Lenroy Jones: Successful job search begins with some soul searching

Contributing columnistOctober 7, 2013 

Lenroy Jones

Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Join me and take your job or career one step at a time.

Conducting a job search without a plan is like sailing in the ocean without a map or compass; both ways you're lost. On the other hand, before you develop your plan to conduct your job search, you should seriously invest time deciding and making a commitment to your options.

If you struggle with the decision on choosing a career or even the question, what do you want to be when you grow up, you're not alone.

We all have ideas about what we would like to do, but determining how realistic that might be can lead to more questions. My suggestion is to take one question at a time. So, what do you want to be?

Tackling this question gets an answer that is a key step and essential to effectively landing a job and conceivably getting closer to job satisfaction. You most likely have found employment over time, but maybe with low job satisfaction or it didn't meet your financial goals. Most likely you were more focused on securing employment verses figuring out your heartfelt job or career path. After all, you do have financial responsibilities or other desires and needs.

However, why do some individuals struggle in the job search while others jump right into the search and secure employment effortlessly?

I sincerely believe that the leading stumbling block of job seekers is career indecision, when you can't decide on your job or career interest options. Personally, I would like to see individuals seeking employment or attempting to transition to another job to choose several options before launching into the job search process.

Here's some insight from Dan Miller, a noted career authority, life coach and best-selling author of 48 Days to the Work You Love: "Recognize that there is no one right career — there will be eight to 10 choices that would be a reasonable fit."

Who said that you need to decide on one choice anyway? Not me.

Miller would suggest we have a false belief that there is one right decision, which is one of the leading causes of career indecision. You should not place this type of pressure on yourself. My suggestion is that you start with identifying three to four career options. Here are several other suggestions as you explore this small subset of your career options:

■ Develop three to four career goals. Give yourself a time line or deadline, be realistic and make sure you can measure your results. Also, be specific about what you desire to accomplish — who, what, where and why.

For example: To obtain 150 hours of education to sit for the CPA Exam by Dec. 31, 2014, in order to be competitive for the audit position at Kraft Foods regional headquarters.

■ Consider your personal and workplace values. A list of your values can be instrumental as you research a company's mission, goals, values and culture. You should seriously consider, if your values are aligned with the organization under consideration. You'll spend more than 100,000 hours of your lifetime working for that company. So make your list and compare and contrast. Are you well-matched?

■ Take advantage of experiential opportunities. This investment is worth your time and energy. It is a time saver over time and will assist you to decide if this job or career is for you. It's recommended at any age, and you should complete this process early in your job search process. "Make a list of internships and apprenticeships ... as well as talk to those already doing what you think you want to do," Miller suggests.

■ Talk to a career coach or counselor. Take time out of your schedule and make an appointment to meet with someone from your high school, college or a work force development office. The person should be skilled and knowledgeable in handling the job search process. You should prepare for the meeting by providing your career goals, a list of jobs or career options you are considering, and how the person can assist you. Don't forget, it's your search.

An additional cause of career indecision is referred to as the lost-at-sea scenario by Rick Roberts, career counselor and director at the University of North Florida's Career Center in Jacksonville. "The decision is too overwhelming and there is too much to consider resulting in a feeling of being 'lost' and unable to make a decision," said Roberts.

More than ever, students are attending college to get a good job, according to the CIRP Freshman Survey 2012 results. The 2012 CIRP Freshman Survey is based on responses from 192,912 full-time students entering 283 four-year colleges and universities.

College students are in the prime of their lives and have everything going for themselves but often miss opportunities to identify a job or career that is a good fit. Why? Because they do not invest in their own career management. You have to give time to your job search process, sooner than later. If not, you spend 20 years earning a living with limited job satisfaction.

According to Miller, "job satisfaction includes many more factors than the job itself." It contains things like personality, attitude, sense of entitlement, worldview, faith perspective, supportive relationships and physical vitality; all contribute to or detract from job satisfaction, said Miller. So approach this with a curiosity about what contributes to your fulfillment.

Last, there is another scenario that individuals use when confronted with career indecision, "winging it," said Roberts. He suggests that you don't really give it much thought and don't really look at options. Most times, you end up choosing the first option or alternative that presents itself. This approach is like sailing in the ocean without a map or compass. It's not recommended because you're lost somewhere in the Pacific.

Lenroy Jones is associate director at the University of Kentucky's James W. Stuckert Career Center. He has a master's degree in college and university administration from Michigan State University. Join him on LinkedIn, "like" him at Facebook.com/CareerDude or follow him as @CareerDudeTweet on Twitter.

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