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Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Blue Sky Resumes is a small team of professional writers and job search experts. We offer one-of-a-kind resumes, smart career advice and fantastic customer service. This is our blog.

The Smart Job Search #2: Set your GPS

This is the second post in a 10-part series. If you missed it, you can read the first post here.

In the first post in this series I asked you to “think different” – to approach your search as a proactive endeavor in order to tap into the millions of jobs that are never advertised.

But to do that effectively, you really need to have a clear idea of where you’re going.

One of the most common job search mistakes is not defining what the ideal position looks like. Instead, most of us begin with the general premise “I need a job” and then apply for anything that we seem to be qualified for.

But if you don’t know the type of work you want to be doing, and the type of place you want to do it in, you will always be reacting to job descriptions you see posted online and whenever you’re reacting, you’re not in control.

How to take control by defining where you’re going

Instead just waiting to see what gets advertised and then deciding if it appeals to you, I want you to do some real work thinking about where you want to go next. Some of the questions you might ask yourself are:

• What industries are you interested in?
• What level will you be working at? (Entry, Manager, VP)
• What department will you be in? (Marketing, Finance, Operations)
• What types of products/services the company will be selling?
• What will the culture be like? (Casual, Entrepreneurial, Structured)
• Will this be a large company, a small start-up or something in between?
• What will your day look like?
• Will you be managing others or working as a sole contributor?
• What don’t you want in your next job?

Once you have defined exactly what you want to do, you get several benefits:

1. You’ll be able to target your resume and cover letters and online profiles to appeal to your target audience and I’ll talk more about this over the next few days. It’s critically important and really makes all the difference.

2. You’ll be able to focus your job search efforts by identifying companies who fit your profile and finding ways to reach them directly (more about this soon too).

Narrow your focus and you will get more interviews

If you narrow your targets from ‘all the available jobs in my field or industry’ to a specific sort of role within a specific sort of company, you may think you are limiting yourself, and that you will naturally get less calls and less interviews.

But actually, the opposite is true. Narrowing your focus will bring you better results. It seems counter-intuitive to say it, but it’s true.

You’re not right for every job

The simple fact is that you are not a fit everywhere. Every job that comes up in your field and at your level isn’t right for you. The recruiters will see it when they look at your resume – and if they don’t see it then, they will see it during the interview. Either way, you won’t get the job and that’s OK. It wasn’t right for you.

A few times in my life, I’ve been rejected for a job that I really wanted. I was very disappointed when that happened, but in each case, I later came to realize that I wouldn’t have fit in. The recruiters saw that, and the only thing that blinded me to it was how badly I wanted the job to be right.

The same is true for all of us. There are some places we fit, and some places where we would never be happy. By finding the places where you will fit, you are zeroing in on the companies most likely to respond to a candidate like you and putting all your efforts into making a positive match rather than trying to fit into the wrong shaped hole.

It’s scary to narrow down your focus I know. It feels as though you’re limiting your success. But try it and you’ll see great results.

You can read more about how narrowing your focus can improve your success here: Why Trying for Less Will Get You More.

But what if you need a job desperately?

However desperate you are, this is the right strategy. Because it’s simply more effective than trying for everything with no direction in mind. If something comes along that’s not ideal and you really need an income, of course you must take it, but then keep on searching for the right thing using these methods. It will work!

Be realistic

One word of warning as you develop your description of your ideal job … it must be realistic. You must have the skills and experiences necessary to achieve the goal you set. If you’re not yet qualified for your dream job, then decide what the next stepping stone is, and go for that instead.

No one will decide to take a chance on an unqualified candidate, no matter how good your resume or how engaging you are in an interview – especially in this economy. Trying to make that happen is a recipe for disappointment.

What’s next?

In part 3 of this series, I’m going to talk about how you can use the knowledge of your ideal position to write a focused, value-based resume. This will be crucial for a successful search, so it’s important to give some thought to your ideal targets now.

By the way, I do realize a lot of what I’m saying might be different from the way you have approached your search in the past, but please do bear with me … you will see how it all falls into place as we go along. Tune in next time and you’ll see what I mean!

And if you have any questions at all (or suggestions for other readers), please feel free to post them as comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

This is the second in a 10-part series. To make sure you don’t miss any of the posts, subscribe to get email updates by clicking here and entering your email address. You’ll get an email each time I post an article.

Read more about Job Search.

Blue Sky Resumes

About the Author

Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

2 comments on “The Smart Job Search #2: Set your GPS”

  1. m. says:

    Here’s a question: How can I demonstrate on paper that I’m qualified, even if my work experience is underwhelming?

    In other words, I’m two years out of undergrad, and I’ve spent five years working in retail. I absolutely do not want to work in customer service, but my retail job was with a company that’s known for their standards and the type of person in their stores. The couple of interviews I’ve had have focused on me as *their employee*, not me as a talented researcher.

    I have a couple of internships and long-term freelance gigs on my resume. If I cut my big retail job, it looks like I had no work at all from 2008-2011, or worse, that I’m hiding something.

    So the bottom line is that I know what I want, I know I’m qualified and very, very good at it, and I have the hard skills. But according to my resume, I’m just another one of those kids who worked at that store—friendly, smart enough, but not serious and not hire-able for an academic position. Le sigh.

  2. Hi ‘M’,

    The next lesson will probably really help you because you have the first part of the puzzle – knowing what you want to do. Spend some time writing notes on your ideal position as suggested above, so that you’re ready for the next stage.

    I do not think you should remove your retail job, but look for ways to maximize your internships and especially your freelance work. Also focus on writing a resume summary that shows you have the skills and personality needed.

    Finally, don’t let interviews become all about the retail experience … study the way politicians turn a question around so they can give the answer they want and look at doing the same when asked questions about your retail job.

    Stick with this course and also the free resume writing course, because hopefully that will offer more than I can squeeze into a short answer.

    Oh and check out this resume sample … http://www.blueskyresumes.com/free-resume-samples/video-game-artist-resume-sample/view/

    This person was actually working for free in the art job and was making a living driving cabs. You’d never know it from the resume!

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