Off you go down the career path you’ve chosen! First order of business: find the right job. That way you can use all the pent up passion and energy you’ve been stockpiling, the knowledge you’ve gained, the skills you’ve acquired.
And then it doesn’t happen. You get no leads, you get no action, you don’t get past the gatekeeper, you don’t beat the competition, you don’t get to do what you thought you would be doing right now.
There may be many specific reasons, but they will fall into at least one of two categories and maybe into both. You either have a faulty strategy or a faulty way of executing it.
A faulty strategy means that somewhere in your planning process, you made an assumption, drew a conclusion, or set a goal that may not be reliable or achievable. For example, you chose a job objective in a field crowded with competition, or a field with a diminishing market, diminishing number of jobs that you want. Or both (uh-oh). In this case, perfect execution is absolutely critical–you will need to have it all: grades, credentials, work ethic, attitude, flexibility, humility, recommendations, and the best connections.
A faulty execution means that your strategy is sound (enough) but you aren’t executing it effectively. “Effectively,” when applied to an individual, means that your individual effectiveness in some aspect of the process is lacking. You aren’t doing enough of something, you are doing too much of something, or what ever you are doing, you aren’t doing it as well as others.
Is anything ever perfect? Not for long. But you can do better, you can make better choices, and you can go back and review your plans and your activities.
First, review your strategy. This may mean all the way back to who or what you want to be, and where you planned to be. If you chose a profession with serious limits on its market growth (let’s see, maybe aerospace engineering, maybe newspaper journalism?) it might be time to retool your strategy. On the other hand, if you have exceptional credentials or can acquire them now, you may be positioned to be competitive even though it will take exceptional execution.
How do you know if you need to correct your strategy? If the following are true for you:
1. You did not get good grades in your chosen field. I said good grades, not top grades.
2. You cannot articulate why it is the most important thing in the world for you to do every day.
3. You did not check to see how many other people in the place where you intend to live are doing it, and how many people or companies are willing to pay anyone at all to do it every day. You see articles about large numbers of layoffs and job shortages in your field.
4. You checked the above, but didn’t believe it would apply to you. For some reason.
5. You are now angry or upset with the economy or the labor market, for which you blame for your problems. (Okay, that one will be true for execution flaws as well.)
6. You wish you had chose a different path, which you can now see that you might have done with good results.
7. You have researched this, and you know that there are other places in the country, state, or region where you could do what you have been trained to do.
8. You have not done any research at all; you chose the field because it seemed like a good idea at the time, or you listened to either your parents, your spouse, or your friends, who also did not do research on the field but thought “you’d be good at it.”
To correct your strategy, you must change your plans. You will either have to do something different, or do your thing in a different place. For people who are extremely committed to a profession–it is the only thing they can imagine doing–it’s easier to pull up the roots and take the garden with them. For those who love where they live, the soil beats the roots every time. They fertilize and nurture whatever flowers are willing to grow. (I am not riffing on “Bloom where you are planted.” Honest.)
But you might have an execution problem, not a strategy problem. If so, the following are likely to be true:
1. Your friends are being hired in the field, in the same community where your search is being conducted.
2. You get interviews, but not second interviews.
3. You are answering ads on job boards, as your exclusive avenue to consideration for the jobs you want.
4. You see articles about talent shortages in your field.
5. You have been given negative or positive feedback or advice on your appearance, your presentation skills, your attitude, your work ethic, your personal habits, your friends of your network (or lack of), your understanding of the job seeking process, your confidence, your manners, your ability to say what you mean, or your distraction with one or more of the above. You have failed to heed the advice consistently. Yes, you have to heed the positive feedback; it may not mean what you think it means to your search. (next blog)
6. You have very active Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In accounts. You say whatever is on your mind, quite a lot, and if that isn’t enough, you add the defining photo. And you have no idea how all that privacy stuff works, or you understand it but you don’t care.
7. You are now angry or upset with the economy or the labor market, who you blame for your problems. Or your Career Services department, if you are fresh off of a campus or still on one. (And by the way, this is not just a young careerist’s problem. Many of us return to school to change careers, not bothering to solve the problems that plagued us in the first one.)
8. You aren’t making execution mistakes because you aren’t doing anything. At all.
You can solve either kind of problem, but no one can solve either kind of problem for you. You have to be in control of your choices, whether they are your strategic career choices or the kind you make every day when you decide what to do, who to do it with, and where it belongs among your priorities. You can always change your plans; sometimes you must. And how you spend your time and what you think and say about it really makes all the difference in strategy execution–the rest follows your lead.