The First Question Every Jobseeker Should Ask Themselves

As someone who bills himself as a job search mentor, a lot of people, from jobseekers on LinkedIn, to people I meet, to friends and family, come to me with their career questions. If I get lucky enough to have one of them decide to work with me, that process just intensifies. My clients come to me looking for guidance and that often comes in the form of questions. Questions like-

How long should me resume be?

How do I go about networking?

Should I be using job boards?

Does anyone even look at cover letters anymore?

How long will it take me to find a job?

What the heck is ATS?

These are all valid questions, but they are not the key question. The key question needs to be answered long before we consider any of the others. You see, most people ask process questions, which is all well and good. Process is important, and I can certainly help with that. But process isn’t what leads you to professional fullfilment. In fact, most of us just keep pushing forward with process and it gets us stuck. According to the most recent report by the Conference Board, over 50% of Americans feel dissatisfied with their jobs. This is where the focus on process gets us.

So, what is the better question to ask? The key question.

“What would I like to do if money were no object? How would I really enjoy spending my life?”

I know, at first glance this looks like one of those inspirational quotes written over a seaside sunset image that you’d see on Facebook or Instagram. However, in this case, the question really is important, and if used the correct way can help you- write a better resume, network with the right people, create a dynamic cover letter, and yes, get you a job that both pays the bills and is professionally fulfilling.

Now, forst off you have to put aside answers like, “I’d sit on a beach drinking things with fancy umbrellas in them all day.” That isn’tthe kind of fantasy we’re talking about with this question. (Besides, just how long could you really do that before it just got monotonous?) When you ask yourself how would you enjoy spending the rest of your life you need to think in terms of being a productive member of society. What would make you happy, challenge you and have you feeling fullfilled?

The trick is not to think too concretely about the answer to this question. Don’t think, “I’d like to work in sales.” Instead think-

I want to work with a variety of different people on a day-to-day basis.

I want peace and quiet to solve complicated problems.

I want to lead and inspire others to build something.

I need to be creative

Once you have answered the question, then your job is to marry the answer to something within your profession. For instance, if you want peace and quiet to solve problems then you probably don’t want to work for a start up that is going to require you to wear a lot of hats. Even though the “romance” of working at these types of companies is alluring, once you’ve figured out your answer you can see how you’d end up frustrated there. On the other hand, if you want to lead, then taking a job a a huge traditionally structured company might not work for you. You’d likely be happier working somewhere smaller where there is more opportunity for growth and chances to lead.

Once you have answered how you really want to spend your time then the options become clearer and your chances of landing in a job that satisfies your needs raises exponentially.