Most of us will be very glad to see the back of 2020 when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. A huge number of us will be re-evaluating our working lives, especially in light of the challenges and changes we have all experienced in our roles this year. There will be new job-seekers on the market, and there will be people who feel disappointed to be rolling their job search over into a new year. Whatever your situation, it's important you take an active role in your search - and we don't mean just regularly checking the job boards or local advertising. In order to take the next step on your professional journey, you have to be fairly sure what it is - and be open to that answer changing and evolving over time as you do. So your seemingly ideal job in January 2020 might not be the same as it is in January 2021.
Draw a big, fat line under 2020 and start from scratch using these questions as a guide.
1. What is my professional experience so far?
If you don't have a CV, or you haven't updated it for a while, now's the time. Not just because you'll probably need it to apply for a job, but also because it gives you the opportunity to refresh your memory and consolidate all your achievements so far. Where have you worked? For how long? Why did you leave? A thorough critique of your CV will probably reveal a pattern in your professional choices, or give you some insight into what you do and don't enjoy. Are you proud of your CV? When were you happiest in a role and why? If you can, we suggest you share your CV with a friend, family member or recruitment agency, and talk them through it. It's something you'll be asked to do at interview and it'll help you to identify where there are gaps or inconsistencies, or instances where you've undersold yourself.
2. What are the practical requirements?
It's important to think about where you want to live - would you relocate for a job or do you need to stay in a particular area? How much money do you need to earn? What hours do you need to work to fit in personal commitments or responsibilities? How far are you willing to commute? This is the bit where you take out the job description completely, and just draw up your ideal role based on the working conditions. If there are things that are non-negotiable, keep these front of mind when you're searching and don't be tempted to apply for something that contradicts an important practical requirement just because the job description sounds great. If it can't fulfil your basic needs for a job, it doesn't matter how great the role is, it's not the right move. That's not to say that you should only apply for jobs that tick every box, because there's no such thing as the 'perfect job'. But if there are one or two (or more) requirements that MUST be met, don't be tempted to desert them.
3. What do I actually want to do?
So you've interrogated and fully updated your CV, and made your list of practical non-negotiables - now what? If you don't already know what you want to do, now's the time to find out. It could be very specific - I know I want to work in HR for a pharmaceutical company. Or it could be a little more vague - I want to use my geography degree, but I don't know how. If you really have no clue how to answer this question at all, approach it less from the 'what job do I want?' angle and more 'what do I want to spend my time doing when I'm at work?'. Do you want to be in an office, using your hands, something with numbers, writing content, analysing, talking to people, definitely NOT talking to people, etc. You might find that if you write up the types of tasks and environment you'd like to work in, it matches with some of the job descriptions and person specifications you're seeing on the job boards. You could also get in touch with a local recruitment agency at this point - there's a high chance they'll look at your list and be able to suggest some roles that would suit immediately. And possibly in sectors and industries you'd never considered!
4. Where are the people doing these jobs right now?
If you've got to this stage, you're probably fairly confident on what you think you want right now. Aside from the obvious routes of scouring the job boards and registering with recruitment agencies, we'd suggest you also try to find real people doing these jobs now. You could use LinkedIn or search specific company websites for their staff lists. Connect with them on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter, get in touch to ask them about their job and for advice on job searching in this specific area. At the very least, you'll grow your networks in this field. At best, you might find they know of vacancies that aren't being widely advertised. If you can, post openly about your search on social media using relevant hashtags so the right people can find you too. You might even discover through these actions and conversations that it isn't the right role or sector for you after all, and you can circle back to number 3 and re-approach your search accordingly.
5. How much do I want it?
Job searching is hard work. You need to create a coherent and compelling CV, edit and review your social media, register with relevant recruitment agencies, set alerts on the job boards and check them regularly, network and connect with people in your intended industry or role, keep your skills up-to-date (or gain new ones), and more. And that's all before you've even applied for anything - after that, you'll have application forms, round of interviews, possibly presentations, etc. It's a very active, very demanding process, but that should make it easier to answer the 'how much do I want it?' question. If you're not willing to put in the graft, maybe it's not the right job for you and you might need to re-think the types of roles you're looking at. Quite often the amount of time and energy we're willing to spend on something will give us a big clue about how much we want it. And, perhaps more importantly, whether we actually want it at all. That said, even if you're totally committed to a sector or role type, your job search is likely to get hard at points, and motivation is going to wane. You might wobble or take a break, but the fact that you come back to it and keep going will show you how much you want it.
Remember, you're not alone...
Job searching can be a long, lonely slog. If you can, share your job-hunting journey with someone else, whether it's family and friends or an online community via social channels, so you have people around you for ongoing support and advice. And, of course, if you're registered with us as a candidate, we're always here to send you opportunities that suit your criteria, offer some friendly guidance and give you insider updates on the job market along the way. Having a team of professional job-searchers around you really can make all the difference! You can reach us on 10932 355000 or at email@example.com if you think we could help.