Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.
The problem with looking for jobs is that they’re easy to find – too easy to find. You go to a job board. You find millions of jobs. You have no idea what to do with millions of jobs and no way to discern the good from the bad. It’s completely backwards to find job openings and then see if they’re any good.
Here are 3 reasons why scanning job boards is going to waste your time:
1. The jobs are picked over. You’re not inserting yourself into the process before the jobs get posted. You’re rummaging through the bargain bin.
2. You spend most of your time looking at jobs that you aren’t interested in because the job titles aren’t very descriptive. You might even end up looking at postings from scam companies like the ones that we mentioned a few lessons earlier. No matter how refined your search is, you can’t check a “Quality” box for your search.
3. You aren’t learning anything or developing any skills. You’re mindlessly clicking over and over again until you find something that meets criteria that you probably can’t even describe.
In case we haven’t made it painfully clear, Jason and I don’t think very highly of job boards. Today’s lesson is about taking the Always Looking Approach and making it active. Previously in your job search, your main activity has most likely been scanning job boards (and what follows after you find the jobs on job boards). You know that this approach lacks creativity, but you don’t know what else to do. Right?
Since we’re trying to help you become a creative thinker, we’re not going to tell you exactly what to do, but we’re going to give you some ideas on how you can replace the time that you spend scanning job boards with something more productive.
The first step may sound familiar: Forget your job search.
“Job search” means that you’re looking for a job. That’s not what you should be looking for. You’re looking for companies, problems, and stories. This isn’t a temporary thing. This mindset should stick with you for life. If you are constantly curious, you’ll always be aware of what options are out there.
So how do you find companies with compelling stories and exciting problems?
You look for them!
Duh, that’s what we talked about the in the last lesson. But what can you do to replace your daily routine of scanning the job boards?
Here are some ideas of where to look:
Magazines are one of the best sources for information, whether it be on niche or mainstream topics. Since magazines articles are more about breadth than depth, they give you the ability to learn about a lot of things in a short amount of time. That’s exactly what we’re looking for here. You can even read trashy rags like US Weekly if you must, but you’re better off making slightly more productive choices with your magazine reading like the ones that I wrote about here.
Blogs are the new magazines. Need I say more?
Newspapers are even broader than magazines, but they also seem to offer more distractions. Reading stories about layoffs isn’t going to be productive to your mindset and browsing the Classifieds for jobs is nearly pointless. Being up to date on current events is good for a wide variety of reasons, so make reading a newspaper (online or in print) part of your daily job search routine. Just make sure that you stay focused on the task at hand – finding companies with compelling stories and exciting problems.
Yes, I’m serious. You can actively job search by watching tv (you can also do it passively). If you get distracted easily, you should probably just skip this one, but if you can control yourself, 30 minutes of channel surfing might be more valuable than 6 hours on Monster.com. You can find more ideas on using tv for your job search here.
Take a scavenger hunt around your house. Look at your clothes, athletic equipment, and entertainment system. Go into your closet, fridge, and even under the kitchen sink. Check out the garage and the backyard. What catches your interest? What do you want to know more about?
One of the best things that you can do for your job search is to get out of the house. Head downtown and start paying attention. Look at stores, billboards, and trucks. Talk to people and watch people. There are a million things to observe, and everyone who is job searching can benefit from a day out of the house.
The next lesson is called “Who Can Help.” We’re going to cover these things there.
Wait, what? Didn’t I just rail against job boards for wasting your time? Yes, I did. So why can they be great resources for idea generation? Because they’re a giant list of company names and descriptions. Since you’re a recovering job board user, this may put you at risk for a relapse, but if you can get over an old bad habit, then you can certainly put these job boards to a productive use. The key is to ignore the jobs that are posted and only look at the companies that are posting the jobs. This will work ok with general job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder, but you’ll find it most productive on niche boards like TechCrunch’s Job Board and the American Institute of Architects’ Job Board.
To sum this lesson up, it’s all about active idea generation. The good thing about scanning job boards is that it makes you feel like you’re doing something. The bad thing is that it’s a big waste of time. If we can take that positive energy and desire for activity and direct it towards something more productive. Hopefully we’ve provides some alternative options that you’re willing to try, but I realize that convincing you to replace looking for jobs with looking for companies is a tough sell.
That’s why today’s homework is to spend an hour doing one of the activities above. Keep a pen and paper handy and write down every idea that comes up and is relevant to your job search. Just keep track of them. You don’t need to worry about what you’re going to do with the ideas yet. That will come in the next Foundation on Research. If you’re comfortable with it, share the list of ideas that you generated and how you generated them in the comments.
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