Job Search Trap: I Can Narrow My Job Search Fast

When I speak to job hunters, they often think they can get a job doing what they studied, or what they have done, or they way they have always searched.

“But the last three times I looked, I looked exactly this way.”

“This is what I studied in school. I should be able to find a job.”

“I’ve been doing this for years. Why can’t I find a job doing this now?”

You used to look for a job that way. You studied that, yes. You did work that way, yes. You are correct. However, the world has changed. The world is not going to adapt to you. You need to adapt your job search. What do you do?

You need data.

If you are doing retrospectives as I suggest in Manage Your Job Search, and measuring the number of phone screens and interviews, you should have some data. Are you happy with the number of phone screens and interviews? If you are, okay. Maybe you don’t have to worry.

If you are not happy with the number of phone screens and interviews, you need to change something. Consider expanding your target network in some dimension.

If you were in the financial services domain in 2008, you were in a similar position. Remember 2008? We were in the not-recession? (Ahem. We were.) Technical people could still get jobs, but not in the financial services domain. Because of the banking problems, technical people had a real problem finding jobs. It didn’t matter how good they were. That was not the issue. The problem was the domain. If you restricted yourself to financial services, you were out of luck (for the most part).

What can you do?

  1. Change your geographical location. Sometimes, if you change where you live, you have better results. That only works for some people. Some people have spouses with jobs and kids in school. Changing location is not a very good option.
  2. Change how you network. That addresses the “I always looked this way” problem.
  3. Consider modifying the jobs you’re considering. This addresses the “I’ve been doing this for years” and the “I studied this in school” problems.

If you have Manage Your Job Search, do a career timeline. That will help you determine what you valued about your job. If not, make a list of the parts of your job that you like. What about the domain that you have been in was the challenge that you enjoyed? Make a list.

Armed with that list, or your list of values, now, you can ask yourself this question:

What is close to that job, but employers value now?

You need to look for what I think of as tangential jobs. Close to what you had, but a little different.

If you used to work in banking, maybe it was the high-transaction, performance work that you liked. Well, Big Data might be for you. Maybe security is right. Maybe it was the regulatory work that appealed to you. You might want to move into pharma. Do you see how you can take something from your previous work, and transition to new work? These are examples. You will have to think, peruse the open jobs and see what employers want.

This allows you to stay in your geography (maybe), but revamp your resume, update your networking, and modify the way you consider your work. It’s difficult. It requires introspection. Then, you have to change your target network list. You might have to change all of your networking.

If you feel as if you’re back at the beginning, don’t worry. You have your personal kanban to keep you on track, and your retrospectives to help you see where you’re going.

Your data, how many phone screens you have and how many interviews you have weekly, can help you understand what you need to do.

It’s scary, looking for a job. But it’s scarier to be unemployed. Take control of your job search. Manage your job search. Don’t let yourself be boxed in by your past.

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