Some things change – like the weather, the stock market, your work circumstances, or your family needs at any given point in time.
Other things stay relatively the same over time – like your aptitudes, your likes/dislikes about work, and your values. The way people perceive you in the workplace – how you learn, and work, and act – often remains unchanged, as well.
In a time of a lot of uncertainty, the best path through it all is to find those fixed points, like your north star, and build your career around those.
But let’s say that you aren’t quite sure what you value, or, let’s say that you know what you value but your current work is not at all aligned with that. Or, perhaps, you’re not quite sure what your strengths are that might be interesting to a future employer. You may have taken some career assessments, or done some research or guided exercises you’ve found in books or online.
The truth is, finding career opportunity, especially in tricky economic times, requires careful thought and planning, not just luck.
WHY TYPICAL CAREER RESOURCES OFTEN DON’T WORK FOR CAREER EXPLORATION IN 2020
If you’re feeling burnt out or uninspired, you’ve been laid off, or you’re unsure of what you want to do, you may need to think differently about your job search. You can apply to jobs online, but that often ends up being an exercise in frustration when you don’t hear back from your application. These days, for example, a lot of positions are posted on Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and/or local email lists, often before they’re posted to regular job boards.
You also may need to think differently about what you want to do, especially in a changing economy. It’s possible that you’re in a sector of the economy that might be taking a hit at the moment, while other ones are growing quickly. Figuring out how to take the skills you already have, and apply them to a new sector, takes a bit of creative thinking.
Many people also think that going back to school is a good way to discover new career interests. Although that may be true, school is a very expensive way to explore new interests.
HOW TO FIGURE OUT WHAT CAREER OPPORTUNITY TO PURSUE
Well-thought-out career moves are oriented around what I call your Core Career Interests. To find your Core Career Interests, you need to determine what makes you as a person different from everyone else. Your career happiness depends on the intersection of a few factors: your workstyle preferences, your personal history and work experience, your interests and abilities, and the work environment you need in order to feel energized.
THE FOUR C’S
Based on my work helping many clients go through career changes, I’ve found that the definition of Core Career Interests involves the following factors, which I call the Four C’s: Cause, Content, Critical Factors, and Community.
If money were no object (and you still had to work), what’s important to you to accomplish with your life?
What’s the point of your work and the energy you spend every day? What result do you want your efforts to have on the world?
This doesn’t mean you have to give up your nice salary and benefits to work on solely altruistic projects, unless you really wanted to. For example, you could be motivated by sharing aesthetic beauty with others… or helping run a company that gives employment to lots of people… or advancing the cause of medical research… the list is infinite. What’s important is that YOU feel good about the work you’re doing, in addition to getting paid for it. A good career coach can help you find your Cause.
Content refers to the specific work activities that make up your day. In order to determine the ideal career path for yourself, you will need to identify what you like to do and what you are good at doing. These may be one and the same— but then again, you may really like singing and not be able to carry a tune!
To identify activities you enjoy, a career coach can help you think about both your professional and personal interests. When you think about your previous jobs, what parts of them have you enjoyed so far? What new topics are you interested in learning more about? Are you a good strategic thinker, good listener, extremely good at putting projects together, an excellent communicator? The more you design your ideal career around your natural abilities, the more enjoyment and less friction you will feel in your day-to-day activities.
Unless you are looking for a career as a hermit, each possible career path exists within a community of peers and recipients. Put another way, you would ask yourself, “Whom do I want on my team as coworkers?” and “Whom do I want to serve through my activities?”
Then, you can think about your recipient community — the people you’d like to help through your work. You’d work with a coach to explore who those people are, and how you’d like to help them. Do you like working with the public? Business to business? Individuals or large groups of people? Once we determine this, certain jobs will seem more or less appealing to you. For example, one client realized he hated his job (which was helping people primarily through email) because he really missed the face-to-face interaction.
In addition to the actual work activities you enjoy and the types of people with whom you’d like to work, a career coach can help you think about the other lifestyle-based concerns you have. These critical factors include such topics as work hours, work location, flexibility, travel, type of office, salary, benefits, etc.
For example, what does your ideal work environment look and feel like? What size company feels right for you? How can you balance work and home commitments?
By honing in on these four elements, you have the foundation of a career path that’s tailor-made for you.
However… you may be stuck in the job search:
Not sure how to write a resume
Not sure why interviews aren’t panning out
Not getting a response from job applications
Not sure how to find employers who are hiring right now
Not sure how to sell yourself to employers
Not sure how to speak about your job history
Here’s what I hear from clients: I spend hours looking online; I’ve sent my resume to dozens (or hundreds) of jobs, and haven’t heard a single thing; I go on interviews but am not getting to the final round.
Of course, the first step is knowing what kind of work you’re looking for. If you aren’t clear, and your resume’s not buttoned up and targeted, then you can send 10,000 resumes, and you will likely not hear a peep. See our Career Resources section for more ideas on that front.
Let’s say, however, that you know what you want, your resume and LinkedIn profile are getting you interviews, but you are just not getting the results you want.
You can keep doing the same thing, and hope that it pays off eventually. (It might.)
Here are some ways to get help:
You can create a Board of Advisors for yourself -an inner circle of friends and family- and ask for their honest feedback on your career possibilities, your resume, your personal style, or anything that you think may be hindering your search. (It’s free, but you may not like their advice, or they may not be informed about your particular profession or career options.)
You can seek out professional networking organizations or headhunters (you’ve probably already done that).
You can try to connect to headhunters, which mainly works if they have an open role at the moment that fits you perfectly.
You can check with your alma mater’s career office or your local state career centers to see if they’ll offer services to you for free or low cost.
If, however, you’ve explored those already, or you’re feeling like you need results sooner than later from a professional, feel free to use our confidential Career Coach Finder form to browse for potential matches.
Our coaches have seen hundreds or potentially thousands of job searches and can assess your resume, cover letter, interviewing answers, “personal brand,” job search strategy, LinkedIn profile, social media participation, networking activities, and countless other things that go into a successful search.
There’s lots of opportunity – right now – if you know where, and how, to look.
Kathy Robinson, Founder, TurningPoint