The slow job search — always be looking — is the better method
Yes, sometimes the stars align and you bag a dream job in weeks, but most of the time job hunting shares many similarities with dating. Yes, you can procure someone within a month, but do you really want just someone as your main squeeze? (Don’t answer that if you’re in an “anybody would be fine” mood today.) Finding a high quality partner generally takes six to 12 months. So it is with job hunting.
The goal is to find yourself a job that matches your values, goals and day-to-day lifestyle . . . and that you like. Really like. A lot. A successful career transition takes time. Lots of time. Plan on a six-month search for mid-level jobs, and longer for top jobs. “I’ve seen situations where people get discouraged at the six-month or eight-month mark, and I’m like, ‘Just hang in there — if you get your dream offer in two more months, would those two months matter in the big picture? Absolutely not,” says Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. Here are all the things you need to do slowly.
Track job openings, always. Even if you’re happily employed or working gigs or freelance, always be looking for a new job. Sign up for e-alerts so that you see job openings automatically in your inbox. This allows you to stay aware of the skills companies are looking for, as well as the problems that companies are trying to solve — because everyone is hired to solve companies’ problems.
Dream up your ideal position. “If you could create your own job description, what would it say?” Salemi asks. “What type of boss and company would you want to work for, and what’s the pay?” Then list the criteria that you’re seeking. Include the basics, such as company values, salary, commute (in-office, remote, hybrid?) hours, vacation, and then specifics like career growth opportunities and attention from the boss. Highlight the three that are most important. This will help you not latch onto a flashy offer. (Same strategy works in dating, by the way.)
Make it part of your day. For two months, set aside 30 minutes daily to search for and ruminate over jobs, and acquaint yourself with the latest of job apps and alerts. Consider similar roles in sister industries or higher-paying roles where your skills translate, and revamp your resume accordingly. It’s OK if you only see a small number of jobs that genuinely excite you; that means you’re taking the time to find a good fit. If you’re financially squeezed, consider a temporary or part-time gig while you search.
Research research research. When you see a job that you might actually like a lot, learn about the needs and problems of each company, and how you can pitch yourself as The Solution to those problems. You’re not done until you can rattle off case studies and relevant examples of your work convincingly, in ways tailored to the company’s scenario, without sounding like a blowhard. This process will also improve your analytical and business thinking chops. Then apply.
Do your homework. When a job offer appears, so do rose-colored glasses. Look at the company’s social media, talk to former employees, watch in-office rapport and body language, and listen to CEO speeches. Will this company value what you bring to the table? Will you overall thrive working there? Could you see yourself very happy there for five or more years? If the answer is “eh”…
Consider turning it down. Really. Salemi, a former corporate recruiter, consistently had candidates drop out at this stage, so don’t feel like you’ve failed or that you should take the job just because it’s available to you. Just say that the salary is too low, or “It’s not quite the right opportunity for me.” (If you dislike the team or think the boss is a jerk, don’t say that.)
As you can see, this all takes a while. Keep in mind that your own calendar is not driving the schedule. Hiring is generally slow in August, and slows further to a crawl from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Many companies also slow hiring during their busy periods, such as around new product releases or quarterly earnings reports. Just keep truckin’. Remember, slow and steady gets you where you want to go, as long as you do not stop.
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