“I am looking for job opportunities,” a young alum informed me during a recent meeting. When I inquired as to which field/industry, what type of job, etc., he responded, “I’m open to anything.” Right then, our conversation switched gears and I moved the focus of the meeting onto career exploration. It got me thinking as to why individuals want to skip the career exploration step and jump right into applying for positions?
For those who are new to the market, lost as to what you want to do when you grow up, or who are considering a career change, exploring and researching career fields is a necessary step in the process. It has many benefits and while it may appear to be an ‘extra’ step to securing a job, career exploration tends to speed up the time it takes to secure a position.
- Finding a Career, Not a Paycheck: The desire to have a job and be employed is powerful, so much of one’s identity is often associated with one’s career. Wanting to be employed can lead individuals to apply to random jobs and accept the first one that comes along. Jumping into a role that one has not investigated can often lead to a poor match, many times in positions that are merely a paycheck as opposed to a career that offers growth potential. By taking some time to explore options, one increases the likelihood of finding a good match and/or being more at peace when the final decision or accept/decline is at hand.
- Industry/Position Specific Information: Talking with people who are in the industry you desire can help one better understand the actual job. Many young graduates will often say they want a career in sports/athletics but when they investigate what the opportunities are, the hours involved, and the nature of the work – many realize the like to watch and talk about sports, but may not enjoy the working side of athletics. Additionally, by speaking with individuals in the target industry/role, you will learn about typical projects, skills needed for success, and industry specific vocabulary. Every industry has acronyms and common phrases – by learning them before you apply or interview, you will be able to use the terminology to demonstrate your strong interest in the field.
- Focusing Energies: Often we find ourselves saying that if we I did not have to attend a certain meeting/complete paperwork/etc., then we would be able to focus our energy and be a superstar at what we want. Take this sentiment to heart when in a career search. Don’t try to apply to every job in every industry – focus your energy and time. This will allow you to present a stronger impression with hiring managers, become more versed in the field/role/industry, and develop stronger networks as your outreach can be focused.
- Developing a Network: As mentioned above, being able to focus on an industry, role, or set of employers one can develop stronger connections as he/she will be able to spend more time with professionals in his/her target area. Developing depth with networking contacts is more important than breadth of contacts as people will be willing to help those with whom they feel connected.
Taking time in the exploration phase may seem as it will prolong one’s search for a job, in my experience is actually speeds up the process. While your start may be slower than an individual who is applying for 500 different jobs, you will make up ground in the interview process where you will be able to focus your efforts as opposed to the individual who is applying blindly.