Find the Job You Like Through People You Like.
When looking for a job we like and a successful career, we usually think about our skills, knowledge and motivation. I guess this makes sense. After all, jobs are about what we do. Work is the application of skills and knowledge.
It makes sense then to look for organizations that need your type of knowledge and skills. Locate them and you will be well on your way to finding a job. Who needs people other than as a method to get to your job via networking?
When thinking about what jobs and careers are best for us, we can get side-tracked when we restrict ourselves to an exploration of skills and knowledge. We miss the importance of people and the nature of our work relationships. People can be our true compass to finding the right job for us. Think of people not as a means to an end but rather as the goal within itself to achieve that ideal job and career.
To make this work, think of yourself in your new job at the center (is there any other place to be?) surrounded by all the people that depend on you as well as those that you depend on. Describe as best you can the characteristics of these people who would bring out the best in you. It is OK to be politically incorrect. This is just between you and you.
Bosses – What are their job titles? Do you prefer to work for someone who has done your job, understands your job and can tell you how to do your job so you can learn or maybe you would prefer them to be clueless? Are they clear or vague about objectives? Hands-on or hands-off? In your office so you have ready access or halfway around the world? Are they male or female? Younger or older? College educated or school of hard knocks?
Peers – Do they do the same job as you or different jobs? Are they amiable, competitive, smart, friendly or strictly professional? Is it important they share your political perspective? Will they need to depend on your expertise or will you need to depend on theirs? What is their level of education?
Customers – This might include internal or external customers. They might be called clients or stakeholders but they are the people who benefit directly from your work. Are they smart and capable or needy and in need of nourishment? Are they young or old? Privileged or underprivileged? Business people or the general public? Ask yourself what types of problems or needs do you want to solve for them?
Subordinates – If you aspire to be a manager, describe your subordinates. Are they newbies with the need for structure and your mentorship or are they experienced hands needing you to find resources and open doors to get their job done? Are they technical or creative (or both)? Are they college educated or does it matter? Are they union or non-union? Under one roof or spread around the world?
There are two benefits to exploring this in depth. First, it will help you identify factors that will sharpen your job objective as well as highlight the most satisfying – and dissatisfying aspects of a job. These factors can change over time while skills stay the same. For example, at one time I liked counseling juvenile delinquents. No more. Today I like counseling smart adults who want to make the most out of their career.
The second benefit is that you have described the people with whom you should be networking. Each of these groups will know more about the types of organizations you should work for. One mistake job seekers make is to only network with professional peers. Think about everyone you would work with.
For example, let’s assume you want to work as a customer engineer for a software company. You have identified customers to including information technology managers who are buyers and users of software products. Asking them which companies they think provide the next best thing in software could give you the lead you are looking for.
If you are a teacher, ask a parent what they think of their children’s school.
If they recommend the school, (or the I.T. manager recommends the software company) call up the principle (technical support manager) and say you were referred to them by a happy parent (customer) and you want to work for a school who cares about what parents (customers) think. There is a good chance they will meet with you to tell you about their organizations and learn more about you.
You may still need to go through an application process but, this is a powerful and good first step to any job search to put yourself well ahead of the pack.
So, who do you want to work with?