For A Successful Job Search


What’s the first thing to do when you want to find work?

a) Look at jobs posted on a job search board

b) Update your resume

c) Tell your friends and connections you’re looking

The correct answer to the above? It’s not a, b or c. No, while all of them are good things to do when you’re looking for work, none of them should be the first thing you do if you want to be successful.

Yes, I’ll admit that dusting off a resume and updating your phone number, making a dozen copies and dropping them off in person to some employers just might get you a job. I’ll further admit that as long as it gets you the job you’re after, you’re not likely take advice from me or anyone else – until how you go about finding work doesn’t work – and neither do you. Then, and only then, might you be open to other ideas and suggestions.

No, the first step to successfully finding your next job or launching your career is to do a full self-assessment. Know yourself, and be able to articulate or clearly share all the many things that collectively make you who you are. It’s only when you really know who you are and what makes you tick that you have the best chance to find work that will really bring you job satisfaction and happiness.

So, do you know the following:

  1. Your work values
  2.  The style of supervision you work best under
  3.  Your learning style
  4.  The things which motivate you
  5.  Why you want / need to work
  6.  Your financial needs (how much you need to earn)
  7.  Your financial value in the marketplace
  8.  Your problem solving style
  9.  Your liabilities, weaknesses and challenges
  10.  Your strengths and competitive advantages
  11.  Your leadership style
  12.  Your work ethic
  13.  How long you plan to work in your next role
  14.  Your openness to shift work, overtime, part-time, full-time, permanent,    contract or seasonal work
  15.  The extent to which you’ll travel to get to your next job
  16.  Your own philosophy with respect to work
  17.  Your comfort and ease with, and integration to teamwork
  18.  The state of your listening skills
  19.  The validity of any certificates and licences you’ve held
  20.  Which skills you wish to use moving forward in your next job
  21.  Your own personal idea of happiness and success
  22.  Your preference for working with things, data, people or information
  23.  Your personality traits and how they fit with various environments
  24.  Your receptiveness and willingness to learn
  25.  Your personal employment barriers

So, come on, let’s be honest. When have you ever started your job search by first looking at all – not just some – of the things above BEFORE looking at a job board?

I tell you this – if you want to be successful; and I mean long-term successful, start your job search differently than you ever have before and look at the above. While you might point out that you’ve never done this in the past and have managed to find jobs before (than you very much), how happy have you been in those jobs and haven’t you felt there had to be something better?

Successful people are generally the ones who, in the course of their work, find great personal job satisfaction and happiness. They are grateful for the opportunity to do what they do, and they look forward to going in because they find fulfillment and purpose throughout their days. When they leave work, they know they’ve done their best, made a difference, contributed their skills and experience and made their time worthwhile to their employer. These people don’t find such jobs by chance and luck.

Knowing what you like and don’t like, your strengths and areas for improvement is only a start. In all likelihood, you may not be able to answer all 25 questions I’ve posed here without some guided support, help that you’ll later appreciate. When you know yourself fully, you not only end up in the right kind of work, you end up tracking down the right employer for you; the one that has the specific environment where you’ll thrive.

Don’t think that this process is reserved only for the rich and those going for high paying jobs. That would be a huge assumption and mistake on your part. Sometimes the ones who get the most out of doing these full self-assessments are your everyday Labourer, blue-collar or middle class worker.

Look, I don’t like all-encompassing statements because honestly they seldom actually apply to everybody, but perhaps it’s safe to say we all want a career or job that will bring us a measure of happiness and decent pay for the work we do. Happiness; have you really sat down and defined what happiness looks like for you personally though? So many factors go in to being happy at work; it’s not just the job itself.

I know many people – a large number of people, who now in their fifties, say they’ve never had a job that they can honestly say they were truly passionate about. Some paid well, others brought them some happy moments, but many were ones they’d rather have avoided looking back. The idea of doing a personal inventory or assessment is something they never considered but now wish they’d done a long time ago. The thing about a self-assessment is that you and me; we should all do one every few years because we change.

Job search step one? Self assessment.

The Case For Honest Self-Assessment


If you’re a regular reader of mine, you may know that one piece of advice I often recommend is to conduct a self-assessment. Taking stock of your assets and liabilities is good practice whether you’re just about to look for employment, you’re thinking about advancing in an organization or you’re happily content in your current role. Knowing yourself well and being able to articulate that knowledge is a wonderful thing.

With the value of self-assessment being said, let me add that unless you do so objectively and honestly, there’s little value in the results. So whether you’re in some facilitator-led group or you’re doing one of the numerous self-assessments online, answering each question put before you has to be answered truthfully or your results are skewed.

I have a personal regret that goes all the way back to my high school days with respect to this. I can still recall doing some career assessments conducted by my school’s guidance staff. Back then, I was working part-time for a Municipal Parks and Recreation Community Centre and was absolutely convinced that my future employment would continue to be in that field. Despite the direction to answer honestly, I gave in to the temptation of answering all the questions in such a way that I believed would direct the results to the field I was interested in. The results were predictable; I’d have a career working in the field of Recreation. To this day I wonder what might have revealed itself had I kept completely open to the process and answered each question without bias.

A colleague at work told me that she too succumbed to shaping her own results way back in her own high school days. While my part-time employment factored into my answers, the influence of her then boyfriend and where he was headed in life caused her to answer her questions with a lean to working in the Chemistry field. She actually started post-secondary school taking Chemistry and after a very brief time realized that for her it was the most boring thing she could experience. Both she and I are Employment Counsellors working in Social Services. Funny how these assessments don’t work out when you intentionally skew the answers and impact the results!

Now yesterday I had a fellow approach me with a different kind of issue. With my guidance, he had just completed 7 days of self-assessments. Like my high school Guidance staff, I too implored those in the class I led to answer truthfully and stay open to the possible results that each assessment generated. This gentleman thought he did so, but on the final day he suddenly realized after something I said in my closing remarks that he had not answered the questions completely honestly. He has an arthritic condition, and so when he answered all the questions put to him over those 7 days, he answered always with his limitation in mind.

The results in his case suggested to him that he’d be best working doing what he’s been doing for years. This not being an option, he now wonders what would the results be if he was to redo all the assessments given with no limitations to his thinking. In fact, he asked me if it was possible to get a blank assessment for each of the activities and do the work on his own. Obviously generating personal results matters to him because he’s asking to repeat a great deal of work he’s just done.

What I find particularly incredible is that I wager if you can recall doing some kind of career/self assessment in high school, you likely haven’t done another one since. Why do I find this incredible? Well, simply put we all evolve. So like me, you’ve changed since your high school days. You’ve developed new interests, your beliefs and values have shifted as you expose yourself to more people. Likewise, your knowledge of careers has expanded; positions exist that didn’t when you walked the high school halls. You’ve had experience working for various bosses, you know yourself differently and experience the world differently than you did as an adolescent teenager. So it stands to reason you should get to know yourself as you are now.

I see great value now in investing in some self-assessment every 10 years or thereabouts. Perhaps when some major life changes occur it would be a valuable exercise to check in with your core beliefs, values, problem resolution styles, set some short and long-term SMART goals, and be able to articulate your personal philosophy. When was the last time you were able to do that?

Know thyself. Not surprisingly, knowing yourself intimately AND being able to communicate what you know about yourself to others is a fabulous strength one can have. When you know yourself, you can easily express who you are and what you’re after in a job interview, or when conversing with your current employer and developing a career plan.

If you find yourself jumping from job to job, searching for something that will bring you satisfaction and happiness; you know, that THING that will feed your passion, maybe this is it.

Weigh the cost of paying to sit down with a Career professional and be guided in this career exploration/self assessment process vs. all the time and money you’ve lost moving from job to job trying to find what to now has proved elusive.

The Workplace Workforce Inventory


As an individual, you should know your strengths and areas for improvement. These become essential when it comes to applying for a new job, making your case for a raise, competing for advancement or making your case for a lateral move into a new role. If you don’t know yourself well enough to accurately articulate your core assets, this my friend, is a major liability to which you are possibly unaware.

Now think beyond yourself; think of the broader workplace in which you contribute your skills, education and experience. Think of the other employees; your co-workers, and the talents they bring. If you look objectively at those around you, you’ll likely identify certain employees who are standouts in certain areas; people generally known to be the on-site experts in certain aspects of the organization. These are the ‘go-to’ people when specific problems and challenges arise. These are the ones recognized by most as having special skills, knowledge and advanced expertise.

In addition to skills, experience and education, there are other assets which people have in varying quantities. Softer skills such as attitude, work ethic, punctuality and attendance, genuine affinity for teamwork, leaders in action if not title and interpersonal skills. As you read each of these, perhaps certain people in your organization come to mind as the best examples; maybe you even see yourself has being at the forefront in a few areas.

Okay, now it’s not my job or yours in fact to actually put together a summary of the workforce in the organizations we work for. However, this is precisely what great organizations do, and they do it on a continuous basis. When an employer intimately knows the strengths of their workforce on an everyday basis, this knowledge positions them well to add whatever dimensions they believe they both want and lack when the individual pieces – you and I – move on or move out. Organizations that don’t assess the status of their workforces on a continuous basis are more reactionary when staffing needs arise, having then to make decisions about what they are lacking and need when time is pressing.

So how does this impact on you when you’re working as one of the front-line employees? Excellent question to ask and in answer let me ask you a question. How closely does how you perceive yourself align with how you are perceived by Senior Management? If the way you see yourself is mirrored by how decision-makers see you AND this is an overly positive assessment, you’re in good shape.

However, when the way you perceive yourself is not a shared view by others who are in decision-making roles with respect to staffing, you’d be wise to give this matter some attention now while you’ve the time to address things.

Suppose you see yourself as a team player. You can cite many examples from your experience where you have been involved in committees, projects and even covered the workload of absent co-workers. You assess yourself as I say, as a team player. Perhaps you’d find it surprising to learn however that your employer has been approached by several of your co-workers over the past year who have voiced concerns that while your part of these committees and projects, you actually contribute very little. Some might go so far as to say you’re more concerned with having your name attached to successful teams than actually putting in the work contributing to that team’s success. You’ve really been identified as more of a coat-tail rider. This causes the employer to recall the times when you’ve been asked to cover for absent co-workers and while you do it in the end, there’s always an unwelcome discussion to be had getting you to pitch in.

Now honestly, very few people who would benefit from checking in with how they are perceived by others actually ask for such feedback. Some don’t care what others think of them (as long as they get paid to work), and some are perceptive enough to guess that they aren’t going to like what they might hear.

Here’s the thing though: whether you check on how you are perceived or you don’t, you’re still being evaluated and assessed for your attitude, work ethic, strengths you bring to the team, shortcomings, etc. You are assessed by co-workers, Supervisors and/or Upper Management just as you assess their strengths and areas you see for improvement in them.

You can help yourself to keep the job you have now as well as position yourself for your next challenge in an organization if you give these matters some serious attention. Starting with a co-worker you feel will give you some honest feedback and generally be positive, ask them to share how they see you. Don’t get defensive, be a listener and express appreciation for their opinion. Now repeat this with some others, and include the boss.

What you don’t want to do is put this off until how others see you is cemented in any kind of negative way. If enough people tell you they see you in ways you don’t, you’ve got a choice to either carry on and not care, or make the necessary changes to how you go about your work day to alter their perception, bringing theirs more in line with how you wish to be seen.

May your work days be good days.

Define Yourself


Who are you? You are on one level I suppose a product of your past; everything from where you were born and brought up, the schools you attended, the people who surrounded you in your earliest formative years. Yet it’s more than this or people would be very much like their brothers and sisters, and very alike their neighbours and friends. But you, you’re unique.

No one knows you better than yourself or would you disagree with this premise? There are sometimes we might say to someone, “You know me better than I know myself”, but I suspect even when we say it we’re really indicating only a certain aspect of ourselves is known well by another rather than our complete make up.

Knowing ourselves; why is that so important? What’s that remotely have to do with employment, finding a job, landing a career? If that’s what we’re after shouldn’t we just run out and get a job; any job? Some people actually do make this critical mistake – but the number is very low. Even someone who says they are looking for and will do ‘anything’ usually draws the line at some point between what they’ll really do and what they won’t – and this is a good thing!

When you know yourself well you can identify and label the things you enjoy vs. those you don’t. You have an awareness of things you can do well, others you need help completing and yes other things you haven’t mastered and perform poorly at. Put together, you’ve got a pretty good idea of your skill set. To be successful and happy, it would seem logical then to perform work that gives you pleasure and that you perform well. The more you do this kind of work, you may increase your abilities from performing well to mastering.

The amazing thing about as humans however is that we grow. We grow and change over time. We take a job and at some point early on or at a later date we evolve and look for new challenges and new stimulation. While some of us could perform the same job for years or even decades, others opt to pursue different challenges that make use of some of our other skills. We may even choose to shift our employment into occupations where we haven’t mastered skills in order to develop skills we identify as needing and wanting to grow.

We are more than an accumulation of our skills though aren’t we? Sure we are. Our thoughts, needs, wants; things we see as beautiful, desirable. Let’s not forget too the things that limit us, impede us or just make the learning or living more of a challenge. We may have a physical or mental health issue that is part of our make up; and it may or may not be visible to the naked eye.

With respect to employment, is it the case that there is but a single job in this wide world that is meant for us and it is only that one single job that we were put on this earth to do? I certainly don’t think that for a second. However to listen to some speak, they are out searching endlessly for that perfect job, the one that will give their life meaning and define who they are and give them purpose. This belief can actually be a huge hindrance in landing employment because a person that believes there is but a single job they were meant to do often turns down many jobs fearing to choose wrong.

There is, is their not a certain prestige or value that we assign to jobs and employment too. If as some do we place a low value on a particular job vs. another, it might make us feel good to pursue a job of high common value feeling that is the job we were meant to do. But then what of the person who makes pipe cleaners for a living, bubble gum wrappers or toothpicks for a living. Is it likely that they identify there work as the one purpose they were put here on this earth and they do their work with passion, finding high value in it as meaningful and fulfilling. Who is to say, perhaps they do.

When you assess yourself; likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, etc. you still don’t have the complete picture of what defines you. It’s elusive, and just when you think you’ve got it, you realize what you used to find great joy in has become somewhat stale and less than completely satisfactory; well sometimes. We evolve, grow, regress, alter, morph and every so often we note the changes. We overcome tragedies and tests of our endurance.

It is the sum of all we experience and how we interact with those experiences that defines who we are and who we become. We can shift and make different choices in life intentionally and of course much in life happens to us unexpectedly for good or bad. We get hurt, we find elation, we crawl, we fly. We are the sum of all our experiences and truly unique.

There are many kinds of work in this world that you will perform well and enjoy. With every thing you do, take stock of what you do well and what you find both enjoyable and would rather avoid in the future.

When you define yourself, you find yourself.