You probably have heard the advice to "cast a wide net" in searching for your next job. So, what exactly does that mean? More importantly, how do you do it?
It all starts with a good self assessment. Take away your job title, your past employer and all your baggage and ask yourself questions like:
- What do I really enjoy doing?
- When I've felt great about the work I've done, what was I doing?
- If money were no object, what would I do?
- Of all the things I've done in my life, what am I most pleased with? Why?
Plus developing a host of accomplishment (STAR) stories is a great foundation to get started with your wide net approach to search.
With this self assessment done, you can now focus your search beyond what it was that you used to do. You can focus on where your talents will be a match. Casting a wide net is not like shooting in a barrel, it is about focusing your search in new areas.
Option 1: TERRITORY EXPANSION
One of the simplest ways to expand your search is to look outside your immediate geographic territory. Use a database like D&B to identify companies that are similar to your last company yet located in a different city and/or state. Using NAICS codes will allow you to productively navigate D&B. The other option, if you don't want to research this on your own, is to consult your local library. Many have access to tools and resources that can find this information. Plus, librarians are trained research professionals. You could also use LinkedIn's search function to search by industry for company names.
Does it really matter if the job is in Kansas? You don't have the job in Kansas yet, so that doesn't matter. The logic is: what you will learn in the process of interviewing for the job in Kansas that will allow you to make the right decision.
Option 2: OCCUPATION EXPANSION
Figure out how your occupation has changed and what other companies are calling some of the functions you performed. Networking, by asking good open-ended questions, can really shed some light on this. Some occupations are becoming obsolete. Other occupations have grown to include many different job responsibilities. Most occupations demand up to date technology skills. You can also use O*Net to find similar occupational titles.
You will have to re-craft and focus your resume for these jobs to ensure you have positioned yourself as a fit. Don't make the reader guess, read between the lines or have to have read your entire cover letter to figure this out.
Option 3: INDUSTRY EXPANSION
The things you enjoyed doing and/or the skills you excelled at are in demand in other industries. Which industries you ask? That's the tough question. Again, there isn't a really easy answer to uncovering this. There are a couple of ways to conduct your research and you'll probably want to use both. First, good old networking. Ask questions like: "These are the things I really enjoy doing, what do they call that in your company?" or "One of the things I really excel at is helping solve financial problems, what types of people solve those problems within your company?" Second, enter some of these skills into the keyword search section of Indeed or Simplyhired. Be patient as you skim through the thousands of jobs that are posted. Look for company names and look for re-occurring patterns mentioning industries or types of companies. Do some digging to find out more about those companies. Then you can begin to identify local and regional companies like them. Use your network and ask for an informational meeting to learn more about the requirements of that occupation in that industry.
You will learn what to keep and what to eliminate only after you begin talking with people who are in those industries. Don't pre-screen out ideas until you have investigated them. Also remember, it isn't always about the money. Benefits, quality of life, and rewarding nature of work are all things you will want to consider.
I am frequently asked when this process of expansion should be started by a job seeker. The answer is…as soon as you begin you search. It can become overwhelming to juggle all these balls and different options. Chances are, you will feel more in control and more positive about your search by having these option than not having enough options.
Are there other ways to cast a wide net? Let me know what you've done to expand your search options.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.