"I'm going to figure out what I want, and then I'll start my job search."
Um, not to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but as someone who coaches for a living, I immediately recognize that kind of thinking as guaranteed to lead you down the garden path of self-sabotage, shame cycles and general destruction. That kind of "thinking" is pretty much a sure bet that you are being guided by your worst insecurities and fears. And fear is always hungry. Feed it, and it just gets hungrier.
Let's be honest. You're not going to figure out what you want! Hell no, you're going to do everything in your power to avoid having to begin the series of onerous, terrifying, exciting decisions, because while the end result is frequently amazing, the journey itself is horrendous. I, for example, love where my life is now, but no lie: the past 5 years to get here were straight up horsesh*t. My journey involved a lot of brutal honesty and gin, not necessarily in that order.
Anyways, deciding that you're going to figure out what you want and afterwards will start your job search means, in reality, that your successful, organized job search will start around the 15th of Never in the year 20-um-not-so-much.Think of the colossal, intimidating pressure you're putting on yourself: job search=figure out your life=panic=insecurities=Netflix queue and mug o' wine and eating ice cream out of the carton as you sob=it's January 2015, and you're right back where you started. Wow, what a long, drawn-out shame cycle, with nothing to show for it. I dislike shame, since it's not helpful, so instead, humor me, and do yourself a solid favor and just. Get. Started.
Now, you may not know exactly what you want, but you probably have a great idea of what you don't want, so begin there. Some people want to wait till everything in their life makes perfect sense, and god bless their beautiful innocence and childlike sense of wonder, but you and I need to improve our lives today. Life doesn't wait. (Corny but true.) So much of a successful job search depends on building momentum, and developing, as you progress, your confidence and courage. If you wait till everything is perfect, you're going to be waiting a looooong time. And while you wait, you'll see your friends get fascinating opportunities, you'll see some people succeed and others fail, and all of that will probably just make you even more anxious, and hesitant and suddenly five, or eight or ten years of your life have passed and you're working at a job you've loathed since Day One, thinking,"...wait, what? How is this my life?"
Meanwhile, if you today registered for a networking event given by your grad school alumni association, you might fall into a conversation there with someone who tells you about other useful events, or resources that you otherwise probably wouldn't have known about. You might look at the other people at the event and think,"....their experiences aren't that much more amazing than mine, and they seem to believe that they deserve better jobs...hmm...." You might think, "I should reach out to my former mentor, she was always so encouraging." You contact her, she's thrilled to hear from you, you have lunch, and during the course of the conversation, she remembers a position crying out for someone smart. She asks for your resume and yes, I swear, this is how people get jobs. The more you do, the more people and opportunities and ideas you meet, the more you'll enrich your life. That's how you'll have, eventually, your "aha!" moment. But if you sit at home trying to "figure out your life," (i.e. distract yourself with Pinterest, and CandyCrush and kitten videos and the latest manufactured celebrity drama)...oy, forget it. Sitting at home will only get you more lonely.
Therefore, here's four ways for you to get started today, even when you don't know what you want, you just know you want something better:
1.Seize your strengths: Instead of attempting to make sense out of your entire existence by the weekend, why don't you seize your strengths and write your resume, and by extension, your LinkedIn profile, from the POV of your unique education, skills and experience(s). Think about what you've done, what you've achieved, what you have today, and what you enjoyed. What are you good at? Looking back over the flow of your career, what are your strengths? What interests you? For example, what are the areas of your industry that you know inside and out? Granted, you may not want to spend even the next six months working in these areas, never mind this industry, but a successful job search depends on you telling a story about yourself and your career that makes other people recognize your abilities, in a way relevant to them and their needs.
Seizing your strengths permits you to craft your professional persona; almost a doppelganger who can network, and present in a way optimized to generate useful and interesting opportunities. Identifying your skills is a great way to structure a sort of locus for your job search, allowing you to recognize the people and circumstances in your network, that will help you to bring forth your goals. Telling yourself your story is also a crucial way to remind yourself of all you've done, and why you're worth the time and dedication necessary to get a job befitting your ambitions.
2.Start demonstrating your strengths and passions. If you can use social media to post 5,789 photos of your baby, or cats wearing scarves, but simultaneously, you cannot use it to demonstrate your passion in your field, then you're the reason I drink whiskey margaritas. People who hate their jobs, but can't be bothered to use their Google+ profile to follow interesting companies, and share industry-relevant articles, or contribute to intelligent online industry conversations...oh, come on! People who can't, or won't, help themselves, but can, because of course, post 4,000 boring posts about why Mondays suck, and how miserable they are, and (said in a tone of self-righteous smug desperation),"...anyway, what does it matter, the world doesn't need any more successful people." Grrrr. Your inability to grow up, and seek therapy for your depression, and take responsibility for your ambitions, since yes, success takes more than a credit card and 5 minutes: allow me to remind you that none of this counts as a form of recycling. However, as methods of self-rejection and despair...
If you're re-branding--and trying to re-start your life in any serious way, constitutes re-branding-- you need to convince other people as to why you're worth their time and contacts. You need to demonstrate your passion. Use your LinkedIn status to discuss conferences you attend, share work-related articles you're reading or, even better, writing. Have you been profiled, won awards or been a guest on TV or smart industry-related podcasts? Share them! Let me know who you are. If I'm looking to hire, I want to have an idea as to what makes you tick. Using Google+ and LinkedIn to follow and connect with the companies and people you're interested in, enables you, over time, to create a living portfolio of your ideas, interests and intelligence.
3.Join your alumni network(s), and identify at least two holiday parties (i.e. networking events) you're going to attend by the end of this year. Put these events in your calendar. Get some business cards with your name, email and phone number. GO! You just need to go, and smile and god forbid, maybe even have some fun, you don't need to have a perfect elevator pitch. You don't need to know what you want for the rest of your life: PERFECTION IS NOT NECESSARY. Nor useful. The last time I worried about so-called perfection, I was severely anorexic, and weighed 107 lbs. Oh, the sexiness. Perfection wasn't helpful to me then, or to you, now. Perfection is a serious cock-block.
However, getting in front of your fear and your insecurities, and realizing that many people are just like you, will be tremendously helpful, whether in getting a new job, or as regards the larger endeavor of crafting a life-in-progress that makes you happy. If you stop masturbating your insecurities, many people are a lot of fun. (I say this as someone who is a native New Yorker, who lived in Russia, survived both law school and a common-law marriage, and now dwells in Queens, so yes, I say this based on hard-won experience, not antidepressants.) Real people are much more fun than your Netflix queue or celebrities who don't even know you exist. Real people can change your life for the better, if you let them in.
4.Commit! Life coaches (*shudder*) will tell you, "Oh you want to change your life, well gosh, just think positively and be the um holistic change you want, see what I mean? That'll be $75 and do you want to buy my memoir about my vegan commune in Brooklyn and how it changed me? I wrote it with my boyfriend, Atticus." I personally don't accept life coaches as clients anymore because they are, interestingly enough, so bad at both life and coaching, and I'm bad at tolerating morons. Alas.
My point being that only stupid people will tell you it's easy. Growing up is a difficult choice. Choosing to be happy is a life-long commitment. Your life means that only YOU are able to make the fun/frustrating/fascinating/amazing/depressing/boring/UNENDING choice that you will commit to this process. Don't ask yourself if this is going to work. DECIDE that YOU are going to make it work. This is, after all, your life! If you don't make it work...what then?
Allowing yourself to do the hard, tedious work to get a better job is going to take time. You can't simply send out ten resumes today, and 3 resumes on Wednesday, and go to one networking event next month and apply to some random jobs online and then wonder why nothing's happening. (If I just aptly described your so-called job search, oh my lord, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can begin the healing, for f**k's sake.) You're going to need to create a plan. You will have to commit to reaching out to old friends and colleagues on a weekly basis. You're going to have to revise your resume repeatedly, and tweak your cover letters and pound the pavement. You're going to get a lot of rejection. And then you'll have to wake up the next morning and do it allll over again. But however barftastic that process seems... giving up is worse. You don't just give up once; you give up over and over and over.
Tomorrow is October 1, 2014. The holidays are coming, which means a lot of parties. Parties are where you can experience networking in its truest, most useful form. Instead of giving yourself license to waste another year of your LIFE, why not go to a few (networking) parties, and allow yourself to talk to people? Maybe you can help each other. You don't know what you want? And what, you think the rest of us do? But if you want a fighting chance at figuring yourself, and your life out, you'll get out there, in the arena, as Teddy Roosevelt said, and give yourself your best.
I don't even know you, but I do know that you are worth it.