A job search is a journey; you start at a certain point, with a destination in mind, and take specific steps to reach that destination. As with any journey, it’s important to have a map, compass, good hiking boots, and snacks to help you along the way. In spite of your planning and preparation, however, unforeseen circumstances and obstacles can appear at any point and sidetrack or derail your journey – people don’t respond to your networking requests, your perfect resume doesn’t get you the interview, you make it to the final round of three and are not the ultimate choice. These disappointments can make you doubt you’re on the right path and cause your motivation to falter. At times like these, it’s good to take a step back, see where you are and what you might need to get back on track and reach your goal.
First, determine whether your goals are clear, and if they’re in line with your brand – refer back to your marketing plan. If you’re comfortable this is the case, it’s time to determine where the gaps are – what’s preventing you from getting from your present point to where you want to be. This involves digging deeper than you may have been doing up to this point.
The gap analysis process works best as an exercise, so grab paper and pen to make a table (or get on your computer). In the first column, list your skills, qualifications, abilities, education, training, certifications, and any other qualities that are needed in and relate to your goal job. Then take the job descriptions of recent jobs to which you’ve applied, and/or postings you’ve seen that would be your ideal job. Go through each and pull out the qualifications, skills, knowledge and requirements needed for these jobs, including all specific industry keywords, and put these in the second column. Cross out the common skills from both columns; these are the areas you match the postings. What remains are gap areas, or where your skills do not match the job descriptions. Your next column is for specific actions to close these gaps, with the following column indicating the expected results from these actions. The last column is for people who will be helpful in accomplishing these results.
Closing your gaps can involve a variety of activities; if you need more industry specific or updated technical knowledge, you can take a class or explore online training, for example. Volunteer activities can provide experience in a new field. Consulting or freelance projects can supplement your skills with real world experience. Stepping up your networking efforts can connect you with key industry contacts who can provide an entrée into a targeted company.
And if your analysis seems to reveal that you’re doing everything right – the skills you have match perfectly to those in your ideal job descriptions, or you’ve filled your gaps, and you’re still stuck, it may be time to explore other options and develop a Plan B. Based on your priorities and the realities of your current situation, alternatives may be necessary. This might be a “gap job,” or a job to just make money while you’re working towards your goal job on the side, deciding to move to a different geographic location because your chosen field is not in demand where you are, or even rethinking your ideal job altogether because it’s not feasible at this point. It’s ok to go back to the drawing board, do further research, and develop a new marketing plan to focus your skills and accomplishments in a new direction with more viable options.
You don’t have to take this journey alone. Our office is a resource to help with the gap analysis and execution plan process. We’re familiar with what it takes to succeed in your chosen field, and can work with you to overcome the obstacles you’re facing.
It’s said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step; your job search may seem like a long journey, but taken step by step can lead to a satisfying destination.