You know those emails that LinkedIn sends you with jobs you might be interested in? I read them almost religiously (and I can’t say that about a lot of emails in my inbox).
No, it’s not because I’m unemployed and looking for a job—or even because I’m on the prowl for my next move. In fact, leaving my current job and looking for a new one isn’t in my foreseeable future.
But I still read every single one of those emails, click on jobs that sound interesting, and read the descriptions word for word. I still make note every time I hear about a company that I would want to work for. I still jot down every time someone tells me his or her job title and I think, huh, that sounds really cool.
Why? Because the only way to truly grow your career now is to think about where you maybe want to be going in the future. Read on for the reasons I always have my eye on where I might want to work next—and why you should, too.
It Gives You a Goal
Nothing is worse when you’re actually job searching than looking at a position that sounds amazing and then realizing that you don’t have the required qualifications. In many cases, you should still apply anyway, but it can certainly kill your confidence (and make it harder to impress a hiring manager) if you don’t check all those boxes.
But if you’re starting to look at listings for the jobs you might want a few years down the road now, then you’ve got a leg up in getting the experience you’ll need to really stand out. Sure, that particular job opening probably won’t be available a few years from now when you actually want it, but as you start to read listings you’re interested in, you’ll start to notice trends.
For example, looking over the jobs that I’m most interested in, I can see that a lot of them are looking for around five years of editorial or writing experience, with at least a few of those including editorial management. That becomes a goal for me. If I noticed a lot of the postings I was attracted to looking for a certain skill—like design abilities—I would have time to take steps to learn that.
Keep a document with all the postings that look interesting to you (I use Evernote). Highlight qualifications that stand out as trends among them all. Then, start creating a professional development plan to meet some of those qualifications you’re lacking. No matter what happens, improving yourself professionally can’t hurt—and it will make you feel much more prepared when you’re applying to jobs down the road.
It Helps You Piece Together Who You Want to Be
Generally speaking, career paths these days are much less linear than they used to be (or than people used to make them out to be). Just because I’m an editor today, doesn’t mean I will become an editor-in-chief one day (or that I even necessarily want to).
If your career goals feel a little fuzzy, too, keeping a list of positions that spark your interest is a great way of honing in on what you love (and don’t) about the work you do and what you want to be doing more of in the future—and ultimately, can help you put a name to that thing you “want to be when you grow up.”
As I copy and paste interesting job descriptions into my Evernote document, I like to go through and highlight descriptions and tasks that really catch my eye. As you do this, you’ll probably start to notice some patterns. For example, even though the job titles of all the jobs I’ve collected are far from the same, I can tell I’m attracted to a job in the digital space that requires a mix of both traditional editing or writing and some bigger-picture innovation or tech work.
What’s even better is that, even if you don’t job search again for many years, this exercise can potentially help you improve your job now. Look at the things you’re interested in doing that aren’t currently a part of your job. Are there ways you can start to incorporate them? Projects you can help out with that will start to add that task to your day-to-day work?
It Gives You a Worst-Case-Scenario Plan
Have you ever gone to a job board and searched a generic keyword related to your job? I’m sure you have and, if so, you know how overwhelming it can feel! There are so many companies and so many job openings out there—how can you possibly wade through them all, sift out the crap, and find the perfect things? How can you know you aren’t missing amazing companies that don’t have listings on any of the places you’re searching?
If life were to ever take me by surprise and I were to find myself jobless next week (hey, you never know!), I wouldn’t want to have to deal with that overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start—and I’m sure you wouldn’t either.
But by having a list of companies and positions that look compelling to you, you would know exactly where to start. Start with the companies that you’ve written down as interesting, checking their individual job boards or, if there’s nothing listed that’s a fit for you, just emailing them your resume and letting them know why you’d love to work for them and how you think you could contribute. Start with the job listings you’ve saved—even if they’ve all been filled, you can use the specific job titles to narrow down your search. Start with the people you flagged as having jobs you’d love, and see if they’d be willing to chat with you or give you any advice.
The bottom line is, by keeping a list like this, you won’t have to start at square one next time you are actually looking for a new gig. Instead, you’ll have a clear vision of where you want to go, the qualifications you need, and a solid list of places to start looking—a great foundation to finding the next job you’ll love.