This is a guest post by Diane Nicholas of WK Advisors

When faced with the prospect of looking for a new job, most people update their resume and send it to a few job postings that look interesting.  Then they sit back and wait.  This process may eventually get you a job but it is slow, painful and doesn’t always lead to a job that is meaningful to you. Job searching in this method can become a vicious cycle and often leads to a string of ugly job hops on your resume, which will turn off future employers and can stall or hurt your chances of advancing your career.

jobsearchIf you are looking for a new opportunity, you should start by assessing your current situation and needs to understand what exactly you are looking for in your next role.  The interview process is a two-way street.  It is as much about your future employer learning about you as it is about you learning about them.  Therefore, you need to know what you want in your career and future employment before you start your search.

The first question you should ask yourself is:


Why am I looking?

Seems like a simple question, right?  The number one reason for most people will be “I hate my boss.”  That’s right.  Surveys have shown that the number one reason for making a job change is that someone did not like their supervisor.  The number two answer is “I want a promotion or career advancement.” If this is your case, perhaps it is time to look for a new role within your current organization.  This is particularly true if you have only been in your current role for a short time.

The reason why is simple: hiring managers don’t like job hops. The first thing that every recruiter and hiring manager will look at on a resume is how long you held each position listed.  It is a painful truth about the hiring process.  So if you haven’t been in your role for a long time and you are looking for a change,  your best option might be to look within your current employer for a new opportunity that gets you away from your current boss or provides you with the new challenges that you seek.  Additionally, promotions within a current employer are like big gold stars on your resume.  Finding a way to create the opportunities you want with your current employer may end up enhancing your resume.


What are you good at and what do you like to do the most?

There are two sides to this part of your assessment.  The first is for you to assess whether you really like the role you are in and really want that promotion to a higher level of responsibility.  Not everyone does well with the increased demands and life balance intrusions of higher responsibility.  Maybe you want to take a step back and support someone else in a leadership role rather than continue in one yourself.  Maybe you find another aspect of the organization or industry more interesting.

The other side of this assessment is that roles in one organization don’t always line up with the same role in another organization.  If a responsibility you love in your current role is not part of your new role, will you be okay giving that up or devoting a smaller percentage of your time to it? ?  By assessing the responsibilities you like and want most to keep, you’ll be able to hone in on the position most aligned to your preferences and strengths.


What type of organization do you want to work in?

Some people like being part of a large organization; they like structure and feel there are more opportunities for advancement.  Others prefer smaller organizations where they can wear more hats and tackle greater challenges.  You should also think about the organization’s culture, reputation, opportunities for career growth, financial status, etc.  You may want to work with a company that shares your dedication to healthful living or you may find the challenge of a turnaround operation invigorating.  Whatever those elements are, you should identify them early so you can narrow the field at the onset.


What type of boss do you work best with?

Be honest with yourself.  Do you like working with a boss who gives you specific direction or one who is hands off?  Do you need a boss who will remind you of deadlines or one who prefers you manage your time independently? What style works best for you?  During the interview process, assess the style of your future supervisor to determine whether it would be a natural fit.


Finally, what type of working environment works best for you?

Corporate cultures are as unique as the personalities that inhabit them.  You may find some work environments too stiff and formal or others to loose and informal.  Knowing what you are comfortable with and what works for you is important in targeting the right career move.

If you are building a strong resume for yourself, you are going to give at least a three-year commitment to your next employer.  If you make an assessment up front and decide on the must-haves, you will find a place that works well for you and your career.  Three years will go by quickly in a place you love, but drag by if you hate it.  Ask yourself these five questions before starting a job search, and you will be more focused, efficient and overall will lead to a better choice for your future and your career.


About the guest post author:

Diane Nicholas is a consultant of WK Advisors, a division of the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer focused on identifying and recruiting mid-level executives.