People find jobs, but they build careers
A graduate student asked me for advice about job hunting. He had responded to many different position postings. He’d tailored his cover letters and his resume to align them with the position descriptions. And he’d had a couple of interviews but as yet, no success.
I gave him suggestions on how to build his interview skills, how to phrase a follow-up communication to the employer. I gave him some other suggestions for networking.
But I told him, sometimes you have to create an opportunity rather than just respond to a position posting. Instead of applying for a job opening, you could present a proposal to a potential employer. The proposal would emphasize your unique skills and the advantages of the proposal for the employer. Whether my approach is successful or not, the larger point is that a lot of job hunting is reactive rather than proactive.
Lately we hear about the many choices that job candidates have because the labor market is so tight. Candidates are able to evaluate employers and exercise choices that they did not have when demand for labor was not as strong. Employers for their part now need to do more than just talk about the job opening. They need to sell themselves to candidates in terms of work culture and job development.
But there is still an underlying assumption that there exists an ideal job for a candidate. It is just a matter of finding it or, lately, negotiating to get it. I don’t buy this.
The perfect job does not exist, until you create it.
We are unable to run the following experiment – take two individuals with equal qualifications and give them the same job and then follow their career development. I will bet that each of those candidates will end up developing different career paths. Sometimes one is in the right place at the right or wrong time and takes advantage of opportunities that present themselves. In the course of that the person develops skills and networks that lead to other opportunities.
Employment is an interaction between the employee and the employer. The personality that a given individual brings to the workplace and their interactions with other people in the workplace and the workplace changes in response to macro or micro circumstances, none of these things can be predicted. Yet these are the factors that lead to successful matches between employees and employers, and lead to good job experiences.
Therefore my advice is:
- Seek out jobs with the opportunity to learn,
- Ask about how supervision is handled in the workplace. Is it regular or ad-hoc?
- If it is not regularly scheduled, you will not have as many opportunities to learn and build relationships.
- Take advantage of growth opportunities when they are made available
- Ask about what happened to the person who held the position you are applying for? Were they promoted? Did they move on, maybe a higher level job, somewhere else?
- Keep in mind the long view of building a set of skills: Note that sometimes the skills you build may not be evident. The assignment your supervisor gives you may not seem so stimulating. Well, being able to handle the drudge work is important too. Brilliant ideas are just ideas until someone takes the time to do the implementation work.
- Build your network: This does not mean adding names to your friends or connections network. Networking is like learning a foreign language – if you don’t use, you lose it. And remember that the more you give to others, the more you will receive.
These are the things that will sustain you despite the ups and downs of economic and other world events. And they will help you build your career because despite whatever job you find, I always say,
People find jobs but they build careers.
Are you a bit lost in your job/career and need some coaching? Or maybe you just need a reality check. I am here to help. Get in touch via email@example.com