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Chapter 1 Your Life Dictates Your Job Search, Not the Reverse

If you’ve picked up this book, you are looking for a job. You might be launching a job search at this exact moment for many reasons:

You are a student:

  • You are a student who is graduating into the workforce full time.
  • You are a student looking for an internshipA job set up for the purpose of learning or developing the intern. While the employer also benefits, the difference between an internship and a regular job is that the primary purpose of the internship should be the intern’s development. for next semester or the summer.

You have experience:

  • You lost your job or took time off and are looking to reenter the workforce.
  • You have a job but want to move into a different industry or have a different role.
  • You want to relocate, and your current employer doesn’t have an office where you will be moving.

The reason you are looking for a job is important because it changes what you need to find in your next job, as illustrated in Table 1.1 "Reasons You Are Looking for a Job".

Table 1.1 Reasons You Are Looking for a Job

Why You Are Looking What You Need from Your Next Job
Student: Graduating from school
  • Create a foundation for your career by gaining solid experience and developing skills
  • Become financially self-sufficient
Student: Looking for an internship
  • Earn credit for a class or earn money for school
  • Gain experience in anticipation of a full-time job search
  • Convert your internship into a full-time job
Experienced candidate: Returning to workforce
  • Close the gap in your employment history
  • Catch up on current skills, expertise, and network
  • Create financial stability
Experienced candidate: Changing careers
  • Get a chance to try a different industry or function
  • Find a role that transitions nicely from what you did before to what you want to do going forward
Experienced candidate: Relocating
  • Get to your new desired location with little disruption to your career from the move

Why you look for a job also influences the constraints you face when you look:

Timing and deadlines. On one extreme, you have the internship search with a tight, inflexible time frame. If you need an internship for creditInternship where you are receiving school credit in exchange for performing the internship. The credit is usually in lieu of receiving a wage. next semester, you either get the job by the time of registration or do not. You may need to relocate by a certain date. Your savings may be running out, so you may need to return to the workforce within a definite timetable.

On the other hand, you may have a job that is secure, so you can take your time with your search. You may be an ambitious freshman or sophomore with several years before you graduate and need that full-time job.

Access to resources. When you are in school, you most likely have a dedicated career services office. If you have graduated and have been out of the workforce for some time, you may have little contact with a professional network or support system. You can join an industry association, participate in networking groups, or hire a career coachSomeone who works with you on your job search. Typical activities include helping you select appropriate jobs and careers to pursue, helping with résumés and other marketing, practicing interviewing and networking, and keeping the search on track. to help you create that professional network and support system. Your options for job search support will be different depending on where you live and how much you can invest in your search. People in busy urban areas can more easily find a chapter of a professional organization that matches their interests, like-minded people with whom to network, and career coaches and other professional support resources for hire. In a less-populated geography, you may have to rely on virtual access to professional organizations, networks, and resources. Similarly, your level of financial investment dictates which and how many organizations and networks you can join and what outside resources you can hire. Free or low-cost guidance is available from alumni associations, government agencies focused on workforce issues, and online job boards or career sites that offer guidance and expertise.

Emotional constraints. Certain industries, such as banking and consulting, have very regimented and competitive campus recruiting seasons. Pressure is high as soon as you hit the campus. Someone returning to the workforce after a gap may feel more anxiety or fear than a job seeker with continuous employment. A career changer may feel frustrated at having to break through to a new industry or function. Table 1.2 "Job Search Considerations" summarizes each of these considerations as it applies both to students and experienced candidates.

Table 1.2 Job Search Considerations

Considerations Students Experienced Candidates
Timing and deadlines

Internships have tight deadlines that must be adhered to, often with no room for vacation days or personal plans

You may have to relocate for your internship, which can conflict with dorm room requirements

Your savings may dictate that you find a summer job, versus an internship, especially if that internship is nonpaid (you may or may not receive school credit)

On the other hand, you may be a student who has a financial cushion, and you need not rush into a job just for the compensation it provides

When reentering the workforce, having as few gaps as possible is helpful and requires less explaining and messaging

Relocating adds time to a job search, in addition to expense. Traveling to the desired location is both time consuming and expensive

Savings may dictate the length of your search and when timing is tight, you may have fewer options to consider

Candidates should always consider their “financial cushion,” which can provide more options in a search

Access to resources

When in school, you have access to career services, which can function as a career coach of sorts

Perhaps your school does not have extensive career services offerings. Perhaps it's best to enlist the services of a professional career coach

Investing in a career coach may yield exceptional results that can be paid for using a fraction of your first paycheck

Where you live and how much you choose to invest change your options for job search guidance. Metro areas are more likely to have professional associations and networking groups in your area of interest

Free or low-cost guidance is available from alumni associations, government agencies focused on workforce issues, and online job boards or career sites that offer guidance and expertise

Emotional constraints

Certain industries have inflexible time constraints (e.g., investment banking, management consulting), so the time pressure is significant

Other industries are more flexible and hire throughout the year (e.g., media, communications, technology), but there is still the pressure of networking events, interviews, and follow-ups

Some industries (e.g., education, health care) may not come on campus at all, so you would have to manage the entire calendar yourself

When seeking to reenter the workforce, you need to craft a message to explain timing and reasons, which can sometimes be emotional. Harnessing emotion can help develop rapport but it also needs to be balanced with remaining professional

Career changers can feel a great amount of frustration trying to break into a new area

It is important that you understand your life situation and how it might influence your search before you begin any job search. The mechanics of a job search are similar across the different scenarios, and we begin the six-step job search process in the next chapter. In this chapter, we outline the impact of your life situation on your job search:

  • How your job search changes depending on your specific life situation
  • How you can maximize your inherent advantages
  • How you can minimize any constraints