One stage you shouldn’t skip while looking for a Better Job

Years ago, when people came to me for career advice, the main question they wanted answers to was “How do I need to develop to become X”. It could have been shaped like “What training programme should I go on?” or “What qualification do I need?” or – much better – “what qualities do I need to have?” 

Then gradually the questioning shifted into “How can I market myself?”. Our marketing based economy and social media connected society raised the awareness of the need not to just “be X”, but “be seen as X”. “How can I be better at networking?” is now the question asked by all those looking to progress their career. Internet and social media is brimming with all sorts of advice on how to get noticed.

Both questions – about development and about marketing - are absolutely valid. You do need to learn constantly to be better and you do need to focus consciously on how you market your skills and achievements. However, BEFORE you start development actions or boosting your presence, it is important to dedicate time to crucial Research. No successful product could be designed and launched before the manufacturer understands the market and customer needs – similar to this, you can’t target success if you haven’t looked around you and see how the offer of YOU fits the ever changing but always competitive job market.

What is worth researching? 

Research yourself. Well, we think we know ourselves without any research. Really? Reflection time to crystallise your motivations and real desires, your value system and your non-negotiables will help you to make right choices on a career journey. And really digging into your skills and strengths can bring to the surface the resources you did not know were there. Understanding what you really want and what you are capable of, will give you a solid starting point (and will help immensely with any development or marketing you were planning).

Research the market around you. People creativity means that if we do not know, we can always imagine (or assume). We THINK that that there are no jobs out there that could require our strong skill. Or we BELIEVE that to get this job, one has to be an Oxford graduate. When was the last time you really checked? Things change all the time. For example, dog walking was not a serious career a few years ago, now it is an established market. What has changed in the area that interests you? What is available? And what is needed? Even if you are after a promotion in your current organisation, there’s still a lot to research. What are the organisation’s main challenges right now? What skills will be needed in the future? Who will they be recruiting? Is there an opportunity of a new role where your skills will be used to their best?

Research your “targeted customers”. If you know what you want to do, why not just go straight to the people who are doing it or something similar. No, not necessarily asking for a job – to understand in detail what it is like and possibly get some tips. People tend to be generous when all that you ask for is information. John Lees in “How to get a Job you Love” offers a great framework for this conversation (REVEAL) – check it out, it can help your “research meetings” to be structured and easier to start. Once you talk to people you know, you might get closer to the real decision makers. 

If you could know everything you want about potential career opportunities, what is it that you would want to know? Write down your questions – this is your research plan. Many of those questions could be easily answered, some are more challenging and some might stay a mystery for now. Yet you can discover what you can. You could start your research with a comfortable internet browse on the questions you want answers to. Better still to find real people/businesses to talk to and question your assumptions, it could open your eyes to new opportunities.

And what about Development and Marketing?
Nowadays being curious, being aware of changes around you and learning new things are the key development needs for everyone – and you have already been developing this doing your research! Your value HAS increased. If your research showed any gaps you still have, perhaps they are easier to breach than you think – obtaining a qualification, getting a particular experience, connecting to helpful people could all be possible, especially if you just met someone who had done it.

As for Marketing, good news – you are already there, if you started your research in full. Your research could have brought you into contact with exactly the people you needed and hopefully taught you what skills/qualities you need to highlight. So just build on what you started. Who needs to know about you? How would they know? Word of mouth? Introductions? Open events? Targeted correspondence? How can you use the richness of social media channels – to connect and to showcase? Whatever is best for your specific goal, you can be more focused and confident, because… you have done your RESEARCH in the first place.