What To Do Before You Start a Job Search
Sometimes, we change jobs because we want to. In other cases, we lose our job and don’t have a choice. I actually made my best career moves when I was pushed, by company restructuring one time and company bankruptcy another, into job searching. In both cases, it was a positive change that might not have happened otherwise.
In either case, it’s important to take the time to prepare for a job search, so all the resources you need are in place before you start seeking employment.
What To Do Before You Start a Job Search
It’s important to have a good idea of the type of job you are interested in, to have a resume written, to have references ready, and to have the proper equipment (phone, computer, etc.) in place before you start looking for work.
It can be stressful and a waste of time, for both yourself and a prospective employer, to realize that you really didn’t want the job you just were offered. Or even worse, to realize that you don’t want the job after you already started it.
Someone who once worked at the same company I did started a new job and knew the very first day that she didn’t want to be there. She called and asked whether she could have her old job back. It was too late. We had already hired a replacement, and she was stuck working at a job she didn’t want while she job searched, again.
How Often People Change Jobs
Most people change jobs many times throughout their working life. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the younger baby boomers surveyed changed jobs 12 times from age 18 to age 52. Half of those job changes were between ages 18 and 25.
That’s a lot of jobs, and this statistic is good to know, especially if you’re a job changer. Unlike the past, when it was normal to work for the same employer until you retired, it’s much more common today to change jobs.
There isn’t the same expectation on the part of employers that you should stay or that the company should provide long-term employment for you. It’s not your parents’ workplace anymore, where most people worked for thirty years, then retired. There isn’t an obligation on either side. Employers don’t feel like they need to protect their employees, and workers have few qualms about quitting.
Consider the Best Job for You
In some industries, especially high-tech ones, you are expected to change jobs if you want your career to progress. It’s the norm, not the exception. At some companies, especially smaller ones, there may not be enough options to move up the career ladder. In other cases, you may get tired or bored and want to try something different. All of the above are good reasons for changing your job.
We all change as we age. The job that was perfect when you were in school may not be what you want now. There are some people who are thrilled to have a high-pressure job; even it means working sixty hours a week. They thrive on it. Others would prefer to work less and earn less.
What we want from our job changes over time as well. Health insurance and other benefits become more important as we age. Flexibility is important to those job seekers who have a family or are planning on one. So, what we want from our work changes as we change.
It’s important to be aware of that and consider what we actually want from employment. It’s also worth taking the time to assess, every few years or so, what it is that we want from our work. There isn’t much worse than getting ready to retire and realizing that you really hated the job you worked at for all those years.
The jobs that are available change on a regular basis. Technology changes, industries change, and companies change. The job market changes regularly, too. The type of jobs that are considered “hot” today may be at the bottom of the list of jobs employers are hiring for next time you job search.
Investigate Career Options
That’s why each and every time you start a job search, you should spend time investigating career options and the type of jobs you might want to do. Take a personality test (or two) to see what job options might be a fit. You may be surprised at what jobs are available, and you may generate some ideas for jobs that you had never thought of.
What’s most important is to find the job that’s right for you. I have a friend from college who took the first job he could find after graduation. He started as a temporary mail carrier, then took the post office exam and became a mailman. After a few years, he regretted that decision. By then, he had a wife and a family and not much experience doing anything else.
Unfortunately, at that point, it was very hard to make a change that would provide a comparable salary and benefits, both of which he needed. Perhaps he would have been better served to spend some more time on a job search. That way, he could have been sure that the first job he accepted was the right job.
Find Career Advising Resources
Maybe you’d like help deciding what you could or should be doing. Luckily, there are free and low-cost services that can help.
College Career Offices
If you’re a college graduate, check with your career services office or alumni office. Many colleges and universities offer job search assistance, resume and cover letter reviews, and access to job listings, regardless of when you graduated.
How to Get Help: Contact Your Career Services Office
Career Counselors and Coaches
Career counselors offer personalized assistance, and the fees may be more reasonable than you anticipated. Counselors can help you explore both work and life issues. A career counselor can also help you plan and conduct a job search. I know this sounds time-consuming, but we spend a good amount of our lives working.
If you can find a job that you enjoy that provides you with the salary and benefits you need to live comfortably, and that provides you with the opportunity to grow your career in the direction you want to move, you will have succeeded in your job search.
How Get Help: How to Find and Choose a Career Counselor
Public libraries often have classes and workshops. They also have computers, internet access, and research materials available to use free of charge.
How to Get Help: Directory of U.S. Public Libraries
American Job Centers (AJCs)
AJCs have experienced career counselors on staff that work with job seekers to identify their interests, assess their skill, and advise them on in-demand jobs and potential training opportunities. Resume help, recruiting events, workshops on resume writing, interviewing skills, and job search activities are also available.
How to Get Help: Locate an AJC
The Importance Finding the Right Job
You have probably read the quote from Confucius about work: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” If you think about it, it makes good sense. If you are working at a job you enjoy, it doesn’t feel like work.
If you can have fun at your job, it doesn’t feel like work. If you enjoy your job, your working environment, and your coworkers, you won’t feel as much like you are working, either.