Career Search

How do you find the right job for you? Or maybe I should phrase it this way: How do you find the right career for you? If you are thinking of making a career change, you aren’t alone. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average person will change careers between five to seven times. They also report that the average worker holds upwards of 10 different jobs before the age of 50. 

But when we have a discussion regarding changing careers and holding various jobs, I want to take a minute to clarify something. In our view, there is a huge difference in searching for and obtaining a J.O.B. (read Journey Over Broke) vs making a career move. And of course, mapping out your career ambitions and outlining a career search strategy may be difficult when you have to have a J.O.B. just to make ends meet.  

However, regardless of whether you will be balancing a career search while holding a J.O.B. or will be fully dedicated to finding your next career opportunity, being able to find a position within a career path that will make you feel satisfied and content starts with knowing exactly what you are looking for. 

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? 

But we all know it isn’t that easy. A quick Google search will demonstrate how many jobs are available…but that doesn’t mean any of them will be meaningful and rewarding to you.  

Identify your “Why”

Before you start your career search, spend some time thinking about why you have decided to explore your options. Knowing why you want to make a change will certainly help you identify what you are looking for.  

And be specific.  It may not be good enough to simply ask “Why have I decided to leave my current position?” A better question may be “What would make me want to stay in my current position?” 

Write it down and be brutally honest. 

Then identify your “What”

Now that you are clear as to why you are looking for a change, now it is time to make a detailed attribute list which clearly defines the perfect job for you. You will want to break the list of attributes into “have to have” and “like to have” characteristics.  

Need some help?  Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing; just simply print the table and finish populating it with company and job attributes that are important to you.

Company or Job AttributeHave to HaveLike to Have
The company is well established and stable.
The company has a positive reputation.
I believe in the company’s Mission.
I feel the company is in an industry that is making a difference…an industry I want to be a part of. 
The company offers continuing education and/or tuition reimbursement.
The company consistently promotes from within and/or offers professional development.
The position is very interesting to me. I can see myself in the field (role / company) for a very long time.
I have the core skills needed to be successful in the role.
I will be able to learn new competency and skills in the role.
I will be challenged yet supported in my new role.
It appears that leadership has a methodology to set clear expectations for me.
The position offers flexible working hours / work-from-home options / travel / Fill in the blank here.
My future supervisor is extremely qualified / an expert in the field.

You should have this list in mind as you search, apply, interview, and consider your offer packages for job opportunities.

Consider and then Outline your Key Skills

Now that you know what type of move you want to make and are ready to start your career search, now is the time to assess your personal competency and skills.  

I like to coach my team members to create an “Individual Development Plan” (IDP).  An IDP is an individually tailored career development roadmap which is intended to enhance your knowledge, skills and experiences.  Not only will this exercise help you to clearly outline which competencies you need to enhance in order to be successful in the career you have identified, it will also help you outline a development plan which will make you more competitive as a job seeker. 

Note that while you certainly want to evaluate your ‘hard’ skills, you will also want to consider assessing the soft skills needed for your industry. For example, if your career objective is to become a Clinical Research Associate, knowing GCP and ICH guidelines is a critical ‘hard’ skill. But don’t forget that having a flare for connecting with others, showing support, and being able to negotiate or handle conflicts will be a plus in any role, but especially in the CRA position. Therefore, be sure to assess yourself in areas such as your organizational and time management skills, project management capabilities, clear and concise communication expertise, conflict management and problem solving abilities.

How to create an IDP

Make a list of all the hard and soft skills that are needed in your chosen role. 

Not sure where to begin? You can simply assess the industry or market to better understand the demand for people with your particular skills and ambition. The easiest way to do this is by closely analyzing job descriptions for roles that are extremely interesting to you.  Additionally, consider scheduling time to speak to a recruiter within your desired industry. Recruiters continually have relationships with hiring managers who are looking for resources like you, so they will be able to tell you exactly what skills are more desirable in the current market.

Honestly and seriously review your current skills. 

Now that you have a list of hard and soft skills, go through the list with the current question in mind: What is my current level of competency in each?  Then rate yourself (I suggest a 1-5 range where 1 is entry level knowledge and 5 is mastery).

As a side note, many people (myself included) have a difficult time self-assessing. If you fall into this category, ask someone else to provide feedback into your ratings for each category. 

Outline your Individual Development Plan. 

Based on your personal assessment, identify which competencies you would like to focus developmental objectives and activities in, with the goal to meet long range targets (i.e. – career path objectives).

Then identify developmental objectives and activities to achieve these goals. Developmental activities may include shadowing an expert in the field, taking courses, volunteering for special projects or assignments, self-study, mentoring, etc. 

Important things to note: 

  • Set dates. Each developmental activity should have a set date for completion.  Hold yourself accountable.  
  • Limit what ‘long term’ means to you and your plan. It is good to only set goals for a 12-month time period. Then reassess your skills and re-establish your prioritized development plan to ensure continued growth. 
  • Don’t focus on too many things at once. I recommend only focusing on two or three areas of development at a time. Trust me, this is plenty! Once those are completed, reassess your skills so that you can identify the next two to three areas of focus. 
  • Your IDP is a living document. Once your current IDP is completed, create a new IDP so you can continue to map out and obtain your long term career objectives.

Prepare Your Resume

Now that you have outlined your key ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills, create or update your resume. This is also easier said than done as there are gaggles of ways to approach writing an effective resume

And, outside of just writing a chronological timeline of your employment, you should also consider other resume tips, blunders, and nuances such as what jobs to include and exclude, how to properly (and positively) represent gaps in employment, as well as knowing what type of keywords to use in order to be ‘found’ by resume keyword scanning systems. 

Spend the proper amount of time in this stage as your resume is what will open the door to further discussions.  

Establish a Job Search Strategy

Determine your personal brand so that you are clear regarding what story you want to represent to future employers. Also, outline how you plan to use social media and your network while searching for the right job for you. There is a hidden job market in every industry that can only be accessed via networking. Therefore, be sure to network with industry professionals as well as become an active member of industry organizations such as the ACRP, SOCRA and IAOCR. Nurturing your network and actively participating with organizations within the industry will not only help you identify positions which aren’t openly advertised, but will also provide visibility to your credentials. 

And who doesn’t want a job offer without even having to apply? 

Most importantly, be sure to have an organizational methodology in place so that you can keep track of your efforts.

Be Patient and Stay in Control

No matter what, don’t settle.  Every hiring manager wants to see your story…and your story should show that you have career goals and are taking specific actions to achieve them.  Finding the right job for you can be challenging.  And while you are being patient, keep an open mind. Perhaps a contract position can turn into your permanent dream job! Maybe a temporary SWAT position will help hone your therapeutic knowledge in order to win that perfect position.  

Don’t reject opportunities just because they aren’t exactly as you imagined them. Remember your list of ‘have to haves’ and ‘like to haves’ and compare every opportunity to that list in order to make a better decision. Who knows, something unexpected and wonderful may happen! 

Need Help in Finding the Right Job for You?

We are happy to help where we can. Reach out today and if we can’t help, we will do whatever possible to point you into the right direction.