6 necessary conditions for effective job search

I meet lots of people every week who tell me about how bored or stressed they are in their jobs, or how frustrated they are by not having meaningful employment, or how confused they are about what they should do in terms of a “career transition” decision looming on the horizon.  And most of them ask some variation on the same basic question: “What are MY chances of being successful in finding something that is a really good “fit” for me?”

If you’ve been firing off job applications on a regular basis to various posted jobs you come across on job boards and are getting limited results from this work (which is the situation for the vast majority of all job seekers), it’s easy to see why people are highly skeptical and why they ask this question.

As I’ve pondered this question and considered the stories and experiences of the many people I’ve talked with, I’ve boiled it down to 6 things which I think are “necessary and sufficient” conditions that if met can lead anyone to securing a role that is a great fit for them and that meets the vast majority of their needs:

  1. The personal motivation to continue to strive and move forward towards your goal;
  2. Personal discipline to put in the work, time and effort to progress;
  3. Knowledge about how an effective  job search process actually works, versus the various perceptions and approaches that exist;
  4. Sufficient clarity about “who you are”  and what you are searching for such that you can authentically and compellingly present it to those you interact with;
  5. A safe environment to confront doubts, issues, and insecurities, and that provides you with the ability to undertake some amount of experimentation;
  6. Regular, consistent feedback and ongoing progress review so that one can continually derive greater focus & confidence about one’s path.

These are all “necessary” conditions, but only having some of them true means that your search will most likely be fruitless. In my estimation all of them need to be true — hence the “sufficient” condition — for your search to be effective.

The first two of these are highly dependent on the person – nothing anyone else can do can motivate someone who’s heart isn’t in it. On the discipline front, we can work to impose some structure and routine to the somewhat undisciplined, however if they choose to ignore our “imposed discipline” again we can’t do much with that. And in terms of #4 on the list — clarity about what you are searching for — most job seekers unfortunately are pretty fuzzy about that.

From your own perspective, work through these 6 items for a minute — and start by giving yourself the benefit of the doubt that you are sufficiently motivated (#1) and disciplined (#2) to follow through on your desires.

Do you really understand #3, the components of a successful job search? There are lots of places you can turn to for this — lots of decent books written about it, and advice galore available from resources accessible through the internet. The key issue here is whether those resources are describing  “successful job search” or just more variations on the theme of “firing off applications into the universe and hoping for the best”.

Consider #4. Are you truly clear about what you love to do, what you are really, really good at, and how it can help someone else (the employer) achieve their business objectives? If the most you can say is “I want a job where I am treated with respect and I like what I am doing”, that is not very helpful to anyone in determining  if they have a good match for you. How clear and specific are you about what you want and need to be happy?

What about #5 and #6? Do you have a safe environment where someone is actually listening to you and your concerns and challenges? Are they encouraging you to explore various pathways where you might find a good fit based on some understanding of your who you really are? Are they providing you objective and ongoing feedback about your progress to date, and striving to encourage you to continue moving forward in some systematic way? Are they really hearing you, or are they getting frustrated with your situation and telling you to apply for more jobs, and to just “try harder”? Lots of people who love us want to help us and so they provide lots of well-meaning advice — which unfortunately can often be more harmful than helpful in our job search.

The key question you need to ask yourself of those people in your support network who you are counting on for ongoing support and feedback is “… what do they really know about effective job search in today’s marketplace?” Depending on how you answer that question will help tell you whether you have the base elements for #5 and #6 conditions in place.

If you scored 6 out of 6, then you certainly have all the elements in place and your job search should lead you to a successful outcome and a job that really fits you well and that you can be excited about. Score 5 out of 6 or less and, unfortunately, you probably have an inadequate foundation that will be difficult to build on successfully.  Address this “foundational deficiency” first before losing yourself in the tactics of your job search.


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