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Where to start on the job search?

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Initiating a job search or contemplating a major life change can be daunting. In my years of coaching, I've found the first step is often the toughest. In this blog post, I've condensed my experience into a straightforward guide, providing you with practical strategies to ease your journey. Let's unpack the art of starting, the benefits of written plans, and the roadmap to a successful career transition.

# Taking Control: The Power of Planning for Career Success

Taking control of your career is a proactive pursuit, and the power of a clear, well-defined plan cannot be understated. A plan provides direction and enables effective management of your career journey, while also fostering resilience in adapting to changes along the way. It encourages a forward-thinking mindset, which is especially pivotal when you're striving to reach new career milestones or navigating significant shifts like a career change or reintegration into the workforce after a break.

Consider this example: Let's say your overall career goal is to transition into a leadership role within your industry. Your comprehensive plan might include acquiring essential skills such as project management, strategic decision-making, and effective team communication. You might decide to take an online course or seek mentorship to develop these skills.

Further, your plan may entail attending industry networking events or webinars to expand your professional network and to stay abreast of industry trends. Setting time-bound goals, like completing a leadership course within six months or connecting with three industry professionals per month, makes the journey more manageable.

The power of planning for career success lies in its capacity to break down broad career goals into actionable, bite-sized steps. Each accomplished small goal not only builds your confidence but also steadily moves you closer to your ultimate career destination, thereby creating a cycle of motivation and consistent progress.

## The Psychology of Starting

Venturing into new beginnings, especially when it comes to careers, often comes with a blend of excitement and apprehension. The psychological process of starting is fascinating because it signifies the transition from the realm of thought and intention into tangible action. It is the point when abstract ideas begin to take shape, which, while exciting, can also evoke feelings of fear and uncertainty due to the commitment it entails.

For instance, imagine you're contemplating a career switch to a field you're passionate about, but it's vastly different from your current role. The initial excitement of picturing yourself in this new field, doing what you love, can quickly give way to apprehension. Questions may begin to flood your mind: What if it's not as good as I imagine? What if I fail? These concerns are a natural part of the psychology of starting. They represent the fear of the unknown, a fear of moving out of your comfort zone, and the uncertainty that change often brings.

However, understanding that these emotions are part and parcel of the process can be a powerful tool for managing them. It's essential to focus on the positives and the potential growth that lies ahead. Using our example, instead of dwelling on the fear of failure, consider the potential benefits - the satisfaction of doing something you love, the new skills you'll learn, the novel experiences you'll gain. Setting up a detailed plan with clear, achievable steps can also help manage these emotions. This includes researching the new industry, upskilling, networking with professionals in the field, and perhaps even starting out part-time to gain experience. Remember, every journey begins with the decision to start. By understanding the psychology behind this critical step, you can harness it to fuel your drive towards achieving your career goals.

## The Power of a Written Plan

One of the most effective strategies I've discovered throughout my career is the power of a written plan. A written plan is essentially a roadmap that outlines your objectives, the steps needed to achieve those objectives, and targets for assessing progress at different stages. The power of this tool lies in its simplicity and tangibility. When your goals and the path to achieving them are laid out in black and white, it creates a sense of reality and commitment.

For instance, if your ultimate career goal is to become a project manager, start by defining the skills and experiences needed for that role. Your written plan may include targets such as obtaining a project management certification, gaining experience by leading small-scale projects, and seeking a mentor in the field. Each of these targets could be broken down further into actionable steps, such as researching and enrolling in a suitable certification course or requesting to take on additional responsibilities at work. All of these steps should be associated with specific, time-bound targets to keep you on track and motivated.

Additionally, written plans are highly adaptable, allowing you to adjust your path as needed. Let's say you've progressed in your plan, earning your certification, but are finding it challenging to gain project-leading experience in your current role. You can adapt your plan by seeking opportunities outside of your day job, like volunteering for a non-profit organisation that needs project management or starting a personal project that will provide the necessary experience. Periodically reviewing and adjusting your plan helps maintain its relevance and effectiveness towards achieving your career goals. With a clear vision and a strategic plan to guide you, the journey to your desired career becomes a structured and achievable mission rather than an overwhelming dream.

## How to Start Your Plan

Starting your plan involves both setting your end goal and understanding that the first step is just as important, especially if you're currently unemployed or considering a significant life change.

Plan out your steps, allocate realistic timeframes for each, and commit to periodically reviewing your progress. Continually ask yourself, "What am I doing right? What could I do differently? Who can assist me? How will I feel when I achieve this goal?"

For instance, if your ultimate goal is to secure a job, your plan might look something like this:

1. Develop a credible CV.

2. Write a compelling cover letter.

3. Tailor your CV and cover letter for different positions.

4. Upload your CV and cover letter onto job boards.

5. Practice filling in application forms.

6. Join a job club and attend weekly.

7. Network with friends and family.

8. Investigate local start-ups (as they grow, they are more likely to recruit).

9. Register with recruitment agencies.

10. Sign up for daily job alerts.

11. Contact potential employers directly.

12. Check large employers' websites for current vacancies.

13. Engage with professional networks online, such as LinkedIn or Facebook job groups.

Break down these steps, aiming to achieve one or two each week over a three-month period. Keep track of your progress and adjust your plan as necessary. Remember, if one approach isn't working, don't be afraid to change it and try something new. Ask yourself, "What's stopping me?"

## Embracing the Journey

Embarking on a new career journey or making a significant change in your life can be a daunting prospect. However, it's important to remember that every journey starts with a single step, and the key is to take that initial step with conviction and a well-thought-out plan. It may be as simple as enrolling in a course to gain new skills, attending a networking event to make new connections, or starting a side project to explore a passion. All these actions signify the start of your journey and get the ball rolling towards your career goals.

Consider, for instance, a career change into the tech industry. The first step might be researching the different roles and sectors in the industry to understand where your interests and skills align. Following this, you could enrol in an online course to gain the necessary skills. As part of your journey, you might also start attending tech meetups and webinars to build your network and understanding of the industry. By taking these steps, you are not only learning and growing but also actively moving towards your new career.

Embracing the journey also involves celebrating the small wins along the way. Perhaps you've completed your online course, or made meaningful connections at a networking event - these are milestones to be celebrated. They not only bring you closer to your ultimate goal but also provide motivation and encouragement to keep going. Moreover, embracing the journey means understanding that there may be hurdles and challenges along the way. These are not setbacks, but opportunities to learn, grow, and further refine your path. After all, a journey is not just about the destination, but also about what you learn, who you become, and the experiences you gather along the way. Embrace your journey with an open mind and a proactive attitude, and you'll find the path to your career goals is an enriching adventure in itself.

## Wrapping it Up: Taking Charge of Your Career Path

In conclusion, initiating a career journey, especially after a break or towards a new direction, may seem like a daunting endeavour. However, with the right mindset, a strategic plan, and a commitment to embrace the journey, the path to success becomes clearer and more attainable. Understand the psychology of starting, leverage the power of a written plan, and wholeheartedly engage in your chosen path. Remember, success is not just about reaching the destination; it's about the growth, learning, and experiences you gather along the way.

The steps you take, no matter how small they may seem, are all integral parts of your unique career journey. Each action, each decision, propels you closer towards your goals. So, get out there, start planning, and take control of your career. As you embark on this journey, take pride in your progress, learn from the challenges, and always keep your end goal in sight. Your career path is in your hands, and with determination and strategic planning, there's no limit to what you can achieve.

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