Not having a job search plan is like trying to reach the North Pole without a compass. You’re likely to wander aimlessly, unable to see your goal and not even sure you’re heading in the right direction. That’s probably a less extreme disaster-in-the-making than exploring the frozen north without a compass, but it’s not a course you want to take if you hope to have a successful job search.
Is a Five-Year Job Search Plan Essential?
Does needing a sense of direction and purpose mean you must have a five-year job search plan? Not really. As an executive, you know that in business, a five-year plan can be flexible—sometimes extremely so. What’s most important to begin with is developing the plan and then being ready to modify it later, if needed.
That’s also true for your job search planning. First, you need an overall guide—I’d call it a career management plan. This long-range guide will include the focus of your current professional activity, whether it’s moving to a new location, targeting an internal promotion, or something else. It will also have target dates for the key milestones, which are important to anchor your job search in the real world.
Because it’s long range in scope, the plan doesn’t concentrate exclusively on the first major goal, as important as that is. It encompasses other objectives beyond the successful conclusion of your current job search. Those could, for instance, include desired career advancement after you land the new job. A savvy executive is always thinking ahead, even while he or she works to achieve successful results in the here-and-now.
Pitfalls of a Poorly Conceived Job Search Plan
You could find your job search coming to a screeching halt or rocketing off in the wrong direction for a number of reasons. One of them is failure to take a practical view of the odds for and against success. Optimism is a great quality to have in a job search, but just as in business, being realistic about the situation puts you in a better spot to reach your goal.
I don’t need to list all the pitfalls you could encounter if your plan is poorly conceived. Here are just a few of them, along with ideas of what you can do to handle them.
- Underestimating the complexity of your job search goal or overestimating your readiness to reach it:
You probably wouldn’t decide at age 50 that you wanted to change from being a VP of technology to being a brain surgeon. However, you might have set your sights on a professional goal that is a much bigger stretch than you can realistically achieve in your lifetime. Determining that at the outset could save you a lot of time and emotional distress later.
- Stubbornly sticking to a predetermined goal despite strong indications that it’s not going to work out:
Persistence can be a key element in conducting a successful job search. After all, you didn’t get where you are now by giving up easily. On the other hand, banging your head against a figurative brick wall doesn’t make good sense, either! It you encounter a major roadblock, maybe it’s time to re-think your goal and see if you can modify it in some way that offers better odds.
- Being unwilling to listen to input from others about your plan or listening to people who might not know what they’re talking about:
You won’t succeed in business long term if you refuse to listen to guidance from knowledgeable experts or put your trust in people who might care more about their own success than yours. The same is true for your job search. By all means, solicit input that could be beneficial, but do it wisely.
Like the explorer trying to get to the North Pole, you want to prepare thoroughly for your job search and then proceed with both determination and wisdom. A well-thought-out plan is a critical element of your ultimate success. It just doesn’t need to be a five-year job search plan!