The Action-Oriented Job Search

By nature, I’m a cautious person with a tendency towards perfectionism, especially when it comes to my job search.  When I’m looking for work, my preferred approach is not to start reach out unless I am 100% clear on my career target, have the perfect resume, have updated my LinkedIn profile, joined Twitter and have practiced my introduction speech.  What can I say?  I like to be prepared for anything!

However, I am not convinced this is the best approach.  I know that in my quest for perfection, I often end up stalling out and procrastinating on the important parts like networking. I start to use my list of job search actions as road blocks as I tell myself that I can’t really start my active job search unless I have completed all the tasks that I have laid out for myself.  But this doesn’t often work out very well for me as I waste valuable time and might miss some opportunities.

I’m not alone in this approach. Many of job seekers often exercise a conservative approach as well.  But I believe that taking action is a key element in job search!  There is a time and place to be prepared. However, it is important not to let the preparation overshadow the important of moving forward and exploring options along the way!  Seizing the opportunity to connect with others in formal and informal settings, even in an activity that is not job search-related is actually one of the best ways to job search.

One of my favorite career development theories is called happenstance learning theory, put forth by John Krumboltz. In his career development theory, Mr Krumboltz talks the impact of factors over which you have no control and actions that you initiate.   He suggests that every situation has potential opportunities and encourages taking exploratory action to generate beneficial unplanned events or consequences.  As the saying goes, “You don’t know unless you try.”   When looking for work, I believe that you should be taking every opportunity to create your own luck. However, these events will not happen if you refuse to leave the house because your checklist isn’t complete!

There are so many ways to take action during your job search process including volunteering, shadowing someone at their job, conducting informational interviews, joining a club, attending networking events, getting involved in social justice, attending a fitness class, or even joining a political party. Besides these intentional actions, think about even your day-to-day activities where you are around people like in an elevator or on transit.  Don’t be scared to engage in events that seem unrelated to your job search as you never know who you might meet or what could happen. To get maximum benefit from the taking action, Mr Krumboltz suggests that you should do the following:

  1. Before the unplanned event, you take actions that position you to experience it. So even though you are open to unplanned opportunities, you still need to think about what you might need. Perhaps it’s business cards. Or maybe it’s having an updated LinkedIn profile. It could even be ensuring that you look your best when you leave the house (no sweats!)
  2. During the event, you remain alert and sensitive to recognize potential opportunities. One of my beliefs is that to be a good job seeker these days, you need to start thinking like an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is creative and is always looking for opportunity to maximize their product or service. To be really good at job search, start to work on developing this mindset!
  3. After the event, you initiate actions that enable you to benefit from it. It’s all fine and good to have a great interaction, but if you don’t follow-up, the connection is dead.  Make sure that you identify what the next step is and then implement!

So there you have it.  The job search paradox of action and preparation. When it’s all said and done, you need to trust yourself that you will be able to adapt to whatever unplanned situations that you find yourself up against.  You might not handle it perfectly, but that’s OK. What matters is that you are getting out and doing something. And as you start to take action, you will start to find your momentum, I promise!

Kristin Vandegriend is a Career Coach and Resume Writer at Career Story. With over 10+ years of experience in HR and career development, she has successfully worked with hundreds of clients to find meaningful and sustainable work. Her passion is helping clients identify career paths and creative job search strategies that leverage and market their personal strengths and resilience.  Connect with her on TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook.