You're having that dream again. You know, the one where you forgot about your job interview and you're not prepared in the slightest. You've shown up wearing faded pajamas and fuzzy slippers, and to your horror, your resume is written in purple crayon.
Don't panic. As challenging as your job search is, it's unlikely that even your worst interview will measure up to this nightmare.
But it does open the door to the question that needs an answer: What are you doing to take proactive control of your job search?
Job seekers are often told to keep emotion out of it and focus solely on the most logical choice — keep business separated from the personal side of life, and never shall the two meet.
But the idea that the career you choose is "just business" is almost laughable. The truth is, deciding on the job you ought to pursue absolutely should be a personal decision. Even before you scan the job ads or polish up your resume, consider these critical points to get started in the right direction.
• Dream big. Dream bigger than you ever thought you could, and don't be surprised when you exceed your own goals.
• Go after what you want. Don't settle for less than the best option for you and your future. Focusing your job search on simply doing work rather than pursuing your passion isn't choosing what's best.
• Do your homework. Understand what the job is, what the company stands for, how you will fit in — in other words, know the whole picture before signing on the bottom line of an employment contract.
• Make it personal. It's your life. That makes the career you choose a very personal decision.
The Company You Keep
Once you've established the importance of personalizing your job search, the next step is to get to know the companies that pique your interest. Where you work is just as important as what you do, so don't naively imagine that one company is the same as another.
Just like there is a "Mr. Right" for every "Mrs. Right," there is a right company for every applicant. And that includes you. Here is a quick checklist of things to look for in your perfect company:
1. Know what the company stands for by examining their long-term vision and core values. If what they believe doesn't line up with what you stand for, then it's best just to move along.
2. Use the internet as a tool for investigation. Take a look at their website, any articles written about the company, even reviews that employees (past and present) have shared. Each of these will give you insight into what happens behind closed doors at the company you are applying to.
3. Consider how your past experiences will translate into benefits for the company. Once you can articulate that fact, you're ready for another critical component in your proactive job search: making yourself shine.
Be Your Own Cheerleader
No one knows the ins and outs of your work history like you. No one else can pull up memories of times when you've shined, put a spin on times when you've struggled, or dig deep for what makes you uniquely irresistible to the hiring manager in charge of the open position.
If you are ready to apply for a job, know the problems and challenges you will potentially face and prepare yourself for an epic self-cheerleading session. Knowing how to sell your attributes as a complete asset to the desired company is key to your success in proactively generating the job you've been waiting for.
Keep in mind that — unless you really are dreaming — no company is going to spontaneously come to your home, knock on your door, and offer you a position with their business simply because they picked your name out of a hat. That doesn't happen in the course of a job search. And if it does, perhaps you should run fast and furiously in the other direction.
After all, would you really want to work someplace that doesn't thoughtfully choose who they hire? Think of the pitfalls that would come with the approach of hiring random people who struggle to do work requiring specific skills.
What does happen, however, is your finely crafted, well-articulated, thoughtfully targeted resume finds its way into the hands of the company's "desperately seeking applicants" department. They see the clear way you've translated your experiences into benefits for them. They see the value that will be returned on their investment in you. They read your resume and cover letter and they know you are a solution to the problem, and you are the right candidate to fill the position.
Job search over. No fuzzy slippers required.