And so within that, they get the tactical support, but also the accountability and coaching to create luck in their job search. So that will be coming up in the first quarter of next year.
Well, terrific. I know listeners can learn more, not only about this course, but your other services by visiting your companies website www.futures-in-motion.com and that you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and if they do, I hope they mention they heard you on this show.
Now, Markell, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to avoid that big mistake you see so many job seekers make, and what to do instead?
So I shared a lot of tactics and strategies and ways that a job seeker or career transitioner can get focused, and my advice is to do one thing at a time. Just start at one place and build your confidence, build your momentum, and continue going from there. There’s a quote that I really love that I’ll leave you with, which is “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.”
So you don’t have to do everything all at once. Just start with one activity and then go from there.
Make sure you never miss an episode of Find Your Dream Job.
Subscribe to our free podcast newsletter.
You’ll get information about our guests and transcripts of every show.
Go to macslist.org/shownotes.
Again, that’s macslist.org/shownotes.
Next week, our guest will be Dr. Ursina Teuscher.
She’s a licensed career counselor with a Ph.D. in applied psychology. Ursina helps her clients make big decisions, find clarity about values, and achieve goals.
You know you need a new job. But you don’t do anything about it. Does this sound like you?
Join us next Wednesday when Ursina Teuscher and I talk about how to beat procrastination in your job search.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.
This show is produced by Mac’s List.
This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.