Imagine you are driving from Austin, Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico. You start out at night, and you have your GPS set. You don’t know the entire route. In fact, you can see just 300 feet ahead of you because of your car headlamps. Yet, you are willing to keep driving forward, not really knowing every single exit, turn and rest stop along the way.
A Job Search is like a car journey. You have a destination, or perhaps you have an actual address. You trust that your GPS is going to get you there. Your job is to stay in the driver’s seat, drive carefully, and take care of your energy needs so that you arrive safely. Here’s how that looks in a job search:
Be clear about your destination. If you had all the time in the world, you could say, “Let’s travel around New Mexico and see the sights.” But, if you have 9 days of vacation time, you’re going to want specifics – what hotel will we stay in at Santa Fe? What time shall we leave if we want to do it all in one drive? For your job hunt, you want a Target Job Title (or 2), 20 target companies, and a plan on how to connect with them.
Keep your eyes on the road. Too many job seekers decide to take a break – sometimes 2 weeks or a month – in the middle of their job search. Or, they decide to take on a huge personal project such as building a deck, teaching a class, or helping parents move. This is not job seeking! Choose a date to begin your drive forward, then focus your energy on the job hunt. If you change your target job, take a few days off to regroup, then go at it again.
Don’t worry about possible potholes, detours or delays. Many job seekers try to think it out all the way from job title to salary negotiation. As a consequence, they become frozen in analysis paralysis. Would I really like working for an oil drilling company? Do they allow telecommuting? Does that company have a good culture? Do they pay competitively? In this way, you can talk yourself OUT of many great opportunities. The only way to find out the answers is to move forward. Take the next step. If you are mostly qualified, apply for the job. If you are asked to interview, then interview. You can’t KNOW the answers to your questions without moving forward.
Be constantly asking “What’s the next step?” Your GPS will consistently tell you the next move, even if it’s 50 miles down the road. Ask yourself “what’s the next step?” and then be sure to take it. If you don’t know what you want, the next step is to choose a Target Job Title. If your resume won’t work, the next step is to customize it. If you have a job lead, the next step is to apply. If you have a phone screen, the next step is to research the job and the company. If you had an interview, the next step is to follow up. And so on.
Stay in the driver’s seat: You will get lots of advice along the way. Remember, this is your Job Search, your livelihood, your life. Take action in the direction that feels right to you. But, be sure to keep driving!