People switch jobs, and full careers, many times in their lives. Many of these changes happen early in our careers. The average American has about twelve jobs between 18 and 50 and nearly half of those changes are between the age 18 and 24. This year alone, almost three out of four employees are looking to change employers. There are so many reasons why people decide to change jobs, including bad management, lack of internal career mobility, not being challenged, not being paid enough, relocation, and unfulfillment. Regardless of the reason for changing, I see the same mistake happen over and over again. When my friends ask for my help in their job search, they spend no time figuring out what they actually want. Part of why people move from job to job so regularly is that they never sit down and think about the career they want to build for the rest of their lives. They immediately turn to a job board or ask their friends to help them get a new job, while that job might not be a good fit in the first place. They start that job, and then they end up needing help again because they are feeling stuck and are unfulfilled.
While you may believe that the biggest mistake job seekers make is that they are unprepared for interviews, give up too easily, don’t negotiate properly or lack confidence, the truth is that it has EVERYTHING to do with not having focus. It’s EASY to apply for a random assortment of jobs until you land a gig. It’s HARDER to take some time to really contemplate the companies you genuinely want to work for, the roles that fit you best, the type of manager you want to report to and the location you want to work in. When we avoid this criteria, we make poor decisions that lead to the same outcome of feeling unsatisfied and lost.
I understand, and empathize, with those who are taking their first or second jobs “just to get experience” even though they are unhappy. The problem comes when someone continues to make these choices and then complains. I always tell people to take some time to figure out what they actually want and then I can connect them with the right people who can help them. If you don’t know what you want, how is anyone supposed to help you, refer you or hire you? Knowing who you are, what you’re capable of and what you want is extremely empowering. The lack of that self-reflection creates confusion, doubt, stress and unfulfillment.
My recommendation is to create a spreadsheet and list the companies you want to work for in order of your preferences. When selecting companies, factor in prestige, culture, job openings and location. Then, see if you know someone who works at any of those companies, or if your contacts know anyone who they can introduce you to, just to have an informal conversation. Use these connections, and conversations, in order to collect data on the corporate culture, day-to-day responsibilities and benefits that each employer has to offer. This will help you make a more informed decision of where to apply and give you a personal contact so you get your foot in the door.