There’s an old saying that goes something like “Intelligence is learning from your own mistakes, while wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others.”  Assuming one agrees with this mantra, there are numerous opportunities during the career transition process to “get wise” and learn valuable lessons from the people around you, be they members of the Career Horizons community or other folks you know who have recently gone through a career change or job search.

On this note, we recently invited some of our alumni to come in and share some of their most important insights, looking back in the rearview mirror at the job search they’d recently completed.  And while they shared many more thoughts then we’ll be able to capture in this short article, there were three primary points raised that we felt it would be useful to feature — both due to their originality, as well as our belief in the validity and importance of these points to job seekers who might just be starting out.

Point #1: Be clear about what it is you do — and who needs it!

As many job seekers quickly realize, it can be very challenging to “sum up” one’s career goals and professional focus within the confines of a 30-60 second elevator pitch.  Consequently, many people don’t even try, and instead of working to sharpen and refine this critical message, they go out and try to be all things to all people — throwing so much information into their pitch that nothing sticks or stands out.  Our veteran clients wisely pointed out, however, that this is a fundamentally ineffective strategy.  What they learned during their search, sometimes the hard way, is that until one is able to clearly identify their ideal goals — in a way that the average person can quickly absorb and understand — one’s networking efforts are going to sputter along without much success.  The wise job seeker, therefore, is the person who heeds this advice and invests the time necessary to clarify their focus and articulate it in the most interesting, memorable way possible.  If people don’t get what you do, they can’t help!

Point #2: Be realistic and plan for your search to take 6-12 months

While the time frame is not always what people want to hear, and primarily applies to professionals seeking jobs at the mid-to-senior level, our alumni insist that it’s better to manage one’s expectations, up front, and realize that finding a new job can take considerably longer than it did in past years.  This reality might be due to several factors, including the top-heavy talent pool in Seattle, the caution that companies exercise today when hiring employees, and the fact that companies are usually wrestling with so many competing priorities these days that the hiring process often drags on or gets temporarily derailed, as a result.  Additionally, many job seekers with 15+ years of experience need to recognize that they are likely seeking a more senior position this time around than in their last search, so the timeline for finding work will often be protracted, accordingly.   So while our recently-successful clients don’t urge people to panic, and admit that job transitions can happen immediately if the right circumstances take place, they wisely counsel people to plan to be out in the market, working the process, for a number of months.

Point #3:  Make yourself interesting

We found this last point particularly fascinating.  Several of our alumni, looking back at their recent periods of unemployment, said that one of the hardest parts of the process was to continue getting out the house, trying new things, and making themselves “interesting” both to employers — as well as to themselves!  They emphasized that the smartest, savviest job seekers will realize the importance of not getting stuck in a rut and will therefore attend training sessions, attend new social events, read voraciously, and take other steps to ensure that they always have something fresh and new to talk with people about.  This was a great insight and one that we’d never thought to stress to our clients, so we encourage all of you to work on reinventing and revitalizing yourself constantly!

All in all, we think the above three tips are great for all professionals today to contemplate, whether just starting out a new job search or steeling themselves mentally for future transitions.  So we’d encourage you to take these pearls of wisdom to heart, as well as reach out and solicit advice from other people you know who have made a recent job change.  Why learn every lesson yourself, the hard way? :)