How to start your job search

When it comes to job seekers, I often see this question pop up in our community:

How do I just get started? What are the basics?

In my experience, people jump right into updating their resume a bit prematurely. But you have to make sure you’re pointed in the right direction first, otherwise, you will do all this work and create all these assets for your job search that will lead you down a path you don’t actually want to go down.

If you’re someone who prides themselves on being a great project manager or to-do list maker and slayer, you may have found yourself falling into this trap in the past where you get so busy executing a plan that all of a sudden, you look up one day and realize, “Oh I’ve just achieved someone else’s dream career. It’s just not the right one for me.”

So before you’re off to the races, I want to encourage you to take these three preliminary steps as you start your job search.

Assess Your Skills

I always recommend people assess their skills first.

Before you start asking yourself, “What do I want?” Ask yourself, “What can I offer? What do I have to offer? What strengths are unique to me and valuable to the marketplace? What’s valuable to a potential future employer.?”

Now, lots of folks will tell you to do an assessment of some kind. I think some people get a little over-eager in the personality quiz department, but I have taken Myers-Briggs, also known as 16 Personalities and recommend it. I have done a DiSC® Profile Personality assessment, which has been very fruitful. I haven’t personally taken StrengthsFinders test by Gallop – which has been re-branded as CliftonStrengths Assessment, but I’ve heard really good things about it. Those might be a good place to start.

But it’s also important to assess how much value you’re bringing to your current employer, your current community, and your current team by asking around. Ask your loved ones what they think you do better than average. What do you contribute to the world that makes you unique? What makes you an asset to the team?

This can be hard if you’re feeling insecure, or if you’re feeling like you can’t get your footing in the workplace today, but it’s a really important first step because a job search is essentially a marketing campaign for yourself and you really can’t sell yourself if you don’t believe in yourself.

This isn’t about self-worth or honing your confidence, this is about getting very pragmatic about what you can do that potential employers find valuable. It is worth assessing. It is worth examining,

Can you write better than average? Do you provide excellent customer service better than average? What can you do that’s better than average and would be valuable to a future employer?

Ask your loved ones and your colleagues. Ask your supervisor for a review and even if it’s not a perfect job right now, you can glean some insights as to what you can add in terms of value to your next employer.

Clarify Your Experiment

The second piece of advice that I always recommend is to clarify your experimental parameters, which is a nerdy way of talking about the job search.

Think of your job search as an experiment. If you go back to the scientific method, you have to isolate which variables you want to change and which variables you want to hold constant.

For instance, let’s say you have a hypothesis that underlies your entire job search. And the hypothesis is I like what I do, but I don’t like my two-hour commute every day.

My hypothesis is that I will be happier finding work that is similar, but that does not require such an egregious and horrendous commute. Preferably a job that would allow me to work from home.

You want to get very clear about the variables that you want to change. In this specific example: I hate my commute. I want that to change.

But you should also ask yourself what about your current job do you not want to change? What variables do you want to hold constant?

Some of us are so quick to flee a job that we don’t take stock of what is working at that current workplace.

While it might be easier to focus on the negative, I want you to focus on the positive. What is it about your current place of work that you want to replicate in the future? Sometimes we victim to what career coach Kathy Caprino calls the Pendulum Effect, which is where we swing so far in the opposite direction that we almost over-correct if we don’t take stock of what variables we want to hold constant, in addition to what variables we want to adjust or experiment with.

When you view your job search as more of an experimental design process, it can allow you to identify some of your underlying assumptions.

Most of us think more money, more power, and more freedom will make us happier. Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes that turns out to not be true.

We need to be mindfully aware and willing to sit in our feelings without judgment to answer the question: did this hypothesis turn out to be true? Even if the answer is no, after you make a transition, you have more data. You have more information from which you can make a more empowered choice next.

Explore Your New Direction

I encourage you to explore your alternatives. View this as an adventure, and before you set off on a grand new adventure at a new company, or in a new city or industry, try it on for size.

Take a day off to shadow someone in that organization. Figure out what a day-in-the-life of Silicon Valley would be like before you commit your life to that lifestyle. Try before you buy.

I think so many of us get rushed into the performative art of job seeking that it feels like we have to give the employer this definitive answer. We get so wrapped up in the emotions of a job offer that we skip right over double-confirming that this is something we actually want.

Don’t get lost in flattery. Give yourself the benefit of taking a beat and trying it on for size first.

Consider your options carefully before making a big transition between industries, or cities, or any major lifestyle shifts. Make sure that it is all that it’s cracked up to be.

So as you’re getting started with your job search this year, know that it is worth pointing yourself in the right direction before you get very busy polishing your resume and wooing employers.

Get Hired

If you want my support with your job search strategy this year, enrollment is now open for Hired, a three-month job search accelerator program to help job seekers sustain their drive and focus and motivation to really hold out for their dream job. It includes weekly video lessons with me, weekly assignments that I’ll review, and weekly group coaching calls, in addition to having the option for a one-on-one strategy call with me.

If that sounds like something you wanna learn more about, head to Hired to learn more.


If you found today’s episode helpful, let me know what it looks like for you to get your job search started this year. Tag me online @EmilieAries or @BossedUpOrg and weigh in with questions, comments, and share this post with the folks in your world who could use it.