The 7 Skills You Need to Conduct an Effective Job Search


By Sharlyn Lauby

At last year’s KronosWorks Conference, New York Times best-selling author and fellow Workforce Institute board member Dan Schawbel, talked about the latest workplace trends forecast based on his research. During his session, he made a comment that really stuck with me, “We’re living in a world of continuous job search.”

It’s so true. People today have lots of options when it comes to their careers. The question becomes, do people have the skills to support “continuous job search”? And frankly, do most people know what those skills are? Here are seven that Dan mentioned:

Goal management. Careers are about goals. It might be to work for a certain company or in a specific field. You could have a goal to achieve a particular job title (like vice president). Individuals might also have career goals surrounding compensation, benefits, and perks. Or maybe they want to learn something (i.e. “My goal is to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America – also known as the CIA.) Once we achieve one goal, we set another one.

Organization. We achieve our goals through planning and preparation. It’s possible that, to achieve some of the goals mentioned in #1 (goal management), we need to save money, schedule time off from work, or take some prep classes. This could involve doing some research. For example, if one of your long term job search goals is to obtain HR certification, then you might need to research the requirements, ask your boss for reimbursements, schedule time to study, etc. All of this takes organization.

Prioritization. I wish I could say that once we set a goal, that’s it. But it’s simply not true. Fortunately, and unfortunately, we have other opportunities present themselves. Some of them won’t sway us from our goals. Others could be so tempting that we need to evaluate them alongside our existing goals. Understanding priorities is incredibly important in figuring out which path to pursue. No one wants to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity because they didn’t have their priorities established.

Networking. And you’re not going to get those opportunities I mentioned in #3 above if you don’t network. Having a network is critical for career development. Your network can help you find new job opportunities. It can also serve as an informal board of advisors. These are individuals who care about your success. AND you care about theirs. So, being able to build positive trusting relationships is the cornerstone of your future career development.

Curiosity. We can miss out on building relationships with interesting people and being a part of exiting opportunities if we’re not curious. There’s no rule that says we must say “yes” to every request but listening can be very beneficial. It can present us with options we never thought of AND it can confirm that the goals we’re currently pursing are the right ones. Understanding our priorities (see #2) can help us constantly re-evaluate the new options being presented.

Risk-awareness. At first, I had labeled this section risk-aversion, but then I changed it. Because it’s not always about taking fewer risks in your job search. Sometimes our career development will require us to make bold moves – maybe a relocation or an extra assignment. It’s about understanding the risks associated with the decision and being okay with them. It could also involve having a Plan B (see #1 goal management) available in case you have to make a change in plans.

Communication. Of course, you knew communication had to be on the list. Which is why I made it last. All of the skills we’ve discussed involve having excellent communication skills – both verbal and written. You might want to journal your goals to remain focused. Or chat with a family member or mentor about the risk and rewards associated with a new opportunity. Either way, being able to communicate clearly AND being able to truly listen to feedback and guidance from others will be valuable.

While this list might impress an employer during an interview, that’s really not what it’s for. It’s designed to be a reminder that, whether you’re an employee or a freelancer, you need to have some ownership of your career development. And these are the skills that will help you be good at it.

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