When you tell someone you’re looking for a new job, you can expect that their next question is going to be something like “so what are you looking for?”. You’d be surprised how often I hear people answer with “anything”.
They say things like “I’m looking for anything in testing” or “anything in IT” or “anything to do with customer service”.
Imagine it’s your first appointment at a new hairdresser. As you sit down they ask what you want and you answer “anything”. How likely is it that you’ll be happy with the end result?
I can understand that when you’re looking for a new role you may not be sure what kind of roles are available. Or you may actually be willing to do a whole range of things. Or maybe you think by being specific you might not get some other role you’d be perfect for.
But here’s what it sounds like when you say “anything”:
- It sounds like you haven’t put any thought into what you want, what you could contribute to a company or where you might be valuable.
- Instead of making you seem open to a range of things it could make you seem desperate or unenthusiastic or vague or lazy. Employers tend to like enthusiasm and driven and focussed people.
- It could make you look like you don’t care.
- It’s hard for employers or recruiters or people you’re networking with to mentally match you to roles/companies they know about if they don’t have any idea what it is you want or would be suited to.
When people ask what you’re looking for, you need to help them to help you. Prepare for their questions by considering the items in the list below. You don’t need to have firm answers for all points below … just focus on the things that you feel strongest about.
- What do you want from your next role? To develop technical skills or leadership, to stretch yourself, to embed skills you already have?
- Do you have an idea of the role you want in the long-term? Is your next role a stepping stone to that or do you want something completely new?
- How senior a role do you want? Why? Do you want to be a leader and do you have experience in this? Would you prefer to work in a team or alone? How big a team would you prefer?
- What industries have you worked in before that would give you an edge, and what industry do you want next? Why?
- What type of company do you want to work for? A small start-up, a growing company, a large corporation?
- What type of work environment do you want? Fast-moving, flexible, traditional, innovative? Is the development methodology important to you? Do you want a team where roles are flexible and varied or do you prefer clearly-defined responsibilities?
- What salary/benefits would you want ideally and do you have a minimum in mind?
- Do you have any must-haves?
- What is most important to you? The role, company culture, salary, benefits, training, flexibility, industry, opportunities, location, or other things?
Let’s change those examples above to something a bit more helpful:
“I’m looking for a test lead role at a telco.”
“I want a Java developer role in a large corporate organisation.”
“I want to work part-time in a customer service role.”
Once you have some idea of what is important to you and what you want to aim for, then decide how specific or broad you want to be when telling others. You don’t need to disclose exactly what you want but it’s good to have your ‘first prize’ in mind.
So the next time someone asks what kind of role you’re looking for be ready to replace “anything” with something!
Shirley Tricker is managing director of Elementum, a company dedicated to giving people who work in Tech their best chance of having happy and fulfilling careers. We offer coaching and online training for the non-technical skills, techniques and habits that make the biggest difference at work. (Things like communication, collaboration, resilience, productivity tricks, how to get a new role, how to say no, how to get opportunities or get noticed … and so many more).
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