When you don’t love your current job, you spend every day in an unpleasant situation. It’s normal to want out, and to be tempted by any opportunity that might provide an escape. But before you apply for every job out there, ask yourself a very important question.
What specific career goals will your best job help you reach?
When you jump at what seems like a quick solution, the job that’s “okay for now,” you hold yourself back from achieving the future you really want. It’s a major life decision where thoughtful planning makes all the difference. We recommend candidates conduct a self-appraisal.
Getting the Most of Your Self-Appraisal
Throughout history, some of the most brilliant minds have pointed out that we can’t predict the future, but we can invent it. Setting career goals is an important step toward creating your best job. Here’s what you need to know.
Maximum returns follow maximum effort. We’re about to ask you to do some hard work. You may be tempted to skim over the assessment questions and form a vague idea of the answers in your head, but that isn’t going to help you find your perfect job. You’re working to create your best future. That’s worth your best effort.
Start with honesty. We talk ourselves into all kinds of things when we don’t like our current situation, or we’re worried about paying the bills. When you set career goals, be real with yourself about what’s most important for you to achieve. There aren’t right or wrong answers, only honest ones. What do you most want out of your career? Is there a certain type of task you would be happiest performing? Would success mean moving into a management role, traveling frequently, becoming an expert in your field or some other responsibility or achievement?
Know career goals evolve over time. Be honest with yourself, but don’t create undue pressure by feeling you have to plan the entire rest of your life before you can start looking for a job. Identify current career goals, then you can return to them and reevaluate periodically.
Writing is powerful. When you write down your career goals, you create a picture in your mind of the future you want. You have a lasting record of your goal, and you’re more likely to achieve it because you’ve narrowed your focus and specified your destination.
It’s time to get started, so grab a pen and paper. Look within and write down answers to these questions.
Personal Appraisal Questions
- What type of person are you? Are you a leader or a follower? A people person or an introvert? Ambitious or laid back? Write a detailed description.
- How would your friends describe you?
- What do you want to accomplish with your life?
- What role does your job play in your life?
- How does what you do as a career and in your free time impact others?
- What are your accomplishments to date? Which of them matter most and bring you the most satisfaction?
- What role does money play in your values? Is it a major driving factor when it comes to work and personal satisfaction, or is it just one of many components in your overall quality of life?
- Do you feel like your career is central to your life, or just part of it?
- What are your main interests?
- What brings you joy?
- What makes you angry, frustrated, or unhappy?
Job Appraisal Questions
- Describe your job title, responsibilities, salary, accomplishments, successes, failures, and reasons for leaving at previous employers. Start with your most recent job and work backward.
- Ask yourself how you would change your job history if you had the ability to go back in time.
- What responsibilities did you most enjoy? Which ones did you dislike?
- What accomplishments are you most proud of?
- Are there any patterns in your reasons for leaving?
- If you’ve been fired, what was the reason?
- What kind of job do you think would be the perfect match for your talents and interests?
- If you could have your best job, what price might you have to pay in terms of longer hours, more stress, the need for further education or something else? Are you prepared to pay the price?
- What have you done to improve your weaknesses or get closer to your career goals?
- How would previous supervisors describe you?
- How long do you want to work before retirement?
Apply the 80/20 Rule
The Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 Rule of Cause and Effect, applies to a surprising number of situations. You’ve probably heard most people wear 20 percent of what’s in their closets 80 percent of the time. In business, 80 percent of sales often come from 20 percent of customers. The 80/20 rule also works in your job search. Often, 20 percent of your actions provide 80 percent of results.
When you worked through the above self-assessment, you may have noticed that some skills, abilities, or habits accounted for the majority of your accomplishments. Those are the talents you want to market to future employers. If a company is looking for someone who does what you’re best at doing, they’ve already identified their need for those talents. You’ll do the work you find most meaningful and be valued for your contribution.
The 80/20 rule also applies when you’re actually looking for a job. If you apply to every job for which you think you might qualify, you waste energy and reduce your chance of landing your best job. Focus on the 20 percent that most closely match your experience, interests and background. Give those 100 percent effort and start booking more interviews.