What Is Important to You in Your Career?

You may have been too busy climbing the corporate ladder to ever stop and ask yourself important career questions. Now that the ladder has been, in effect, pulled out from under you, you have the chance to ask those questions. Start by assessing what is really important to you. Make a list of 20 criteria you can use to assess future career goals. Write them down as you think of them, in no particular order. Your list may have some of the following items:

  • Prestige

  • Money

  • More time with family

  • Stay in this area

  • Travel less (or travel more)

  • More creative work

  • Less administrative detail

  • Learn new technologies

  • Smaller (or larger) company
When you complete the list, put the items in order of importance, starting with the most important items first. Be brutally honest with yourself as you develop your list. Don't say money isn't important if you are unwilling to live without the sports car.

If you are married, ask your spouse to make a similar list and put it in order also. You may find that his or her priorities are very different from yours. Money may be less important to him than you thought. She may really wish that you'd follow some of those entrepreneurial dreams you have always had. The point of this exercise is to look at what matters to you, and to focus your job search on jobs that will allow you to do more of what you want to do.

You may find that you got into sales because you wanted to make more money, but that when you really think about it, you'd rather be home more often. Or, you may realize that the huge corporate structure you thought made you feel secure was actually stifling your abilities. A smaller company may offer you challenges you may never have considered.

The result of this exercise may be a decision to make minor changes in your career path. On the other hand, you may make major changes you never thought you'd make: You may change careers altogether, go back to school, or start your own business.

Even if financial concerns require you to take a less attractive position right away, don't abandon the process. You can still take steps to make happen what you'd like to have happen. Save to start the company or go to night school while you work. "The point is," Dr. Averbeck advises, "if you take a job that isn't exactly what you want to do, be aware of why you are taking it, and keep working toward something that really does fit.''

Sources Of Job Leads

You've determined the companies that are likely to need your skills, and you've developed a resume and had it reviewed by an expert. You've devised an enticing and professional cover letter that you're sure will get you noticed. How do you get your resume and, more importantly, your resume in front of the right people? How do you get your foot in the door?

There are a number of methods you can use to get access to potential employers. Most job-search experts agree that an effective job-search campaign should involve as many methods as possible. For example, many people out of work scan the newspaper classified section every Sunday, looking for appropriate positions and responding to them. You may be surprised to learn that only 10 to 14 percent of all open positions are filled through advertising. Responding to ads in the newspaper should be just one of the many tactics you use to find a new job.

What Do You Want To Do?

If you've been a research director for a consumer products firm for the past 10 years, your first instinct will be to put together a resume and send it to other consumer products firms. The desire to find employment quickly can force you to make decisions without really assessing what it is you want to do. Being suddenly unemployed can be an unnerving experience, but it can also provide you with an opportunity to reassess yourself, your career to date, and your true interests.

"The goal," according to career development specialist Dr. Daniel H. Averbeck, "should be to change your focus from merely finding another job to finding work that truly satisfies you." Most people never stop to assess if their occupations truly fit them.

Being laid off can give you an opportunity to stop and consider what you'd really like to do. "You can look at being laid off as an opportunity, rather than as the most horrible thing to ever happen to you," Dr. Averbeck contends. This kind of self-assessment takes time, but right now you can afford a day or two to determine what is important to you before you continue your career.

Some of the most successful people have been fired at one time in their lives. Steven Jobs was fired from Apple Computer, one of the world's most successful computer companies and a company he founded.

Instead of viewing this situation as a personal failure, Jobs used the opportunity to focus his thinking and forge ahead with new ideas and plans. Within two years he founded NeXT, Inc., a computer company that eventually found backing from such industry giants as IBM.