If you are reading this post, chances are you are looking for opportunities. Having gone through multiple jobs, I understand the frustration and intimidation of leaving a familiar environment to start somewhere new. The general piece of advice that helped me is to trust your instinct and follow your heart.
During university, I attended a career seminar where the speaker showed us his career progression chart that looks something like this.
As you can see, the path is not straightforward. Don’t be discouraged if it feels like you are downgrading to a lesser job. Sometimes, it takes lateral or even backward steps to get to where you want to be in the long run. Wherever you maybe on this graph, the 5 tips below will help you along the way.
Your goals define what you do every day. Having a clear career goal is key to orient yourself in the job market, whether you are a recent graduate or an industry veteran.
When I graduated in 2015, I was determined to become an Architect. One of the best way to get to where you want to be is shadowing someone who’s already done it. With that goal in mind, I worked under an architect for a year as a junior designer during which I was exposed to a bit of construction coordination. By then, my goals have shifted to discover project management. The key is to explore what’s out there, do more of what you enjoy that brings out the best in you while you continue to clarify your career goals. Currently, I am learning everything I can about project management while maintaining a sustainable lifestyle.
Questions to Consider:
- Do I find meaning in my work right now? Why and why not?
- Where do I want to be in the next half year?
- What kind of experience am I looking for to get closer to where I want to be?
- What aspects of my job do I currently enjoy? Can I double up on this in my next opportunity?
- What I value the most about my work?
- What aspect of my work do I feel the most proud of?
- What in your work history did you do to make things better? Look for instances where you showed leadership and accomplishments.
When you are looking for an opportunity to fulfill multiple goals at the same time, it is necessary to prioritize and determine which goals are more important than others. Opportunities will not perfectly align with everything you want. It’s a give and take. Make a list and order them from top to bottom. Maybe it is a certain salary range; Maybe it’s a certain position ; Maybe it is an opportunity to grow. Focus on the top 3 – they must be pretty important. Filter your search around those 3 criterion to concentrate your efforts.
My top 3 have been mentorship, the “right” challenges, and additional exposure.
Mentorship – Having someone who is willing to take a bet on you and provide meaningful opportunities for growth is hard to come by. I’ll take mentorship over a higher salary any day. Keep in mind that mentorship is a 2-way street. You need to deliver value to your mentor through hard work and fresh insight.
The “Right” Challenges – We need to be challenged to grow. The challenges need to stretch us far enough but not too far beyond our capacity, or it will cause a burn out (speaking from personal experience). It helps to have support at work. When I know there is someone to back me up, I have more confident to power through.
Additional Exposure – It is important for me to continue exploring my industry and what brings out my best. Having additional exposure outside of my job description helps me see the bigger picture. I love when other professionals openly share their experiences.
In today’s saturated job market, you can’t expect to stand out of a million applicants if you don’t understand what sets you apart. Many job seekers don’t realize they have already positioned themselves when they put themselves on the market. Others will position you even if you don’t position yourself. Why not be proactive about positioning yourself instead? Search for what makes you unique in your chosen profession and be consistent with this positioning throughout the search and interview process.
When I graduated from architecture school, I barely heard back after sending countless job applications. During the same time, a classmate of mine got a job right away. They made themselves stand out by highlighting experiences that made them unique. Whether it was winning a design competition or highlighting their superior rendering skills. That was their positioning.
Questions to Consider:
- What job I you want? What qualities, attributes, and skills are required for success in that job. Do I possess them? How can I demonstrate that?
- What can I do that others with the same job title can’t do? What makes me different from other employees with my job title?
- Why am I good at what I do?
- What life experiences have I had that would be valuable to others?
- Is there an area where I’m better at something than others? How am I more productive and innovative than other candidates for this job?
Once you have a clear career goal, set your priorities, and positioned yourself to your job market, you are well on your way. When you have narrowed down your search to a handful of positions, part of the due diligence is to research the company. The company is as important as the job itself. Reach out to people who work there to find out more about the company culture. I used to perplex about whether it is best to work for a big company or a small company. After working in both, I find that it comes down to the work culture. If the culture aligns with your value, you will be able to find your way through the organization, big or small.
Questions to consider:
- What is the turnover rate at this company?
- Do internal promotions happen often?
- Where is the company going in 5, 10 years? Does it align with yours?
- How much are you wanted here?
- How much transparency is in the hiring process?
- How professional is the hiring process?
As young professionals we think that when we don’t have experience, we don’t have bargaining power. That’s not true. We are worth more than we think.
There are plenty of reasons why we should negotiate.
- We inject new blood into the company. As the younger workforce, we can bring new energy, innovative thinking, and good work ethics.
- Being the right fit makes us valuable.
- It doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst thing you want happen to you is to start a job where you are paid less than others doing the exact same job.
- Your ability to negotiate can make you more valuable to your employer. If you negotiate to reach a win-win agreement, you can even build a better relationship in the process.
- Being vocal about what we want sets the tone for the employer.
One mistake I made during negotiation is inadequate preparation. Do your homework to find out what is reasonable to negotiate for and practice your strategy before going in. Don’t be afraid to connect with someone in the industry and ask for what they think a particular experience and job should be paid for.
These are the 5 tips I have learned along the way in my job searches. Hope with these tips, you can find a job you love.
Leave me a comment below if you have additional questions. Perhaps your question will become my next inspiration!