By Perminus Wainaina
Job searching need not be a depressing time in your career, especially if you plan well. Unfortunately many of us don’t prepare. We wait for external events to happen like being retrenched or declared redundant and only then do we embark on job search. The problem with waiting for others to determine your fate is that when you embark on the search, you are never in the right frame of mind and there’s a high likelihood of making mistakes that prolong your job search. Even if you didn’t see an eventuality like losing your job, it pays to always plan for your next move.
In this article, I’ll share tips on how you can prepare yourself for your next (and hopefully better) job, and why you need to start today.
Define what you want. Do you want more money, career growth, status or a better working environment? I am sure you know of a friend who is always talking of how they’d like to change jobs but if you ask them the specific reason why or what they want, they probably don’ have a clue. It’s not enough to want a new job. You must be clear on what you want. What if it’s a case of from the frying pan into the fire?
From today start defining what you want. If it’s a salary, put a figure to it, say 30% increase. If it’s growth, is it that you want to get into a managerial position or growth in terms of learning new skills? Being specific makes you confident. You are also able to evaluate employers and think through their offers. It also raises your self esteem and you no longer appear as a desperate job seeker out to settle for any opening. Are you clear on what you want? Write it down.
Define Timeliness. Having been clear on your expectations, the next step is to determine the period it will take to achieve your objectives and when you you’d like to have made a move. And one has to be realistic here. If you’ve never been a manager but you are now looking to be one, it might mean attending many interviews as not all potential employers will believe you are a good match. If you are earning 60K and now you want 90K, ask yourself what kinds of companies pay such amounts, and start approaching them.
And remember the higher your goals, the more the likelihood it will take more time. If it’s not for money but to escape a toxic work environment, then you can get a job easily as many employers can accommodate your request. On average, it will take you six months of working hard to nail a new and better job. If you are desperate and willing to settle on anything, it is possible to get a job much faster. Good things come to those who plan and wait.
Perform a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats. You have to benchmark the requirements of whatever you are eyeing to what you have. What are your strengths? It could be your level of education, the kind of company you work for, your personality, among others. When it comes to weaknesses, I define it as a job requirement that you lack. For example if I am looking to be a manager in my next job but I have never supervised formally then lack of supervisory skills is my weakness.
Negative work habits also count as weaknesses (for example, are you often late, are you disorganized, do you have a short temper, or are you poor at handling stress)? For opportunities, it could be internal or external. Do you have situations you can take advantage of or utilize to your benefit? For example, what trends do you see in your company or industry, and how can you take advantage of them? Is there a colleague going on leave? Could you take on some of this person’s projects to gain experience?
Threats are obstacles that have the potential of preventing you from achieving your goal. A few examples: Are any of your colleagues competing with you for projects or roles? Is your job (or the demand for the things you do) changing? Does changing technology threaten your position (think of Nairobi taxis and UBER)? Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats? Performing a career SWOT analysis will help you position yourself differently.
Come Up With A Work Plan. How are you going to accomplish whatever you’ve set to do? As the name suggests, it’s a plan of action. Some of the things you should capture include reviewing and updating your CV, reaching out to your networks, polishing up your LinkedIn profile and allocating time to visit different job sites. Job search is a full time affair and should be approached strategically.
If you are lacking in an area, then this is a good time to fix any shortcomings. For example, if you are shy and don’t perform well in interviews, you can seek the services of a professional coach for interview preparation and also contact employees of the target company to get an idea of how they interview.
If there’s a key job requirement that you lack i.e. training in a specific area, then you should find time to update your skills. For example, if you’ve noticed that advanced excel is a requirement for senior finance professionals and you don’t have, then it doesn’t make sense to bury your head in the sand hoping potential employers will ignore. For those in HR, being registered with IHRM is important and the last thing you want is to miss an opportunity because of something you could have done in less than a week. A work plan helps you to prepare such that, by the time you meet a potential employer or opportunity, they find you ready.
If you are planning to travel to Mombasa from Nairobi you have to make plans if you expect a successful journey. You have to think of the mode of transport, cost, date, and how fast you want to reach your destination. All these variables have a strong influence on the kind of journey you’ll have. Job search is not any different. Ensure that you take control of the things you can. Hope has never been a good strategy.
Perminus Wainaina is the Managing Partner & Head of Recruitment at Corporate Staffing Services Ltd.