Photo: Frank Kehren
This is an excerpt from post I did for Brazen Careerist, a great social network for Generation Y professionals. To read the article in its entirety, check out the link to Brazen’s site below.
Update: Full post now available below.
I have to admit – I sort of like looking for jobs.
That’s downright blasphemy when you consider that about half of out of work job seekers are jobless for six months, workers everywhere are settling for less, and overall pay is staying low and flat. Only a disconnected fool would utter such nonsense, right?
Granted, there is a lot to dislike when it comes to the job search. I don’t need to discuss the anxiety, disappointment, frustration, feelings of futility, and 10,000 other negatives. We all know them well.
Instead let’s talk about the good aspects of a job search, specifically how looking for a job can help you in your current job.
Think of your job hunt like market research
Looking for a job is like a treasure hunt. You’re constantly following clues, asking about leads, discerning myths from facts, and ultimately working your way toward something great. Also, both require you to follow signs along the way. For example, job descriptions are a fantastic insight into what’s hot in your targeted industry. Take note of what’s most in-demand – look at what skills are needed, what certifications are attractive, and what experience is most valuable. Read the signs.
Next, match those against your own qualifications. See any holes? It’s okay, you almost certainly will. But now, thanks to your job search, you have a list of professional goals. You’ve researched the industry you want to work in, and now you have a to-do list for how to make yourself a competitive prospect.
Use your job as a grad school of sorts
Now that your to-do list is ready, it’s time to get to work. If you have a job but are looking for another one (like 66 percent of workers), you can incorporate and practice those skills in your current job. Put another way; use your current job as a breeding ground to develop the skills that are in demand.
For example, if you see that most employers in a particular field want public speaking experience and you don’t have any, propose giving a speech at the next company meeting or hosting a discussion group within your department. Both are great speaking practice and show that you’re a go-getter with new ideas.
If you’re seeing a lot of employers requiring team leadership experience and you don’t have any, propose a mentoring program and volunteer to help new employees become acclimated. Certain software expertise needed? Propose getting trained on it and become your company’s go-to person for that program.
Be happier in your current job
Also like a treasure hunt, looking for a job requires a heavy dose of optimism. You have to believe deep down that what you’re looking for actually exists and is attainable. That can be hard at times, especially when you aren’t having much success with your applications or interviews. One way to keep the optimism alive is to log a few small victories along the way.
We hear the terrible employment numbers all the time, and many people are simply staying in jobs they hate, rather than quitting and rolling the dice in today’s job market. If that’s you then using your job search as a professional development tool, as described above, is a great way to stay sane at a job you dislike. Once you’ve established your to-do list and how you can use your current job to satisfy it, your outlook will change. The job you don’t like will look less like a hindrance and more like a vehicle for getting where you want to be. It becomes a way forward instead of an anchor.
Not only do you benefit from having a more positive attitude, but your whole company does. If you dislike your job, I’d guess you don’t approach many tasks with enthusiasm, you aren’t terribly pleasant to be around, and you might just be doing crappy work. The job search to-do list gives you a renewed sense of purpose, which in turn has a buoying affect on the rest of your attitude and performance.
Think about it, who would you rather work with? Someone who pouts about how they don’t like their job and is pissed off because they can’t get a better one? Or an ambitious spark-plug who is clearly working with a purpose and proposing new ideas?
Like anything else, a job search is what you make of it. If you focus on the negatives, which we all know abound, it will be a miserable experience (why do you think one million people get discouraged and give up?). But if you use the job search as a way to make yourself a better candidate for future jobs and a better employee in your current role, you’ll have a much easier time keeping up the hunt.