You can do anything you set your mind to. You can be anything you want to be. Right? Wrong.
You can do anything you set your mind to IF you’re willing to work for it. You can be anything you want to be IF you can figure out what that is. And sometimes that’s not as easy as it seems! If you’re not sure where to start, no worries. I’ll walk you through it.
Step 1: Self-discovery & Reflection
Who are you? When are you happiest? What causes you stress? If you didn’t have to worry about money and could have ANY job in the world, what would you do? Why?
Start by asking yourself questions. Think about the things you love most in life and see if there are ways to incorporate that into a career. If not a career, are there ways to incorporate that into your free time to be fulfilled?
Step 2: Values & Priorities
We’ve talked before about finding your values. Once you have an idea of what you value, start figuring out your priorities when it comes to your career.
Is a six-figure salary most important to you?
Do you need a job with benefits like insurance or retirement?
Is a flexible schedule a must-have?
How many hours a week are you looking at?
What’s your priority area? Health care, non-profit, helping people, working with animals or children, corporate, education, beauty, entrepreneur…
Step 3: Strength & Growth Areas
Sit down and have a good, hard look at yourself. Where are you strong? What areas do you need to grow? Whether they’re hard skills or soft skills, knowing where you need help is a great place to start. If you don’t know how to breakdown in your skills in a way that translates to prospective employers, they become buzzwords instead of skills.
What the hell are hard skills and soft skills?
Hard Skills - teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to measure or quantify. Knowing a foreign language, having a degree, knowing how to operate a piece of machinery or computer program, etc.
Soft Skills - AKA people skills or interpersonal skills. Communication, teamwork, organization and time management, etc.
Step 1: Research
Now that you know yourself, what your priorities are and what you bring to the table, it’s time to start researching what opportunities exist.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a tool we used all of the time when I worked as an academic advisor. It’s a great way to search career information no matter what field you’re in. It gives users a breakdown of duties, required education and/or training, projected pay, outlook, etc.
If you have any idea of the type of job you want, go look at open job descriptions and postings! Look through the things they require and figure out where you fit on the spectrum. It should give you a realistic idea of who the company is and what they’re looking for in an employee.
Step 2: Making an Impression
Once you found the ideal job, your next step should be doing everything you possibly can to make a good first impression. If you’re battling hundreds of other applicants for the chance at an interview, you have to figure out how to make yourself stand out.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is this: Your resume and cover letter should be tailored for every single job you apply for.
Having a set of generic documents that you blindly send out to prospective employers isn’t going to set you apart from the others. I’ve proofed for friends and family and this is the #1 mistake I see people making.
You’ve already done the research on the company and position, right? So take what you know about them and use similar language in your documents. Look at their mission and vision statements, pull required skills and verbiage from the posting, and use those to your advantage.
Once you’ve submitted your kick-ass cover letter and resume and have landed an interview, it’s time for more prep.
Take all that research and study it. Know everything you can about their mission, vision, goals, priorities, work, structure, etc. Then take that knowledge to use in an educated discussion later.
Dress appropriately. This should be common knowledge but it’s important. Just because they’re high heels doesn’t mean they’re work appropriate high heels. You don’t always have to wear a suit. Again, it’s about knowing the company culture and dressing appropriately.
Be prepared to ask important questions. You need to be interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. They are not doing you a favor by interviewing or hiring you! If they have a job posted, they’re needing a position filled just as much as you’re needing/wanting to fill a position. Make sure the job is a good fit for all parties involved - that’s what the interview is for.
Some of my favorite questions:
What sort of professional development opportunities are there?
Do you guys do any volunteer work or community involvement as a staff?
What does the day-to-day look like for this position?
I know your company values are [X] and [Y], how do those tie into the office culture?
Where is this company headed in the next five years? How can this position help get you there?
Are there opportunities to learn from or work with other positions and/or departments?
Fight for yourself. If you’ve gone through the research, asked your questions, and know this is the job you want - fight for it. This might be your one chance to convince them you’re worth taking a chance on. Give them solid proof as to what value you bring to the table.
One way or another, be intentional with your career and the value you add to your company or organization. If you're unhappy, leave or make a change. If you're spending 40+ hours a week working, be happy doing it!