Maybe you’ve only ever thought of your job as something you show up to every day so you can get a paycheck and make ends meet. In fact, for most people, that’s what a job is. And there’s no shame in that—we all need to eat and keep a roof over our heads, right?
But what if there was a way to get that paycheck and do work that you love at the same time? It’s not out of the question, folks. It’s actually very important to do something that’s meaningful to you, not only because it helps you feel more fulfilled in your work, but because you were created to fill a unique role in this world. You are needed, and you must do it.
All that said, when you get down to the practical details, I know the job hunt can get pretty overwhelming. It can be hard to know where to look or where to start when it comes to finding a job you’ll actually enjoy. So here are some tips to help you look for and go after work that matters.
1. Decide what kind of work to pursue.
In order to find a job you love, you have to know what you love to do. That’s why figuring out your passions is a key step early on in the job search process. You might already have an idea of what you enjoy, or maybe you think of a passion as something impractical that you put off to the side in favor of having a “real” job. Not anymore!
Here’s how to get clear and specific on what you’re passionate about.
Take time to reflect.
Put all your fears, worries and doubts on hold for a minute and carve out some time to reflect on these three important questions:
- What do I do best? Think about the skills that have always come naturally to you—the things other people say you’re good at. These can be both hard skills (writing, budgeting, etc.) and soft skills (communication, leadership, etc.).
- What do I love to do most? These are the activities that seem to make time stop for you—when you’re engaged in them, you forget everything else. You look forward to them, and you might even spend hours learning more about them in your downtime. (Some examples could be teaching, baking, painting, etc.)
- What results matter most to me? Think about the people you want to help, the problems they have, and the solution(s) to their problem. For example, you might get fired up about helping people get out of debt or helping busy moms get more time back in their schedule.
Make sure you write down your answers to these questions while you’re reflecting. Then, brainstorm some ways you can use what you do best (talent), to do what you love most (passion), to produce the results that matter most to you (mission). That place where talent, passion and mission intersect is what I call the sweet spot, and it’s a really good indicator of what you should be doing with your life. My free Career Clarity Guide breaks this down even more and gives you a place to record your answers!
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Once you’ve gotten a clearer picture of the jobs you’d be passionate about and want to pursue, it’s a good idea to get some feedback from people you trust. Ask them if they could see you doing that kind of work and if they see potential in this area. Of course, don’t base your goals completely on the opinions of others. But if you use the people who know you best as a sounding board, they can help you determine if you’re way off base or if it feels like a natural fit for you.
2. Start your job search.
If you have the qualifications and a reasonable amount of experience in the field you’ve narrowed it down to, it’s time to fire up your internet and start looking for jobs! (If you know you don’t have enough experience yet, use your free time to take courses, volunteer, intern, or do whatever else it takes to get qualified and build your resumé.)
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Here are some of the best ways to find a job.
Use job search websites.
Gone are the days of sifting through sketchy Craigslist job postings! Sites like Indeed, CareerBuilder, Ladders and Glassdoor are about to be your new best friends. These websites are great because they let you narrow down your search to your specific location, desired salary and type of job based on keywords.
Most job search sites are also good places to get an estimate of the typical salary you can expect from certain companies. And some even let current and former employees write workplace reviews so you can see what you’re getting yourself into.
Update your online profiles.
Make sure you keep your LinkedIn and other social networking accounts up to date with your latest contact information, accomplishments and anything else you’d want a potential recruiter to see. Recruiters will look you up online if you apply to their company, so be prepared.
Now’s also a good time to make sure there’s nothing on any of your profiles that you wouldn’t want a potential boss (or your grandma) to see.
Make a job application spreadsheet.
I know you get up every morning thinking, Oh boy, I can’t wait to make a spreadsheet! But this is one of the best ways to keep track of the jobs you plan to apply for. Make different columns for the company, job title, where you found the job posting (include a link), date of application, date the company contacts you, whether or not you’ve followed up with them, and anything else that will help you stay on top of your applications.
3. Connect with your network.
Now is the best time to make the most of your web of connections—no fancy-schmancy networking events needed. Trust me, between acquaintances, friends, mutual friends and the people in your local community, you know more people than you think you do. Here’s how to network the right way.
Let people know you’re looking for a new job.
Make a list of people you know from church, past jobs, internships, clubs, and friend groups who are doing the things you want to do in the places you want to do them. Then get in touch and ask if they (or anyone else they know) could help you get closer to the job you want. If you can get connected with someone who works for a particular company you’re applying to, even better!
Hear me on this: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. We all need help at some point, and if you’re a kind person who’s intentional about building genuine relationships, people will want to help you.
Set up some casual meetings.
Take the relationship-building one step further by asking your connections if you can take them to lunch or coffee and get their insight on the job or career field you’re looking into. Not only does this one-on-one interaction help your interpersonal and relational skills, but it could also give you a job lead or even a referral. This is also a great way to find out if there are any volunteer or shadowing opportunities with the company you want to work for that could help you get in the door.
Follow up with your connections.
After you connect with someone, always follow up with a text, email or thank-you note to show your appreciation for their time. Follow up on anything relevant to the conversation you had and send your resumé if appropriate. Use your common sense here and remember that a posture of gratitude is the most important factor!
4. Customize your resumé and cover letter.
Speaking of resumés, you’ll want to make sure yours is up to date before you give it out to anyone. Now here’s the part that’s kind of a pain: You need to customize your resumé and cover letter for each job you’re applying for. Even if you’re applying to a lot of jobs, sending the same thing to multiple companies communicates that you don’t really care about the job—and any company will take note of the people who are truly passionate about their mission.
Only include what is relevant.
It can sometimes be tempting to put your whole work history on your resumé to show how much experience you have, but trust me—recruiters really only want to see the job experience that’s relevant (or at least somewhat related) to the position you’re applying for. For instance, there’s no need to put your bartending experience on a resumé for a corporate sales job, but including your experience in retail would be helpful.
Keep Applicant Tracking Systems in mind.
This might sound crazy, but when you submit a job application online, it’s usually filtered through something called an Applicant Tracking System (or ATS). This technology uses the keywords in the job posting to weed out any applicants who don’t have the right qualifications.
The tricky part is, if your resumé isn’t formatted the right way with the right keywords, it can get rejected by the ATS even when you do meet the criteria. Use the keywords from the job posting in your resumé and cover letter to make sure you pass through the filter. (Hint: This is another reason why customization is important!)
5. Submit your job applications (and be patient).
The waiting game is probably the most frustrating part of the whole job search. But once you’ve got those applications in, give yourself a pat on the back, take a deep breath, and wait it out. And if a few weeks go by without hearing from a job you really wanted, don’t be afraid to follow up with them or reapply (a lot of people have to apply to a company multiple times before getting hired).
If you get an interview, congratulations! Take plenty of time to prepare beforehand and dress to impress and I know you’ll ace it. And there you have it, folks—you’re well on your way to doing work you’re truly passionate about.