In the previous Figure YOU Out February
post, we dug deep into the process of figuring yourself out through self-reflection. That was very introspective and focused on you as a person: your likes, dislikes, wants, needs, etc. If you did the Reflect + Connect Workbook
and/or the Ten Day Work Journal
(and did them correctly), you should have a great deal of insight and self-awareness moving into the next part of this process. If you you didn’t, then… what are you waiting for? Download them and get on it! After you finish this post…
In this second post in the FYOF series, I’m going to show you how to use job descriptions to help you figure out how Y-O-U fit within the career field you want to be in. Whether you’re an active job seeker or in the info-gathering stage, job descriptions are a great way to 1) take the temperature of your field, 2) see if you’re on the right track to get hired, and 3) see where you’ll fit. Let me show you how!
As I’ve discussed in the past
, job descriptions provide a wealth of information for an applicant. They tell you what the company wants, provides clues about the direction they are moving in, and can give great insight into what skills and experiences a job seeker should highlight in their documents. In my Interviewing With Confidence
blog series + workbook
, I devote an entire section to how to effectively mine a job description and align your interview prep to what it’s asking for. I’m not trying to beat this horse completely to death, but I strongly believe that job descriptions are an untapped resource in the job search of many people.
But even before you’re ready to apply (or even if you’re happily employed), reading job descriptions is an extremely valuable practice that I advise all of my clients to engage in regularly. Here’s why…
1) Reading job descriptions can helps you take the temperature of your field.
By ‘the take the temperature’, I mean help you see where it is and where it’s going. Job descriptions can help you get a better understanding of the trends, practices, popular wisdom, etc. that are current to your field. The professional world is not static, and some fields are moving and changing faster than others. Job descriptions can provide you with information on where your field is going so that you can be as prepared as possible. A great example of this is the tech industry, where programming languages and software requirements are constantly changing. I have some friends in that field and the amount of constant learning and professional development they need to do in order to stay current (and marketable) rivals the workload of my medical doctor friends. If one were to read the job descriptions of this field prior to going on the job market, they could effectively prepare themselves by studying the languages and software that pop up across companies. After all, a company won’t care if you’re an expert in a dead technology!
2) Reading job descriptions can let you know if you’re on the right track to get your goal job.
This point is related to the previous one, in that job descriptions can give you insight into what firms are looking for. And, when you cross-check this information with your own experiences, you can have a much better sense of whether or not you’re ready to be hired in the role you’re trying to get. For example: If your goal job is to be a human resources manager, reading listings for these jobs will tell you things like how many years of experience companies want, what types of experiences are more valuable than others, the education levels that are most ideal, and what credentials would be most desirable. With this type of information you can then pick your course of action: apply now if you’re qualified or look for a stepping stone job that will help you get there in the future (while shoring up other aspects of your background that are missing).
3) Reading job descriptions can help you figure out the type of company (and entire career field) that would be right for you.
Little tidbit of advice: Every job is different because every company is different. A marketing manager for a boutique hedge fund does a different job than a marketing manager for a grocery store, who does a totally different job than a marketing manager for a tech startup. Just because job titles are the same, the job functions can be (and usually are) totally different across fields. This is why reading job descriptions is such a useful endeavor: You can learn how your desired position looks across multiple fields and figure out the one that is best for you. And, even if you have this aspect narrowed down, you can use these listings to get a better idea of the kind of company that would be best for your work style and professional aspirations.
Wow, Lindsay, this sounds great. I’m totally sold on the fact that I should read job descriptions … But where do I find them, and how do I keep track of all of this information? (Read that in an infomercial voice for a quick chuckle.)
As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, you can not gather this much information from just one job description or even one search session. To really get the most out of this, you need to make this a daily (or almost daily) habit for at least a week or two. This way, you’ll be sure to have enough data to be able to draw appropriate conclusions for your own career exploration and job search purposes. Here is the process.
Step 1: Figure out when your field hires. Does your industry engage in ad hoc (as-needed) hiring practices, or is there a set timeline for when recruiting and hiring occur? You need to know this so that you’re not wasting your time looking for jobs that won’t be posted for 6+ months.
Step 2: Get the jobs sent to you. Most job search sites have an option for you to set up what is called a ‘job agent’ which allows them to send you jobs that match what you’re looking for. To do this: go to a site, run a search on your desired position (and location if you know you need/want to be somewhere specific), and enter your email (you’re typically prompted to do this). This way, you don’t have to go back to the site every time you’re ready to look. I suggest using indeed.com for this, since it is a job search engine rather than a job board. (Meaning, it looks for jobs instead of employers posting to them. This leads to less fraudulent postings, which are prevalent on sites like Monster and CareerBuilder.)
Step 3: Read the job descriptions. Duh, right? You need to actually read them in order for this process to work! Even if they don’t immediately appear to be good, read the job description anyway because you never know. Some descriptions are more, umm, descriptive than others, to keep this in mind as you’re looking. If you go more than a week without receiving a job agent email, revise the search parameters (from Step 2) as you might have been too specific.
Step 4: Record your findings. Use the Job Description Record to record the specifics of each job description you read, whether you’re interested in applying to it or not. There is space for 15 entries, but feel free to use less if you feel like you’ve got some particularly robust listings. As I stated before, you should do this for at least two weeks to make sure that you’re getting the clearest picture possible.
Step 5: Analyze the results. At the end of the two weeks (or more, if you decided to extend the window), go over your results for patterns in the jobs you liked versus the ones you were not too hot on. What similarities and differences do you see? Use the Job Description Record Reflection to reflect on your entries.
The process outlined above should be useful in helping your narrow down various aspects of your career path. Couple this knowledge with the self-awareness that you gained from the first post of Figure YOU Out February, and you should be well on your way to understandings where Y-O-U fits into your J-O-B!