When I coach professionals looking to make a job or career switch, the first thing I drill into them is this: You are not a beggar. An employer who wants you knows that you bring more to the table than they do. They have money, benefits, and resources. You have a particular skill set, drive, and ability to learn that they need. Never think of yourself as powerless in the job search. As soon as you think it, it becomes true. An interview is like dating - when you’re inexperienced, you think “I hope they like me.” When you become more experienced, you realize it’s about hoping you are both a good fit for each other. Eventually you realize you have the power and the obligation to yourself to assess that fit.
The job hunting system favors employers because it was built by them. Don’t get stuck thinking about job titles and what already exists – let your mind reach for the biggest, grandest, craziest idea you can think of, and work backward from there to something realistic and meaningful for you.
Your perfect job must allow you to do the following:
- Use the skills you already have
- Learn the skills you don’t yet have but want
- Identify an organizational culture that aligns with your value system
- Build your strategic network
- Meet your financial goals
First, identify what you are great at. Spend at least 5 minutes free writing an answer to this question. Include jobs, hobbies, volunteering - anything you have spent time doing, enjoyed, and were at least marginally good at. Don’t censor yourself. Think expansively; include anything and everything.
Next, name 3 people you have worked with whom you admire. What do they do that you respect? This might cover the actual job, the way they conduct themselves, or something else that sticks out to you. Their positions can be anywhere in the company.
Now, name what you value. When making decisions, what must remain true for you?
Then, fill in the table below. Think big picture all the way down to how you want to spend your day-to-day.
- What do you need out of a job? (must have)
- What do you want out of a job? (nice to have)
Now how do you get this dream job?
List 5 people in your strategic network you can reach out to and discuss your career and growth. Scour Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other loose connections you may have. Your strategic network comprises people one step removed from your friends - acquaintances and colleagues. Think about your hobbies. Are you in a social sports/running club, professional network, karaoke league, or other group that connects you with people you may not otherwise encounter? Commit to finding out who you know in your industry or desired industry. Do some research, ask if you can buy them coffee or a drink, and conduct a 15-minute informational interview.
What is your bottom line minimum necessary salary? Calculate your expenses using a website like Mint or a basic expense calculator in Excel. Know what number you absolutely cannot go below to survive. Now dream bigger. Think about vacations, hobbies, retirement savings, vehicles, experiences, clothes, shoes, and anything else you want. Factor those into your salary needs. Also consider the frustratingly true fact that even when women ask for raises on par with men, they receive them less. Money is energy - it fuels our ability to do the work. So remember that when an employer is interviewing you, it is because you have something they need, and act accordingly. You’ve got this, girl!
*A version of this article previously appeared in FairyGodBoss