Back when I was an impressionable young girl I remember hearing about some movie star who was “discovered” by a big-time producer while sitting at a drug store soda counter.
I think somehow – stealth zombie-like – that story has infected my brain.
And the really scary part is that I don’t think I’m alone.
Not that I’ve ever wanted to be a movie star, or that I’m not well aware it takes a lot of work to get the kind of job I do want.
But I have been drawn into the myth of discovery, the idea that someone could just stumble upon my wonderfulness and instantly recognize it for what it is.
You and I know that this is not the way to bet, but the funny thing is that “discovery” is an essential part of any successful job hunt.
The thing is you have to do it yourself. In other words, you have to discover yourself. This means developing a really good idea of the following:
- Your core skills.
- Things you’re naturally good at, like organizing or being on time.
- Your traits, like getting up early or procrastinating.
- Your work personality.
- Where you are in your career.
- What your interests are.
- Your essential values.
- The kind of work environment that suits you.
- The kind of work you like to do.
This is the kind of information which will give direction to your search, guide your job choices and serve as the foundation for that long-term marketing effort known as a job hunt.
But unless this is somehow your first time at the rodeo, you’ve doubtless heard all this before.
Did you do it?
Chances are you didn’t.
After all, you need a job. The economy is still tough. You don’t need to sit around gazing at your navel, you need to get out there and start sending out resumes and networking.
But the thing is, you’ll be a lot more successful at your job hunt and at the job you eventually land if you do this homework first.
So buckle down and do the work. You could pay for a counselor and expensive tests, or you could take some of the free ones available on the Internet. You could buy a career book, or you could check any number of such books out of the library and do the exercises on your own with a paper and pencil.
While I’m sure some career counselors and expensive tests are worth it, I don’t think you need to go that route. Besides, my hunch is that if you’re looking for work, you don’t exactly have a lot of extra cash lying around.
The key is that you have to do it, you really do. And you have to be honest about it. It’s also important to put a lot of energy and thought into this process, and not rush through it. Otherwise, you could wind up with results that don’t do you any good, like my artsy young high school friend who figured she filled out her career guidance form incorrectly because it advised her to get a job working with heavy equipment.
One of the things that troubles me when taking these tests is that I’m not always satisfied with the options available. I don’t know if I’m more factual or fantasy-based. It depends on the circumstances. However, I’ve noticed they ask the same questions many different ways, so that’s probably done to get a more clear read on what your essential answer is.
Take several different tests, as long as you’re going with the free ones. Do a quick search and see which career books are highly recommended. Then check them out at your local public library and complete any exercises or career tests they have.
Collect your tests and look for common themes. These can involve the skills you like to use and the kinds of work situations you enjoy. You might discover that you like working independently and analyzing data, or that you prefer an open work environment and having to make a lot of decisions. Whatever you find out can guide your future search.
Not only that, you’ll doubtless come up with specific words to use to describe yourself, such as “team player.”
In addition, you can re-work your resume to highlight these common themes, and show your targeted employers how you’ve been building and using your relevant skills throughout your career.
Yes, the self-discovery process takes time, and it can be hard to tell if you’re giving the “right” answer. But it beats sipping soda through a straw and waiting for someone else to do it for you.
And once you’ve discovered yourself, then you’re really ready to start marketing yourself.
by Danielle Dresden