Even in a challenged economy, landing your dream job will be easier if you are a “career seeker” rather than a “job seeker.” Being a career seeker doesn’t just mean looking for the job you want. It involves developing an ultimate career goal and planning your approach to it.
There’s a lot of talk lately about personal branding, because people are like companies — those with a clearly defined, well developed brand are the most likely to succeed. The same is true with planning. While mega-firms like Apple may have started out serendipitously, they didn’t get where they are without detailed plans and success strategies.
I recently had the privilege of working with a group of MBA graduates from Mercer University in Atlanta. Many of these individuals changed their career paths and went back to school for more education. As part of their development, I coached them on clarifying where they wanted to go and planning the steps that would take them there.
One of these students, a woman named Deidra, began her professional life as a middle-school math teacher — a position she thought she would love. After realizing the teaching environment was different from when she was in school, she decided the job wasn’t a fit for her. She made a conscious decision to move into engineering, an industry that interested her and for which she already had education and skills.
She became a quality assurance manager for Avon, but wanted a clear path that would help her advance her career. After obtaining her MBA, she worked with me on goal-setting and assessment exercises to “figure out what I like and don’t like,” as Deidra said.
Armed with her assessment and a clearer picture of what she would and wouldn’t want in a job (both professionally and personally), she could develop the steps leading to where she wanted to go. She could refine her brand and her image, craft a timeline for what she wanted to achieve, and come up with an overall game plan.
Deidra now has a job with Ryder Logistics as a Senior Supply Chain Engineer. She credits her assessment and planning exercises with determining that she “is in the right place with the job and the new position is going to be fulfilling.” Deidra doesn’t want to stop there, but she has also set targets on achievement for the top end, as well. Her stated long-term goal is a Director or VP position. She doesn’t want to go beyond that because she still tutors math students on the side and wants to have time to continue that service to the community.
In other words, Deidra’s planning and goal setting efforts haven’t given her the “job opportunity of a lifetime.” They have given her the career path of a rich and meaningful life. In the end, that’s what a dream job is all about — finding the job and career path that aligns with your needs and aspirations now and in the future. It’s the job that not only excites you at the outset, but also in which you will continue to grow and thrive, professionally and personally, over time.
Such a successful professional life takes careful planning and thoughtful consideration. If you are looking for a job or thinking of changing careers, you have a perfect opportunity to refocus on what you want, not just what you can get, and develop a solid plan for obtaining those goals. There is no better time to begin those efforts than now.
Tips for Success
A standard in the industry for planning is to follow the SMART model. Develop goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Here are a few more tips on leveraging the value of career planning.
Professional assistance (career coaching or counseling) is a good way to receive objective feedback, and some career coaches give complimentary consultations that will help you determine if the effort is right for you. Family members and friends may be too opinionated to give solid advice, but teachers and school counselors are frequently excellent sources of feedback.
Once you have a plan in place, evaluate every job opening you consider against those goals. Even if a job seems unrelated to your plan (if necessity forces you to that option), dig deep and find some relevance. Not only will help you explain to interviewers why you want the position, but you will be more content in the job knowing you are advancing your goals.
When prospective employers ask about your long-term goals (as they invariably will), discuss your planning efforts and relate how the position fits into your goals. Long-range vision and determination (two qualities evidenced by your career planning) are prized attributes in the majority of companies.
Guest Blogger Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach and founder of HallieCrawford.com. Her team of coaches help people find their dream job and make it a reality. She is regularly featured as an expert in the media including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and US News & World Report. Visit her website at www.HallieCrawford.com for more information about her team's career coaching services. Set up a Complimentary Career Strategy Session with Hallie Crawford to get advice on your career goals. *Mention you saw us on Talent Zoo and receive a free bonus if you purchase a product or sign up for coaching.*