Last month we started talking about how to figure out your next career move. I shared a few exercises to help figure out what you want to do, where you want to do it, and determine what factors will take priority.
[If you haven’t yet, I’d suggest checking out that post first and then hopping back here for part 2.]
Now it’s time for some more work and investigation. Especially if you’re switching career paths, there are a few things you absolutely should do before you start applying to jobs.
Step 1: Talk to people
I know this sounds basic, but actually getting out there and talking to people will help you ensure you are making the right move.
I suggest setting up coffee or phone meetings (sometimes called informational interviews) with people you already know and trust as well as acquaintances and total strangers.
Here are some ideas of people to reach out to:
- People within your network who are doing roles that sound interesting and aligned with what you want to do next
- People within your network who are working at your dream companies
- Alumni (use LinkedIn’s alumni feature!) who are working at dream companies or are in interesting roles
Here’s a script you can use for outreach:
Hope you are doing well! [write a personal note catching up with the person if relevant]
As you may know [give an update on your current situation – i.e. I recently left my role at company X] and I am now looking for a new opportunity in the [give any detail you can] areas.
I was wondering if you had time for a [coffee/phone chat] in the next few weeks as I’d love to hear more about what you do, what it’s like to work at [company], and any advice you have for me as I begin my search.
Thanks so much! [you]
* Note: you will need to adjust this script for those you don’t know with a more thorough introduction and the reason why you chose to reach out to them
And here are some smart questions to ask during your meeting:
- Can you tell me about what a typical day is like in your role as a [title]?
- How did you find your way into this field/role/company?
- As someone interested in [insert], do you have any advice on things I can do (or read or learn) to become a more compelling candidate?
- What is the culture and work environment like at [company]?
- If I were interested in pursuing opportunities here, is there anyone else I should connect with and/or do you have any tips on making myself a strong candidate?
Step 2: Fill skill gaps and explore areas of interest
Remember your “start” column from the start / stop / continue exercise? If there are things in that column that you know you want to do but don’t yet have experience in that area, it’s time for some additional learning.
If you think you’re interested in doing digital marketing, you might need to take a course on Google Analytics or Facebook advertising.
If you want to move into the fashion world but have no experience there, you will probably want to freelance, volunteer, or shadow someone to get some exposure.
When recruiters are scrolling through hundreds of resumes for a job they continually look for relevant experience and a demonstrated interest in the role/department.
Even if your resume is good, if it seems random and has no relevant skills, education/training, or work experiences, it will most certainly be passed over.
Filling your skill and knowledge gaps is critical.
Step 3: Browse job listings + see what’s appealing
I have to say it – job postings don’t get enough love. People skim them, ignore the qualifications section, and think they’re all fluff.
Sure, some are. But most job descriptions are often written personally by the future boss of the person who will fill the role. They are written by the person who knows the work the best and knows what they are looking for.
So when you’re deciding what kind of job you want to do next, you should read tons and tons of job descriptions. You should take notes on the types of titles that make you excited and the ones you find boring.
If you see a responsibility you don’t understand, don’t just gloss over it. Instead, do some more research and see what it really means. Once you truly understand the job opportunities out there, you can decide which ones sound great to you.
Step 4: Browse the job sites of your dream companies
If you’re really not sure what kind of job you want to do, you can start with ideal companies and work your way back. Where you work can be just as important to your overall happiness as what you do.
Make a list of dream companies, visit their career sites, and start reading through job descriptions of all types at the right job level.
When you see a role that appeals to you, make a note of the job title and consider searching for other titles like it at other companies. This is truly a great tool for those who really don’t know where to start.
If you’re having trouble thinking of your dream companies to begin with, consider the products you use, where you like to shop, what you like to read or watch, and your hobbies.
Being around the things that you’re passionate about can make work really fun, even if you’re still just doing their accounting, or HR, or another role that doesn’t touch the product.
Step 5: Put it all together
Now that you’ve taken a deep dive into talking to people, filling skill gaps, and reading through job descriptions, it’s time to execute on your job search.