Job Search

Outlining Your Ideal Job Description — The Right Way to Start Your Job Search

Don’t start your job search by updating your resume.

What is the first thing you think to do when starting your job search? Is it updating your resume? Reaching out to your network? Flipping the switch on LinkedIn to “open to new opportunities”?

None of these actions are the best way to start a job search. A strategic and successful job search always starts with the end in mind. You must answer the question of where do I want to be next in my career.

However, this is the number one mistake I see job seekers make. They update their resume without putting much time or thought into where they want to go next in their career.

As we get further along in our careers it’s likely that we have done a lot of things. Trying to narrow down what you want to do next can be tough.

Here are some basic steps to take before you ever update one word of your resume:

  1. Get Clear on What You Don’t Want

Many job seekers I speak to can definitely say what it is that they don’t want. It’s actually easier because people recognize what aggravates them or causes them stress.

So make a list of all the things in your current and past positions that you want to avoid in the future. Being able to do this, you’re halfway there because the opposite of what you don’t want is what you do want.

  1. Assess What You’ve Done Well AND Enjoy Doing

Take some time to think about projects you worked on and your accomplishments. My colleague Susan Whitcomb calls these SMART stories. These are similar to CAR (challenge – action – results) or SSAR (value statement – strength – action – result) stories, but you’re also looking for themes. Here is what a SMART story consists of:

S = Situation
M = Mess or eMotion
A = Action
T = Theme or Tie-in

 The key to these stories is to look at the situation and see what is consistent about your actions or results. The more stories you write, the more themes will really start to pop out at you.

Once you determine the key themes from your stories, review which ones you enjoyed the most. You spend 40+ hours a week at work, you might as well aim to be happy.

Now, you’ll be left with positive moments from your career and as an added bonus you’ll be able to use these stories to prepare for interviews and update your career marketing materials.

Also read: 5 Ways to Find Your Strengths at Work — And Use Them to Get a Job

  1. Write Your Ideal Job Description and List Target Companies

Visioning can play an integral part of your job search. I firmly believe if you write down what you want and look at it on a regular basis it’s much more likely to happen.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”  – Lewis Carroll

This is why I encourage you to write out your ideal job description. It should answer questions like:

  • What type of job would I want?
  • What would I be doing on daily basis?
  • What type of company would I want to work for?
  • What sort of environment and culture would the organization have?
  • Whom would I report to? Who would report to me?
  • How far would my commute be?
  • What salary would I want to earn?

You can even comb through job descriptions and pull out bullets that appeal to you to create that perfect job. With my clients we work through an ideal job search map to get clarity on exactly what it is that they want.

I think you would agree that it is easier to ask for help when you can specifically say “I am looking for a Director of Marketing position near Northbrook, IL with a young (past start-up stage) software company whose product helps human resource professionals do their job better.” Now that is way more clear than “I’m looking for a senior marketing role at a technology company.”

The other factor to consider in your ideal job description is your why. What drives you to do your job? What do you need from your organization? This is where your professional life crosses over into your personal life.
Finding a new job is not just about work, it’s also about the type of life you want to live. So when you’re filling out that ideal job search map, include information about what your life looks like outside of work, too.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Work to live. Don’t live to work.” Incorporate that thought into your job search and you will certainly find work that is personally satisfying and enjoyable!

Now that you have your ideal position nailed down, you can start to find companies that fit with your description. This allows you to reverse engineer your job search and start with where you want to end up instead of just going to where you see a job posting that looks interesting.

So when you do a bit of self-discovery and visioning you’ll have the keys be able to start your job search off right. Updating your resume, LinkedIn profile and other career marketing materials will then be a snap when you have a clear destination in mind.

Need Help Defining Your Ideal Job & How to Get It?
Try our Job Search Coaching Services

About the Author

Self-proclaimed job search geek, Michelle Robin takes the often frustrating and miserable task of job search and makes it more enjoyable, perhaps even fun, for her clients. An award-winning dual-certified resume writer (NCRW, CPRW) and founder of Brand Your Career, Michelle helps sales and marketing executives transform their career marketing materials into a package that wows their target employer. Click HERE to register for Michelle’s free training, The 5-Step Game Plan to Land 6-Figure Marketing Roles Without Resumes or Attending Networking Events.