Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Bringing the job market and marketplace into focus – Part 5: throwing a wider job search net for moving forward

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 17, 2010

This is a new installment in a continuing series on searching for that next job in our current challenging economic climate, and in a time of marketplace change. You can find the earlier installments to this in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as postings 89 through 93 and I strongly recommend that you read them and follow the exercises they present and develop.

Most of the many, many people who have recently been looking long term for new work opportunity but without success are probably in need of at least something of a career change, and certainly where the types of work they have been doing in their careers up to now are no longer available. I posted a 17 part series on Plan B job searches (see postings 56 through 72 in the Guide) and that offers a basic framework for rebuilding a flagging and unsuccessful search, but I have been posting this series in follow-up to that with more fundamental career change in mind and this series is entirely based on hands-on exercises for actually carrying through on a systematic career change.

I add that I have made more than one significant career change myself, as a review of my LinkedIn profile would attest so I do know this is not easy – and I do know hands-on what is involved. So do the exercises and follow through on them.

Exercises up to now have focused on taking the steps needed to develop a detailed listing of what you have to offer, and in terms that could be applied in new career directions. Keep working on that as you test and validate your results from these earlier exercises by applying them in a search.

This posting turns to the marketplace and with a goal of helping you align your search to the current marketplace, and how to organize and present your strengths as a job candidate with marketplace needs. The goal here is to throw a wider net and to search in what will hopefully be more productive directions. And the basic goal is to identify new areas for you to search in, that as a job requirement call for the strengths and experience you have in your list. Does this mean stepping out of your comfort zone? Yes. Does this mean arguing the case that you have experience and training relevant to new contexts? Your answer to that is in many cases going to be yes as well. This is what career change is about. But it is possible to succeed in a career change and to thrive coming out if it and that is the goal here.

Subsequent postings in this series will look at networking, retraining and otherwise filling in gaps to help you make a transition, and interviewing for a career transition or career change position. But before you can take those steps towards career change you need to have a clearer idea as to where you are going to be looking.

Start with your constraints box (see the Guide, postings 24, 25 and 26). Really examine and understand the assumptions you are making as to your comfort zone for issues such as position level you would apply for, geographic constraints and other limits you impose on your search. Look for where you can expand this to be more inclusive, and consider temp or part time work and even internships if that might legitimately help you get your foot meaningfully into the right doorway with prospects for developing longer term fully paid employment opportunity. The first place to look for new opportunity at this point is probably going be where you have not been looking, and possibly without really understanding the constraints you have settled for.

Now look to job search web sites and other online resources that hold large numbers of job descriptions and look for companies and job types that significantly include in their descriptions, entries from your strengths list. Here, you are not looking for specific jobs to apply for as much as you are looking for new avenues to pursue. This research is intended to help you find types of opportunity that like unexamined constraints limits, you have simply not examined before. And start assembling a list of job types that look like they would make sense for you to apply for.

Keep this open ended and don’t start out eliminating anything simply because it would be new to you. You cannot effectively cut back on your possibilities list before you have thrown that wide net to make sure you have at least considered as many realistic and desirable possibilities as possible. Filtering down will come later.

I would recommend making a list of at least twenty positions to start, and here I do not include any same position type twice if you find it listed for more than one employer. Keep adding and keep asking what would prompt you to add them, updating and tuning your strengths list as you do so too.

This, I add is a good place to seek out a mentor who can help you reality check – someone who is experienced and who knows you, and who can help you identify areas and possibilities to add to your list that you may not have thought of. I also recommend your trying the self-assessment exercises in the Plan B search series that I outlined in Finding your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search isn’t Working – part 2, self-assessment. Use your findings from them to help you throw a wider net here too. And remember, your next job probably will not be in places you have been looking at already, but rather in those new areas that this set of exercises is intended to help you identify and focus in on.

The exercise that I outline here is not easy, and may in fact be the most difficult one I have proposed anywhere in this Guide to date, to do effectively. It is all about coming to think outside of the box you have placed your search in up to now. This is definitely an exercise you will have to work on, set aside, think about and come back to and probably on an ongoing basis throughout your search from here on. This is, however, absolutely essential.

When your list gets long enough start moving lower value entries further down that list with the ones you see as best moving higher up, and look for patterns in those entries that you can use in making more refined searches and selections. But don’t drop anything yet – simply raise or lower positions on the list. And increase your list to thirty and forty entries and more so any real patterns can show through for the ones closer to the top. You will use these patterns where job qualifications and requirements mesh with your top strengths when you do filter down to a first cut list to apply for. And this will also help you with your networking so you can reach out to the right people and with the right questions to ask of them, and with a background understanding that will help you too. But that is looking ahead to future postings in this series.

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