Written by Patricia Reich
Sometimes career changers slide into neutral when they doubt their own candidacy for the next-level job they really want. Because many of you invested in graduate education in order to pivot into something new, worry gurgles up when job search success isn’t immediately apparent. In the spring market and with graduation in the offing, job search concerns can become exaggerated and your thinking can become absolute. When I begin to hear MBAs say, “only those with previous experience are getting hired” or “everyone has a job offer but me” or “I don’t know why I came to business school at all,” I know we’re no longer in a forward-moving gear. At best, we’re in neutral.
In the MBA job search, this less-than mindset can erode your effectiveness in essential job search activities. You can lose your focus on job market research, you can lose your zeal for making new network contacts, you can lose the edge in your cover letter. Any activity seems more appealing than your job search, so you do less; and what you do, you do less well; and suddenly your engine sputters and you stall out.
What you need is a kick start.
To reignite your job search and find your confidence again, double down on your purpose and sharpen your value proposition.
Start by examining your industry choice. Why are you interested in the automotive industry? Why are you fascinated by alternative energy? Why are you turned on by real estate development? Why does committing your talents to healthcare matter so much to you? Why do you want to do what you want to do? What difference will it make and to whom?
Next think, within that industry, what function excites you the most? Will you succeed best in human resources, operations, product development, marketing, finance, IT, strategy? Inside that function, what do you do so well that others come to you for help when they get stuck? That’s the role you should you play so that you bring your maximum aptitude, skill, interpersonal style, motivation and value to the company. Work where you can achieve and be recognized for the difference you make.
A clear target industry and target function serve as your career coordinates and help you navigate your job search. Career coordinates combat search ambiguity by bringing your destination into sharper focus. Just like longitude and latitude, target industry and function provide precision that will enable you to map with more certainty from where you are now to your next career position.
With that pinpoint destination in sight, ask yourself: “What makes me think that I will be excellent in that position?” Answer this question with integrity and don’t succumb to the temptation to discredit yourself with “yeah but.” You know when you perform with excellence and your gut tells you that you can do just that in your target job, so say so, even if you haven’t held that exact job before. Explain it just the way you would if there were no wrong answer. Include your purpose. Include what excites you. That’s your unique value proposition.
The answer to this single question is your spark. It incorporates the energy of your purpose, your interests, your motivation, your skills, your ambition, your talent, and your confidence. That’s will get your engine running again, which is the hardest part after a stall. Once you’re running again, shifting into drive is will come naturally and as you move forward the route will get shorter and your target job will rise up on the road ahead.