Identifying Your Guiding Lights for the Job Search
So, you’re ready to start looking for a new job!
Ah, the job search. Perhaps you see opportunity and potential in every job listing on Seek. Your amazing transferrable skills mean that you don’t want to narrow down your job search too far, yet the sheer volume of options is almost overwhelming. Or perhaps you are unsure about how to find a role that contains what is important to you. You’ve stepped into roles that felt perfect before… only to find they were not quite what you expected.
Whether you fall into the first category or the second, The Elite Collective is here for you. We provide a range of free resources and expert services to help you find a workplace and a role that lights you up.
A key part of our process is understanding why you have enjoyed your past roles, responsibilities, and achievements so that we can help align you with positions you will genuinely enjoy. This process goes by many names. I like to call it finding your ‘guiding lights’.
Focussing on internal values over external criteria
It’s tempting to evaluate new jobs against a list of criteria and requirements based on external guides such as commute, seniority, industry, and the job title. However, these types of lists – while important – only go so far to helping us find our dream role.
Loving what you do is far more about your internal response to your environment and employment than it is about the external factors themselves. We need to tap into why we enjoy certain tasks and environments to understand what fulfils us at work, and provide clarity and focus for the job search. We need to find what we value.
Can you remember a moment in which you achieved or experienced something which made you feel like you? Or an interaction that gave you an inner warmth?
That is a Guiding Light.
I am reminded of Mari Kondo and her ‘keep what sparks joy’ decluttering method. If we can hold the different elements of our professional experiences up to the light and ask ourselves what it was that ‘sparked joy’ or ‘lit us up’ in different activities, contexts, and relationships, then we’ll gain a better understanding of the circumstances in which we will thrive the most in the future.
There may not be such a thing as a perfect role; however, gaining this level of clarity will focus your job search on what is most important to your health and wellbeing as well as potentially give rise to opportunities you did not think were available to you.
How you can find your Guiding Lights for the job search
Our employment is broadly characterised by tasks, stakeholders, roles, locations, and industries.
If you can identify two or three examples of a time you thrived in each of these scenarios and understand WHY you may well find your personal Guiding Lights for your next role.
Interested? Kick back with a cuppa, your favourite pen, and a notebook, and reflect through the questions below.
Spend a moment reflecting and see if you can identify three tasks that you remember really enjoying. Now, here’s the key! Instead of thinking ‘I must be doing this exact thing in my next job!’ try asking yourself these questions:
- What were the steps I took to complete the task?
- What specific steps did I enjoy the most?
- What did I value about the task as a whole?
- Why did I enjoy this task?
Once you’ve answered these questions for each of the two to three enjoyable tasks that you have identified, see if you can identify some underlying themes about what made these activities satisfying to you. If you get stuck, try using sentence starters such as:
- I feel fulfilled when…
- I love working with…
- I value opportunities to…
- I get excited when…
Now finish this sentence:
‘Tasks which involve ______ light me up because ______.’
That sentence is your Guiding Light.
Again, spend a few moments identifying two or three stakeholder interactions in which you thrived. They can be internal or external, brief, or extended. Now, there’s no need to feel like you must replicate those exact circumstances to thrive in your next role. Instead, ask yourself:
- What was the character and nature of this stakeholder relationship?
- What was engaging with that stakeholder like? Challenging? Uplifting? Goals-focussed? Relational?
- What did I value about what I was able to contribute to the stakeholder?
- Why did I enjoy this stakeholder engagement?
Again, review your answers in relation to these three stakeholder interactions for underlying principles. You can use our handy sentence starters to help with brainstorming what themes characterise the relationships you’ve found the most fulfilling.
Now finish this sentence:
‘Stakeholder interactions which are characterised by ______ light me up because ______.’
We all have a vision of our dream role. But I dare to suggest that there is probably more than one dream role for you. List the three roles (or aspects of the same, diverse role) which you remember enjoying the most. Don’t worry about whether you would go back to them or not (we all like to move forward!). The key here is learning from the past.
- Which core responsibilities of this role did I really gel with?
- What were the underlying purposes of these responsibilities?
- What did I value most about these underlying purposes?
- Why did I enjoy this role?
You know the drill! Brainstorm whether you can find some themes across your answers and finish the following sentence:
‘Roles which have a purpose of ______ light me up because ______.’
For many people, the perceived benefits and disadvantages of location feature heavily in decision-making. Choose three locations in which you have worked (temporarily or permanently) and ask:
- How did being in this location affect the way I felt about myself?
- How did the commute affect the close ones I love?
- What did working in this location allow me to achieve?
- Why did I enjoy working in this location?
Now the next step:
‘Locations which mean I can ______ light me up because ______.’
You may have worked across several industries or niched into a specific part of an industry in your career. That doesn’t mean you’re limited going forward! Use the process below to discover what you valued in those environments to inform what you apply for next.
Choose three industries or niche environments that you’ve worked in and ask:
- What fascinated me about this industry/environment?
- What did I enjoy about the purpose and function of the industry?
- How did this industry affect my stakeholder relationships?
- Why did I enjoy this industry/environment?
Are there any common threads across your analysis?
‘Industries which involve ______ light me up because ______.’
Wow. Five Guiding Lights NAILED.
So, what now?
You can use your new, shining Guiding Lights to evaluate job descriptions, craft your application documents and design responses to targeted questions in interviews.
Perhaps you’ve noticed during this process that there are other themes you can draw out in each area. If so, repeat the process as many times as you like! We’re complex creatures, and there will likely be additional Guiding Lights within each of these five contexts which can help you understand what’s important to you.
The more you understand yourself, the more confidently you can step into the future.
If you find you need more help… well, we appreciate that sometimes it’s helpful to have an expert who is ‘outside our jar’ to tell us what’s on the label! Contact us to arrange a Professional DISC Characteristic Profile, which is provided in partnership with any of our other writing or coaching services.
If you're wanting to read and drive your own career transition journey a little further before engaging with us, have a look at my other blogs on Putting The 'I' Back in Team and Aligning your Experience with Employer Expectations. Hint - 80% is enough!