Totally crushed out.

In my experience, the hardest part of the job search for young professionals is deciding what they want to do and where they want to do it. Because this is so hard to figure out, many times I get the “I can do pretty much anything and can move anywhere…I’m really flexible”. This is not a good answer because if you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to know how to start? How will you know when you’ve arrived? Knowing what you want to do and where serves as your compass – it guides your path and informs you when you are off course. It also reduces some of the anxiety that comes with the job search.

I remember when I started my job search during my last semester of grad school. I was applying to jobs in residence life, multicultural affairs, leadership, career services, teaching opportunities…I was applying to EVERYTHING. I was also applying all over the country. I felt overwhelmed. I felt I had no control. I had no compass. I was miserable.

I decided I needed to make a plan…and answer the “what” and the “where” of my job search. The “where” turned out to be more simple than I thought. I’m a NC boy, born and raised in the Bull City (Durham, NC). After some thought, conversations with friends, lots of list making, and a good old fashion financial reality check, I decided I wanted to live and work in the Triangle or Triad areas of NC. The “what” was more difficult. I love all things student development, but in the end felt I had more skills in career services and a stronger desire to learn more about career development.

I also came up with a plan…two steps.

1. Apply to jobs in career services, even if they were out of state (I wanted to cover my bases), and just accept that most times my resume would enter the black hole never to return. Simply applying to jobs only has a 20% success rate.

2. Come up with a killer networking plan to land a career services job in NC. Creating a plan with tasks gave me a sense of control and reduced my job search anxiety. Also, networking has a success rate of 80% when used in the job search.

So…how did I hatch #2 of my plan? Researched colleges and career services offices. This research was so helpful. I developed “crushes”* on certain colleges and career services programs based on their philosophies, programs, and professional development opportunities. Crushing out on these offices made it fun and exciting to find out more, talk to professionals in those offices via information meetings, and stay connected. I learned so much and met some great people that have since become colleagues and a part of my professional ecosystem. During my information meetings people could feel my enthusiasm, and they could tell I had done my research…this made me very desirable to them as a possible future employee.

Your job search doesn’t have to suck. Parts of it can be fun and engaging, but you have to do your research and find your company crushes. Work hard to discover your “what” and “where” – this will make the job search less ambiguous and offer you more control, and peace of mind.

*Thanks to Ruth Eckles for the “company crush” term!

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