One of the daunting parts of any job search is knowing what to look for. This can be true for anyone, but is even more likely to be a challenge for someone who’s been out of the workforce for awhile. Do you want to do exactly what you used to do? Do you want to do something similar to what you used to do, but a little different? Do you want to try something completely different? Where do you even start to figure this out?
That’s a lot of questions and can easily make you feel overwhelmed before you even start looking at job listings!
At Path Forward we’ve come up with a relatively simple exercise that we think will bring a little clarity to the process and give you some ideas of what you might want your next job to be.
First, make a list of everything you’ve ever done that you really, truly loved doing. These tasks can be from your prior professional career, but also think about things you’ve done since you’ve been away from the paid workforce. Then, make a list of everything you’ve ever done that you really, truly loathed. Finally, make a not-too-long list of things you’ve never done before and you think you’d like to do or know you want to learn how to do.
With those lists you have the makings of at least one job description. Write them up! For the purposes of this exercise it doesn’t matter if what you come up with is completely realistic. You are really just giving yourself a place to start.
Now you are ready to hit the job listings. Do you find ones that match your descriptions or at least come close? Great! But don’t worry if you don’t — use what you do find, alongside the lists you created, to hone in on the sweet spot between what you’d love to do and what the market will pay you to do. And you can certainly write more than one, too. It’s entirely probable that there are a few different types of roles that you might find interesting and that you could apply your skills too.
This exercise has another great benefit: It gives you a concrete way to ask others to help you. Post your job description(s) to LinkedIn or to your blog and ask people to give you feedback. Send the description(s) to your contacts and ask for feedback. Not only will you get good inputs that you can use to further hone your search but you may well spur someone to say “Hey, I know someone who is looking for someone to do this” or “I know someone who does this, let me connect you.” As I wrote in this post about the WE Festival, it’s much easier for people to help you if you give them a specific action. Giving you feedback or connecting you to someone they know who can give you information are really specific, and relatively easily fulfilled, actions that can increase your chances of getting the help you need.
Tami Forman is the founding executive director of Path Forward and a frequent speaker on issues related to caregiving and workforce participation.