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7 Key Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Begin a Job Search

Published on April 20, 2016 12:00 AM EST

Looking for a job. It’s a love-hate thing. You really want to get that first career position or you really want to make a career change – that’s the love part. You really hate the thought of going through the whole “create a killer resume and cover letter and prep for interviews” thing. Before you do any of the “hate” part of your job search, ask yourself these 7 questions. Your answers will help you refine and target your search, so that you can focus on those positions and organizations that meet your real goals.

Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Begin a Job Search

Question: What is the value that I can bring to an organization?

Many of us are uncomfortable thinking about what great talents and skills we have – it seems like bragging. When you are looking for a job, however, bragging on yourself to yourself is really pretty important. Sit down and make a list of what makes you stand out. Did you complete an internship that gave you very specific experiences and skills? Has your current job meant some unique professional growth? Do you speak a foreign language? These are things that you may want to include as you craft targeted resumes. When you find a position opening that interests you, go through your list and decide which of your values you want to include in your resume for that position.

Question: In what types of activities do you find the greatest motivation?

You may be a computer programmer, but you also know that being in a very social environment and interacting a lot with others is something that really turns you on. As you look at position openings, then, you probably do not want to consider those that focus on telecommuting. You will be alone, at home, completing projects. You will want to look for positions in which you will be a part of a team that works together, face-to-face. Think about the type of work and work environment that motivates and excites you. This will help you refine your search, so that you are only submitting applications/resumes to organizations that meet your motivational criteria.

Question: What compromises are you willing to make?

No position will ever be ideal. So, you have to decide on those aspects of a job that you are willing to sacrifice for the more important aspects. To figure this out, you do need to make another list (sorry, but this is important). Create a column for those criteria which you must have and another column for those factors that would be nice to have but are not “deal breakers.” Now, when you look at job postings, you can compare the details of those postings with your list. This will narrow your search, and that is always a good thing. When you are preparing resumes, or when you are using a custom resume writing service, you will be creating a more limited number.

Question: What are my long-term career goals?

You should have developed some long-term career goals for yourself. Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? If you have not determined these goals, then you cannot have a plan for a current job search. Any position you take now should be one that moves you to those long-term goals. If your long-term goal is to become a university professor, why are you considering a position as a content writer right now? If it is to generate income while you are in graduate school, then it fits. If, however, you already have the credentials to enter your profession, how will a totally unrelated job right now make sense? If the goal is a university teaching position, then perhaps looking at high school teacher openings right now may be a better fit.

Question: What are my geographic parameters?

Are you open to moving absolutely anywhere for a position that is right for you? This is an important consideration. If you are an “urban” person at heart, does it make sense to consider a position in a rural area, miles away from the nearest urban center? No, it doesn’t, because you will be unhappy in your new living environment, and that will spill over into your job performance. If, on the other hand, you have a wanderlust, you will want to consider positions that will take you to new places.

Questions: What work environment/culture will suit you?

This is far more important than you may think right now. While you are focusing on the skills and talents you can offer, you may neglect thinking about the work “culture” that you need to be comfortable and happy. If you are a jeans and T-shirt kind of person, seeking a position in a banking or financial services industry will never be a fit for you. You need to look for opportunities in younger, more progressive industries. Think about it. How will you feel about a tie and sport coat or a stylish pants suit/outfit every day? You need a culture that fits your lifestyle/personality. This will also narrow your search quite a bit. If you are unsure about the culture of an organization, simply go to its website and take a look at the content, the photos, etc. You’ll get a feel for the environment very quickly.

Question: Have I done all of the preliminary work for this search?

Before you send out that first resume or CV, have you established your needs and wants? Have you updated your resume or CV so that it just needs some tweaking for each specific position? Have you established/cleaned up your social media profiles? Have you joined groups oh LinkedIn that relate to your career? If you are entering a field in which work product is important, do you have a website and an online portfolio?

Getting yourself prepared for a job search, by answering these 7 questions will streamline your approach, save you a bundle of time, and ensure that you are only applying for positions that you will truly want. Happy hunting!

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