Is Your Career Goal Realistic?

by Smith-Proulx, Laura Monday, September 27, 2010
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If you’re not gaining the response you want from your job hunt, there can be several reasons: lack of hiring in your desired field, a watered-down resume that doesn’t represent your skills, shotgun job-search tactics like applying to every job you see, or an over-the-top, unrealistic goal for your next position.

The latter situation can occur when you’re unsure how your skills tie into different rungs on the career ladder, causing you to overshoot for the next level of advancement.

You might find, for example, that your recent MBA isn’t that important to your goal, or that your record of career promotion is not as strong as that of your competition. In addition, it’s possible that employers prefer a certification credential that you have yet to earn.

Whatever the situation, you’ll need to do your homework prior to continuing down the same path—especially if you want to get different results. Here are 3 ways to tell if your career goal is on-target with what employers want:

1 – Surf job postings for alignment with your skill set.

It’s important to research the requirements most companies will have for the job you seek, and one of the best ways to do this is by reviewing a job board aggregator (such as indeed.com) for roles in your field.

For example, you might find that management jobs posted for your industry always require a minimum of 5 years hands-on team oversight. In this case, you’ll need to examine your resume closely to see if your leadership expertise stands out enough to warrant a response.

Conversely, if you are truly “stretching” some team coaching experience that you’ve had on a just a few projects, employers might prefer competing candidates with stronger leadership skills.

Similarly, if the jobs you crave all require an MBA, your credentials can fall short if you’ve just finished your Bachelor’s degree. In this case, you could plan to enter a graduate-level program—and target jobs a few steps lower in the interim.

2 – Strike up a conversation with a recruiter.

One of the best sources for researching real-world job requirements, recruiters will often tell you what they see as obstacles in your background—assuming that any exist.

Keep in mind that many recruiters keep hectic schedules—meaning that you’ll have to be flexible enough to have a quick conversation via phone or email. However, maintaining relationships with some of the leading recruiters in your field is a great idea for your long-term success, as well as for short-term research.

Plan to ask for a few minutes of a recruiter’s time, asking them to give you an idea of the qualifications they seek for their corporate clients, and their recommendations for candidates who plan to pursue these types of jobs.

Don’t forget to take copious notes and follow-up with a personalized thank-you letter.

3 – Check in with your network—or build one.

If you haven’t kept in touch with others in your field, consider picking up the phone to invite former colleagues for lunch. You might find that others are also considering a job change (and you can swap stories), or can provide insight into the type of positions you can pursue.

One other networking option to consider is joining a professional trade association. Here, you’ll find a like-minded group of leaders—as well as a gold mine of information on the opportunities in your field.

One of the most valuable activities you can undertake during a job hunt, networking with industry leaders, peers, and employers will give you access to a wealth of career management ideas. Staying in touch with others also ensures a ready source of referrals for your job hunt, as well as another perspective on whether your career plans are grounded in reality.

In summary, you might find that there are other reasons than the economy for a slower-than-usual job hunt. Researching your career options and adjusting either your tactics (or your expectations) can accelerate your search and help you land a new position much sooner.