Transitioning into new professional roles can be challenging, and some of us will desperately apply for job after job just to try and make the discomfort end. Instead of blindly applying for any position that comes along, be intentional about targeting your job search. You’ll thank yourself later.
College graduates who haven’t had internships or other professional experience in their field of study may learn that they don’t actually like the jobs related to their academic major. There’s a name for this: a quarter life crisis — the time of uneasiness and confusion after college.
Career crises can occur at any stage of your life. People in their 30s, 40s, and beyond have gone to the same types of jobs for years, but then they wake up one day and decide they want something else. But don’t worry; there are ways to avoid this career panic, whether you’re just starting out or changing your career later in life.
Here are six steps you can take before, during, and after applying for jobs that will help you narrow your focus, gain traction, and ensure that your job search energy is well spent:
1. Be clear about your goals.
Sometimes we apply for jobs that we think we want out of desperation — a need to be validated, seen, heard, etc. Even if you’re not aware that your motivations stem from desperation, those on the receiving end can often sense it. Before you apply for anything, make sure you know what’s motivating you.
2. Picture yourself in specific roles.
Target specific roles and positions rather than working off of vague ideas. Imagine yourself getting the job that you want. What do your days look like? How do you feel arriving to your office? If it feels good to imagine it, then it’s probably something worth applying for; however, if you feel like something’s not quite right when you’re trying it on, keep asking questions.
3. Take on the kind of work that fits for you.
Flashy jobs still require tedious work, and if you’re not up for the blood and sweat that the job may require, you may end up hating it altogether. Finding the right work — the work that nourishes you and that you enjoy even when it’s mundane — will help to keep you on the path to success. That also means avoiding and turning down opportunities that aren’t the right fit. This is easier said than done!
4. Visualize the perspective of the hiring manager.
Liz Ryan, who you may know from Human Workplace, emphasizes the importance of seeing the world from the hiring manager’s point of view and shaping your application in a way that focuses on alleviating their pain. Speak their language, imagine what their days might be like, and work to showcase what the value is that you would bring to the role.
5. Do a self-assessment.
In the book “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World,” Alexandra Levit offers a useful tool for young professionals to find their ideal job. She suggests a “self-assessment journey” to determine the career that would make you happiest and allow you to be your best.
Levit’s self-assessment journey entails answering these five questions:
- What are your values?
- What would you be compelled to do even if you never got paid for it?
- How do you prefer to work? How are you most effective?
- What is your definition of success? What drives you?
- Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Your answers to these questions will help you make the informed decisions in your job search. Assessing what you want from your career keeps you from wasting both your own time and your employer’s by helping you make a smart career choice from day one. The average person may have up to seven careers in a lifetime. Conducting regular self-assessments will help you navigate these changes.
6. Apply…and let go!
Once you’ve gained insight into your motivations, thoroughly imagined yourself in the job to see how it feels, and have a solid sense of what impact you would make in the role, you know that you’re ready to apply. Trust that once you’ve applied, the forces at work in your life will take care of the rest. If you don’t get the job you applied for, it’s because there’s a better fit waiting for you.