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The Right Job, Right Now effectively bridges the gap between "What do I want to do?" and "How do I do it?" by presenting a complete step-by-step plan for long-term career satisfaction using self-assessment, self-marketing, and a comprehensive job search and career development strategy.
Based on the author's Kaleidoscope Career Model, this book shows you how to take charge of your career and takes you, step-by-step, through the complete job search process including:
Career assessment - what do you have to offer and what do you want in return?
Taking action - searching for a new job, interviewing, and accepting offers.
On-the-job issues - answers to common questions from dealing with a bad boss to performance management
Using her unique and straightforward approach you will learn how to align your skills and abilities with your compensation and benefit needs and company culture preferences to find your career sweet spot - the qualities of a job that will allow you to perform to the best of your abilities and be rewarded accordingly. Your career sweet spot becomes the basis of targeting a job search, writing resumes, taking advantage of technology, interviewing effectively, and landing the perfect job.
Susan D. Strayer, SPHR, is a human resources professional, career development expert and freelance writer. As the founder of University and Career Decisions Susan works with individuals, companies and universities in career management and development; human resources and recruiting strategy and employment brand. Visit her website at www.susanstrayer.com.
Getting Started—Ready, Set, Go
Jason is a thirty-year-old working professional.* His dad's birthday is tomorrow and Jason, total slacker that he is, hasn't bought him a gift yet. His time is limited so he heads over to the local mall on his lunch hour. He wants to get a great gift but he has no idea what to buy. He hasn't talked to his sister to see what she is buying, he hasn't called his mom to ask for suggestions, and he hasn't done any online research for any ideas. Like many men, Jason dreads shopping, so he's not familiar with the shops in the mall. When he gets there, he walks in and starts wandering. He assumes he knows his dad well enough to find something he will like. Jason rambles from store to store looking for the perfect gift.
Time passes quickly and before Jason knows it, he has ten minutes left on his lunch hour and no gift. Finding himself in the department store, he settles for a shirt and tie. He pays quickly and walks out disappointed. He has a gift that he knows his dad will use, but it's not what he wanted. He also knows he didn't get to half the stores in the mall.
There is a way Jason could have made his search for a present much easier. You know those mall directories that have those big "You Are Here" signs on them? Had Jason thought to consult one, he could have figured out where he was in the mall and what choices were nearby. Or he could have looked at all the options, gotten a gift idea or two, and then determined the quickest route to his destination. Jason probably didn't have to settle.
This story isn't about a man's unfamiliarity with the mall. It's about knowing what you're looking for (in this case a gift) but not knowing exactly where you're going or how to get there. You can't merely say you need a gift and expect to find the perfect one. You have to research what the recipient might like, look at your store options, and make a plan for the time you have available. In the same way you can't say you need a job and expect to land the perfect one. You have to examine your options, make a plan to narrow them down, and find the right one.
Ready . . .
The Right Job, Right Now involves hard work, commitment, and action. There's no such thing as a silver bullet that will deliver your dream job after you read a few hundred pages. If you are truly frustrated with your career and willing to take action, you will get results!
The source of career frustration can be any number of annoyances or difficulties. For Brandon, it's that jerk of a boss who makes waking up every morning equivalent to a trip to the dentist. For Julia, the only passion at work is on the afternoon soap opera video streaming to her computer daily. For Kristine, it's the nature of the work she has to do—the cubicles around her are filled with intelligent, mutually respectful colleagues, but she'd rather socialize by the water cooler than make another cold call to yet another prospective client.
Complaining to anyone who will listen doesn't help. Your mom doesn't really understand what you do. "What exactly do you consult on, dear?" Your friends are about to start a collection to send you to a therapist (or maybe a new therapist), and when you talk about your job dissatisfaction your spouse looks at you with a blank stare that says, "I look like I'm listening but, really, I'm drowning you out."
Perhaps you're about to begin your career and afraid to graduate because you can't imagine finding a job you love. Maybe you've moved from one job to another trying to compensate for a bad boss or boring work assignments. Or you stay in the same lackluster position thinking it can't get any better or that you shouldn't cheat on faithful stability. Regardless of the reason, you are probably thinking career perfection is unattainable, that it doesn't exist. Keep in mind, however, that career perfection isn't about rising to the top of the corporate ladder or getting it all (whatever that means). It's about defining and getting what you want the most. And that is definitely attainable.
You may want a boss who is a true mentor, four weeks of vacation, and a clear path for growth. Your colleague may want a flexible schedule, domestic-partner benefits, and that next plum client assignment. Hmm, now that you're thinking about it, that flexible schedule sounds great, but the travel that comes with the star client assignment isn't worth it. Everyone has different choices and options. This is where the kaleidoscope comes in.
Kaleidoscopes are instruments of art. When you pick up a kaleidoscope, you're the artist in control of that set of colors. The slightest turn produces a new pattern, until you settle on one that pleases your eye.
A career can be thought of in the same way; certain shapes and colors (that is, skills and rewards) create a pattern unique to the individual. No two career paths are identical. I'm going to ask you to create your own career kaleidoscope that will lead you to your perfect career. You don't have to be an artist by nature to make this work. You just need to know how to be creative with your kaleidoscope and make the best choices.
Set . . .
Before we begin, there are six rules you need to follow.
One: Honesty Reigns
Honesty is essential at all times. In order to create the Career Kaleidoscope that's the best reflection of yourself, you have to be perfectly honest. Honest with yourself, your partner, your spouse, your family, and your dog. Well, maybe not the dog, but you get the picture. What you think should be important, is irrelevant. It's what really matters to you that matters most. This is no time to beat around the bush. If you can't be honest, you can't play.
Two: Determine Who Else Gets to Play
Art is very personal and you're about to build what might be one of your most personal creations. Is it your career? Sure. Does it have an effect on everyone else around you? Absolutely. If you're in a committed relationship, you have to take that into consideration. Remember, you already agreed to be honest and you need to extend this honesty into a very candid conversation with your partner about your career.
You may think you already know what role a career plays in your life, but what happens if and when you have kids? What if you change your mind about wanting to travel extensively for work? While you have to take charge and create the Career Kaleidoscope, you also need to share it with the people in your life who should have a say in how your job affects them. Should you ask your mom's permission before taking a job with an extensive travel schedule? Probably not. But if she's sick or elderly and requires your care, you should consider these factors and have a conversation with her and any other family members who are involved. Bottom line: Be prepared to involve others as you make your career decisions.
Three: In the End, It's Your Choice
You can do all the research you want, talk to family members, mentors, specialists in your field or industry, but at the end of the day, each decision about your career is yours to make. Sure you'll make sacrifices in deference to others in your life. But you have to be the one to decide to make that sacrifice or you'll be miserable.
Four: Getting It Down on Paper
The biggest mistake most people make with their career strategy is keeping it all in their heads. If you were assigned to manage a project at work, what is the first thing you'd do? You'd create a plan. On paper. Keeping your career preferences and choices in your head makes it nearly impossible to compare your options and make good decisions. Imagine going into a project-update meeting at work without any evidence of what you've accomplished. If you work for yourself, you could get away with it, but it won't fly anywhere else. You've got to sit down and commit the same effort and attention to your career strategy as you would to a project at work.
Five: Be Prepared to Do Some Work
Although creating your Career Kaleidoscope is logical and straightforward, you've got work to do throughout the process. The level of effort you apply is up to you. Think about the relationships in your life. The more energy and effort you put into making them work, the more you get out of them. The same goes for your career strategy.
If you put the work in now to create your Career Kaleidoscope and your strategy, you'll save yourself a great deal of time, energy, and effort later that comes from job hopping, staying in a job you don't like, or through overall career frustration.
Six: There's No Obvious Answer
Unfortunately we live in a world in which people sometimes think "What's the right thing to do?" or "My parents really wanted me to become a doctor" or "I wasn't supposed to become a teacher." If you want to find the perfect career for you, you've got to throw those notions out the window and think for yourself. If you want a job that pays a high salary—indulge your want. If you're not interested in taking over the family business, say so. You have to be prepared to choose what you want without worrying what you should do or what's expected of you. Will you have to make sacrifices and work long hours to earn that high salary? Perhaps. Will it be hard to tell your dad you don't want to run the store? Sure. But a good career strategy requires making the tough choices.
Now that the rules are established, we're ready to go. The first step is to create the base of the kaleidoscope itself. Let's get in the mindset of values and boundaries. Married? Think about the one trait in your spouse or partner that you know your lifetime mate had to have. Or, think about your favorite food. "I absolutely can't have steak unless I have ______ with it." Before creating any career strategy or plan, it is important to determine any must-haves or any absolutes. This involves defining your values and setting your boundaries.
For example, if a family situation has you attached to a specific geographic area, take that into account before wasting time exploring opportunities across the country. If you know your career will never be your first priority, create that as a boundary and explore opportunities that match this decision. Remember, no one's judging you. It doesn't matter whether your dad thinks your career should be your first priority. It's whether you do. This first step might be the hardest because it might be the first time in your life that you think about your career in your own terms. You may have to consider your spouse or other family member's feelings later, but for now think first about what you want.
Hold Your Horses
Some career experts tell you to plan first and then act. Others tell you to act first, trying on different personas and jobs to see what you like. The Right Job, Right Now combines these options. Remember, there is no silver bullet and only you can determine what will work best for you. If you're an executive in mid-career, with enough time and money to live on while you experiment with your options, trying on different identities is ideal, but you have to be honest with yourself about how much time and effort is realistic and available (are those your kids screaming in the background?). On the other hand, if you're a new professional, fresh out of college, you may not want to waste those crucial, early years on "trying on" different career options. Imagine for a moment that you found the best-fit career the first time you tried it on for size. Your career would grow and advance that much more quickly. However, it's never too late to find the right job. Never.
First, you're going to create some boundaries. Using your life preferences, you're going to narrow down your options and create some parameters. The world may be your oyster, but let's rule out the obvious first, shall we?
You're going to have to figure out what matters to you in your life, what skills you have, what kind of environment you like to work in, and where you see yourself—as a subject matter expert or a manager? Don't stop in the middle. If you really want to make this work, go through each of the following six steps and take them seriously. This is your life, your career. If you don't take it seriously, no one else will.
To start, you'll be completing your own Career Kaleidoscope by tackling each of the steps one at a time. In Step 1 you define your values and boundaries. This will help determine what role you want your career to play in your life right now, along with the absolutes—the factors that have to be present for you to even begin to think about the type of career or job you will accept. In Steps 2 and 3, you'll focus on what you have to offer. What do you have to offer a potential employer and how well can you articulate your strengths and how you actually want to use them? In Steps 4 and 5, you'll decide on what you want in return. For all of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into your daily work, how do you want to be rewarded and in what type of environment? In Step 6, you will focus on where you want to see your career headed. What is your vision?
The information derived from these steps will lead you to the center of the Kaleidoscope—or what I call your career "sweet spot." Think of the sweet spot as the "right job." It combines all of the most important elements of a job. You can't have everything you want, but you can have what matters most.
As you go through Part One and create your Career Kaleidoscope, keep in mind that nothing is set in stone. This is where the "right now" part comes in. As your life changes, as your commitments change, so will your career. Think about what you want right now as you create the Kaleidoscope and as your life changes, go back and revisit the Kaleidoscope. This flexible career tool can be used again and again as your desires, needs, and circumstances evolve.
Copyright © 2006 by Susan D. Strayer. All rights reserved.