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5 Questions to Ask Before You Start Your Job Search
June 2010

After many anxious nights and frustrating days you've finally made a decision: you need to find a new job. Over the last few months you may have gone back and forth, thinking and rethinking, questioning if you should just stick it out or is now the time for you to get your resume updated in plans for finding a new home for your talent. The perfect timing for you to start your search is before you begin feeling a desperate need to get out of your current position. One of the worst times to start a job search is when you feel like your back is up against the wall.

Deciding to search for a new job, regardless of the labor market, can be both exciting and frightening. There’s excitement in thinking about new possibilities for your career and work-life. But thinking about the time, energy, and potential rejection involved in the job search process can be overwhelming. For those who decide that finding a new job is well worth the challenges a job search will bring, a larger question looms: How can I be sure my next job will be any better than my last one?

I’ve been there. Initially excited about a new position in a new company, but becoming quickly disenchanted with the job within the first year. We all expect somewhat of a lull after the honeymoon phase is over, but what happens when you find yourself in the same position again in your new job? You do all the work to change jobs but still end up with the same frustration, the same poor work environment, the same disgruntled colleagues, the same dread every Monday morning. The first thing that comes to mind when we reach this place again is that it is time to find a new job – and we start the process all over again.

If you have found yourself in this situation, before you start your job search, it’s time to take stock and examine the one common denominator of all of your work experiences: you. Get clear about what you really need to thrive instead of just survive at work. Doing a better job defining exactly what you want doesn't mean that your ideal job will magically ppear, but it will help you focus your job search on opportunities that have greater potential for long term career growth. Instead of applying to jobs based on title, salary, and maybe location, here are five questions to help shape where you begin your search:

  1. Which values are most important to you right now? You may have chosen jobs based on money before, but maybe autonomy and growth are more important for you now.
  2. What experience or opportunity is missing in your current work? If your current tasks are not challenging you, the same job description in a different company won’t make a difference.
  3. What kind of opportunity will allow you to do your best work? The same job in a different industry could make a big difference in job satisfaction and growth potential.
  4.  What kind of work environment, culture and values do you want in your next employer? Use your network and online resources to get background information before you spend time applying to companies that may not be a good fit.
  5. What thoughts, behaviors and beliefs about work do you need to let go of in order to attract different opportunities? Remember you will attract what you give attention to. Are you holding onto a belief that work has to be hard? Or maybe you expect that managers are always out to find your flaws.

In a sense your job search is similar to the process of looking for a new car. Very rarely does someone walk into a random sales room with no knowledge of the features, values and most importantly the preferences they are looking for. The time spent in answering these questions before you start your search enables you to look in the right places and gives you a better chance to rule out opportunities that are not a good fit. So get out your journal, notebook or where ever you have decided to record your responses and get started.

Happy Searching!