That mentality is born of shortsighted fear. It's not the mentality of a long-term, solutions-oriented leader. Keep in mind that hiring managers want leaders with demonstrated success in finding creative solutions to difficult problems. Business plans, project plans, budgets, and presentations all take time to research and develop. So does differentiating your job search. By taking the time to zero in on a specific career goal and to plan an effective job search, you demonstrate to hiring managers your clarity and ability to manage projects. It's a strategy that's worked well for me. One of my own recent interviewers commented, "So very few candidates truly understand what they really want that it is an eye-opening 'ah-hah, this guy is different' moment when someone can confidently communicate that to (us)."
The amount of time this planning requires varies by person, but it can range from as little as a few minutes for job seekers who have already committed to specific industries and geographies to a few days for those who are less certain of their goals. Since I was originally looking to change industries, I spent more than two weeks researching the leading firms in the industry.
3. Focus on growth industries and specializations.
Picking an industry that is still growing or is predicted to grow during these difficult economic times increases your chances of landing a new job and decreases your chances of getting laid off again.
Most of the job search engines, career sites, and economists agree that the top industries for 2008 include
-- Health care
-- Federal government
-- Legal (attorneys)
-- Aerospace manufacturing
-- International business
-- Security (physical and systems)
Experts from the executive placement industry recommend selecting two or three industries along with the region(s) where you are willing to live, and then selecting the top 10 firms you'll target based on your industry and location criteria. Focusing your attention on a shortlist of prospective employers (as opposed to following up on every job ad you see) will make your research more manageable and will make it easier for you to identify the key decision-makers inside those companies with whom you need to connect.
It's important to be realistic about the industries and firms you're choosing. In my own job search, I initially attempted to change industries from financial services to defense. But after four months of disappointing results, I learned how difficult it is to overcome the new security clearance requirements enacted after 9/11 -- especially in today's economic climate. That lost time sapped my finances and a bit of my confidence. Luckily, I was able to recharge and rebuild my plan over the holidays. My new plan included evaluating the types of firms and business environments I enjoy working in beyond just top-ranked corporations. I also significantly reduced the time I spent searching for positions outside of my immediate region, since my relocation costs have repeatedly been cited by prospective employers as cause for dropping me from consideration over the past few months.
Within the IT profession, the areas of specialization in highest demand today include: