Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding your best practices Plan B when your job search isn’t working – part 3, targeting your job market

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 18, 2010

At the end of Part 2 – Self Assessment in this series on job search Plan B, I said that this posting would include a reality check exercise and it will. I add that if you have been looking long term without success it is likely that some part of your search strategy and execution isn’t working for you so every posting in this series is going to include reality check elements. The idea there is to pinpoint where you most need to focus your attention in developing a more effective Plan B so you can fill in any gaps in your process and change active practices where needed.

This posting touches on an area that is crucial, and that for many people in longer searches is a weak point for them. This is also an area where it is vitally important that you actually do the self-assessment exercises of Part 2 as that is where you will find the insight needed to effectively take this next step – identifying your best-for-you target markets in the overall job search marketplace.

I want to step back from the exercise and from this step in your building a Plan B, however, to put this in perspective and both for your initial Plan A search and for your prior career history. You may have liked your previous jobs and the types of businesses and functional positions you have held in them. You may have even loved doing them – I understand as I really loved my progression of jobs and positions in biomedical and then clinical research and in working with all of the bright young academics and physicians I got to participate in this with. Then my entire department I had built at a hospital center was dissolved to meet an unanticipated budget crisis and the fact that my program had offered real value and that I had done well in this did not matter. This entire career path was now closed to me and working my way to that understanding was not easy.

Our career up to now creates a comfort zone. We all too often and way too deeply identify ourselves as people in terms of what we do for a living, as this is an area in our life that takes up a tremendous amount of our time, energy and commitment, and it is a place where we get ongoing validation as to the value of our contribution with salary, but also from peer and supervisory support and validation and from our dealings with clients and others from our old business’ value chain. When we love that job and it disappears we can even go into what amounts to mourning and have to deal with a real sense of loss and with depression. These are real. These and a failure to really integrate an understanding of a need for change in our career path can create barriers to any job search for us that would make success impossible for anyone. We may simply be looking in places we have worked before, but that can no longer be available for a new start.

I was lucky and I already had a Plan B target that I could start working towards with IT and the Internet but I still spent way too much time and energy and emotional coin in pursuing what for me was simply going to be my past. The workplace changes, jobs move overseas, products and even entire product and service markets can change or go away in part or whole. If you have been looking and looking and not finding, are you looking in the right places, or simply looking for one of a shrinking number of positions in a jobs marketplace that is dry?

This is where those self-assessment exercises come in, in helping you identify new directions that you can more effectively target in your search and where you can find a rewarding, satisfying new career.

• Start with the basic patterns of skills and personal traits and preferences you arrived at from your Seven Stories Exercise.
• What have you found and how can you best articulate these strengths you offer as transferable skills?
• Look for ways to express your on the job and educational experience into transferable assets.
• Where else are these values that you offer needed and where else are potential employers looking for them as necessary and even essential qualifiers for any new hire?
• That is where you need to start looking and that is where you have to develop the knowledge base and networking contacts to be able to present yourself as an insider.

I would recommend that you read the first ten postings in the Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development here with particular emphasis on Networking for Background Information and Practice Networking and Prioritizing Your Search Targets. When you are moving to a Plan B, however, I stress that this is vital that you

Reach outside of your comfort zone of what you have done in the past to find a new path forward where you can find job opportunities.
• Network for ideas and insight on where to look. Who is hiring or starting to expand where hiring is likely to come next? Who is listing jobs online, and even if not in your career path target areas if they are also heavily involved in what you would do too?
• Do you know anyone there or in a similar business or organization, or do you know people who could help you network to these people?

Identify a potential job target market and start to look for possible business in it that may be hiring. Look to the types of positions they have filled or that they may be looking to expand headcount for, that you would be a good fit for. Reality check this with those informational interviews. And as you flesh this out and start developing a basis for moving forward in it repeat this exercise and find a second basic, core target area and then a third and fourth. Ideally you will come up with five or six though keep your eyes and your imagination and your options open and keep looking. Some of these will probably fall away upon more detailed review and you want to have a good list of target areas and target job markets with promise that you can really build out from.

Remember, this does not mean changing everything. If you were in Sales but in a type of business and industry that is shrinking, you may find your best possible positions in Sales, but in new settings. If you were in Marketing, your best opportunities may very well still be in Marketing, or in IT or whatever core functional area you have already worked in. Or you may be making a shift in functional area – look to your transferable skills to find ways to best present yourself as making a more minor transition, so any hiring manager is still going to be hiring into their comfort zone. I will be discussing this in the next posting in building your Plan B. So continue with your self assessments from Part 2 or start them if you have not already started, and start working on identifying and developing your new target job markets. Yes, there is homework here and this has to be a participatory sport at all steps and stages, or you will find yourself with gaps and in need of a Plan C too.

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  1. […] April 20, 2010 Part 3 of this series on developing a best practices Plan B job search focused on targeting your job market at the level of finding the right places and types of business to apply to…. This posting delves into taking the next step in searching with a focus on specific target […]


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