The secret to any job search is knowing where to find the available jobs. But if this is the first time you’re looking for a job, there are a few more things you should know before you begin.
1. What do you want to do? One of the most challenging questions for any job search, but especially for your first. We often know so little about what jobs are possible. We know what our parents, friends, spouses, neighbors, etc. do for work, but beyond that it’s a great unknown. To get some ideas about what jobs are available, look through the want ads, either in print or on line, and just read the job titles and descriptions. Ads can appear in newspapers, trade journals, web sites for companies and job posting web sites. Look everywhere and learn as much as you can about the possibilities before you decide what you want to do. Then conduct some information interviews either by phone or in person to learn more. If you don’t really know what you might like to do, come back to this after you answer the following questions.
2. Where do you want to work? You need to decide many things about your job location: in the city, in the suburbs, maximum commute, etc. Will you stay where you are or move elsewhere? Those are the geography questions. There are also the company questions: non-profit? large corporation? small family business? start your own? The answers to these questions will help you narrow your search.
Of course, it’s important to know if you want to work in a team-oriented organization or one where you can work alone — or some combination. Do you see yourself in a cubicle? in an office? on the road? outdoors? You spend at least 8 hours a day at work, so it should be someplace you’d like to be.
3. What are your skills? If you’ve been a student, the secret is talking about your skills in “business” terms. Researching, analyzing and synthesizing is what you do when you write a research paper. Collaborative teamwork is what happens with a group project. These are all skills important to most jobs. And if you worked to pay for college, be sure to mention that. No matter what your job was it shows initiative and drive, something every employer wants.
Think of your skills as broadly as possible. What do you like to do during your free time? Community and volunteer activities and hobbies all have skills involved with them. Make a long list of absolutely everything you know how to do and then group them into categories by function, like administrative, sales (making phone inquiries, for instance), etc. Looking at the list might generate some job ideas.
4. How much money do you want/need to earn? Be realistic here. If this is your first job, it’s unlikely you can earn a six-figure salary. But think about what you need to live on. Non-profit jobs generally pay less and internships often don’t pay at all, but the value to your resume and skill base may compensate for the low take- home pay. (In fact, some jobs require skills you can only get “on the job,” so internships are the entryway.)
Make a budget of your expenses and income and you’ll have a better idea of what you need to be earning. To find jobs that meet or exceed that amount, refer to guides put out by the federal and state governments and regional employment boards. Ask you librarian for help in locating these guides. There are also on-line salary guides which you can find using Google or other search engines.
5. What are your current priorities? Do you want a job to save money for grad school? Are you planning to get married and you need a little nest egg? Are you starting your chosen career path and want to get ahead as quickly as possible? Or something else – first job after a divorce, first time on your own, taking care of a sick family member, building your resume. Whatever your reasons for finding a job now, knowing your life’s priorities will help you focus on what kind of job makes sense. If you need to save a lot of money for grad school or a wedding, you may be willing to do a job that isn’t your “dream job” but pays well, knowing it’s only for a short time. Or, if you know the field you want to be in, you’ll look for a job that can give you the right credentials on your resume, although you may not be working for your favorite company. Priorities will change over time, but knowing what’s important to you right now will help with your job choice.
6. Finally, who do you know? The answer to this question will help you find the jobs that are available. Network, network, network – the magic word for any job search, but especially for the first. Who you know will include anyone you currently know – family, friends, teachers, volunteers you work with, etc. And those people you will be meeting in your information interviews, career search groups, etc. Everyone you meet becomes part of your networking plan. But only after you know what kind of job you want. Don’t waste these valuable resources by talking with them before you know your basic game plan. No one can help if you say, “I need job, but I don’t know what I want to do.” If this is your response, see item 1.
It’s easy to get discouraged on any job search. To keep your spirits up, join a job search group. They’re often sponsored by college career offices, state job agencies, adult education programs and private organizations. Check out the listings in the newspapers for meeting dates and times. Or search on-line for career support groups. It can be a long and tiring process, so keep yourself in good physical shape by eating properly and getting enough exercise and sleep. And in the end, you’ll have a job and be better prepared for the next job search.
Since 1994, Jan has been a career advisor, helping individuals and groups with career decisions and job search techniques. Her practical approach helps client find the jobs they want and then offers techniques to find them. She also teaches courses on entrepreneurship, small business marketing, career decision-making and networking, among others. Her practice is nationwide. You can contact Jan at: Cannon Career Development, Inc. via their toll free number: 888 550 4544. Please visit www.cannoncareercenter.com.