Job search: career planning and preparation is as important as the hunt

survey by Prism indicated that at any one time nearly 90% of management consultants are either actively or passively job hunting i.e receptive to an approach. This figure is borne out by LinkedIn research.

There is an expectation that passive candidates in particular will be selective in their job search. But how often do candidates apply to advertisements or respond to approaches without  having done careful preparation?

There is a wealth of information on how to get a job including CV preparation, job applications, interview technique but it is the planning before that is often overlooked.

It is easy to be reactive about a job you see advertised or are approached about (Great salary!  Great location! Great role!) but for the best career you need to be both strategic (longer term) and tactical (a structured job search with planning beforehand).

Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 15 years’ time?

I call this the “life, the universe and everything” question. Start with a blank sheet of paper! It brings in your personal circumstances especially aspects like location, work/life balance, family as well as more obvious career stuff. A realistic goal (even if the goal is to retain flexibility) is essential as every other decision should be linked to that.

In our busy lives and jobs it is difficult to find time to consider the bigger picture. Also, in these changeable times with reducing job security, it is easy to query or even dismiss the value of thinking longer term.

But, career planning is essential and helps protect you from ill-considered job moves that risk undermining your real potential.

Why do you want a job move?

It is important to be clear what you are trying to achieve from a job move. It is tempting to look for a change if you feel you are in a rut without really examining your objectives. Are you seeking more money for example? Career advancement? Better work-life balance? It may be a combination of several different factors, but it is helpful to weight up the relative importance of these reasons in advance.

It is axiomatic that the best time for a job move is when things are going well: you can judge opportunities on their merits, not because there’s a push factor.  The worst time is when you hate your job/employer or are out of work: it is much more difficult to be objective and many roles can look great because you don’t want to believe they are not.

My advice is always “if you were currently perfectly happy in a job, how would this role and company sound?”. Clearly you may have to be pragmatic if  you need a job, but it’s a useful reality check.

What aspects of a new job are important to you?

This will flow from the above two points. For example, an increase in salary may be your top priority. However, there will be other factors such as working within a team (or alternatively autonomously), the size and type of organisation, culture with the firm, the sector etc., all of which are relevant. Being able to articulate to executive recruitment consultants and to potential employers what you want to achieve from your next job move will help you to answer typical interview questions such as:

  • Why are you interested in this role?
  • What do you want from your next job move?
  • Why are you interested in working for XYZ Ltd?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

How flexible are you?

There is likely to be a requirement for some element of compromise with every job. However, it is helpful to have a clear idea what you are prepared to be flexible on and to what extent. There may be some factors, for example, location or time spent away from home, which are non-negotiable and it is important to identify these from the outset.

Next steps

Once you have examined your motives for a job move and have a clear idea of what is important in your next role, you can be in full control of your job search going forward.

Only when you are clear what roles you are seeking can you begin to update your CV and LinkedIn profile and apply for jobs in earnest.

This will involve further research including:

  • Consider drawing up a list of potential employers and decide on the best method to engage with them
  • Review available jobs (both with these organisations and more generally) to see how closely they meet your search criteria
  • Consider how such a job move would add value to your CV, career and skill set
  • Contact a trusted recruiter to talk through your aspirations and discuss what is possible with your skill set and experience in the current market. A good recruiter will provide advice on salary expectations, skills required, timescale and can suggest other routes to explore for your search.
  • Develop and review your network of contacts to enable you to hear of opportunities. Attend industry events or relevant networking events to expand your professional circle. Our survey suggested 77% of respondents viewed their own network as the most successful route for job searching.

The advantages of good pre-application preparation are clear: 

  • Your skill set and career will be enhanced by each job on your CV
  • You will save time by focusing only on jobs which meet your objectives
  • You will perform better at interview
  • The temptation to take the first (perhaps sub-optimal) job you are offered will be reduced
  • As part of a structured plan you’ll avoid the disastrous temptation of the counter offer on resignation

We have lots of other information on our website to help with your job search including:

Preparing your CV

Optimising your LinkedIn profile

Interview Preparation

Best Answers to Interview Questions

To see a selection of the executive and consulting jobs for which we are currently recruiting visit our vacancies.

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