By Peter Weddle — According to a new survey by Yahoo!, people are now changing jobs every 2-5 years. In other words, if you aren’t in an active job search right now, you likely will be in the not too distant future. This environment of continuous movement presents all of us with a choice: we can either decide to be in charge of these changes or let ourselves become their victim. How can you gain control over such an inherently unstable environment? As best you can, know what to expect and what you can do to make these transitions as successful as possible. The Yahoo! findings offer some important insights that can help you with both.
The Yahoo! poll was conducted in May of this year and garnered responses from 3,714 U.S. workers aged 18 to 64 who were either employed or had been in the last five years. Here’s what it found:
• Over one-third of all job seekers have been looking for a job for more than 6 months;
• Fewer than six-out-of-ten (59%) of the active job seekers spent at least 1 hour per day on their search; and
• Almost eight-in-ten (79%) were using the Internet to find a new or better job.
With over a third of the respondents spending over half a year in transition, it’s clear that looking for a job today can be a long and arduous process. For years now, the conventional wisdom has been that you should expect your job search to last a full month for every $10,000 of salary you expect to earn. In other words, if you’re looking for a salary of $50,000, you are likely to spend five months looking a suitable position; if you can command a salary of $120,000, you are likely to spend a year in transition.
I don’t think the job market is governed by such hard and fast rules, but this particular guideline is helpful because it makes sure we appreciate just how enormous and difficult an undertaking a job search is. It’s not a vacation with a little effort—a measly 1 hour per day—around the edges. It’s one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever have. And, using the Internet doesn’t change that; in fact, the Internet makes finding a dream job even more difficult. In the old days, you competed against only the people who read your local newspaper. Today, most employers post their openings online, so you’re battling it out with anyone and everyone who has an Internet connection. That means you’re up against the people who live across town and those who live on the other side of the state and even on the other side of the country. If they’re willing to relocate, they can compete with you, and in many cases today, they do.
It’s naïve, therefore, to expect a job search today to be either easy or short. If you’re willing to take the first lousy job that comes along, you can, of course, shorten the process, but if you have pride in your work and want to be employed where you can do your best work, then finding such a position is likely to take time and effort. The key to success, therefore, is to hope for a quick and pressure-free transition, but plan for the opposite.
What should your preparations entail? I recommend that you begin by taking the following steps:
• Get your family ready for the challenge. They’re a part of your transition too, so manage their expectations by making sure they understand both what you’re trying to accomplish in your job search and what you’re up against in achieving that objective. Family support is a critical component of any employment change, but to provide that support, your family needs (and deserves) to know the true nature of the challenge you’re confronting.
• Get yourself ready for the challenge. Manage your own expectations and set a pace that’s not too fast, but not too slow either. A successful job search—one that enables you to capture a job that will increase both the paycheck and the happiness you bring home from work each day—involves determined, concentrated and quality effort. In other words, the only way to land a dream job is by working hard at finding it. You can’t play at a job search; you have to treat it like a job and deliver sustained, superior performance. Any less of an effort all but guarantees that someone else will out-compete you and land the job you want.
In my book The Career Fitness Self-Fulfillment System, I describe these preparations as similar to the way professional athletes get ready for a sports contest. They do two things to put themselves in a position where they have a real chance to achieve a victory. First, they are realistic about the nature of the challenge; they are not overconfident or careless about what they must do to be successful. Second, these athletes create a mental image of what it will take for them to reach their goal and they mentally practice that effort over and over again. Winners in the world of sports always expect to be tested and therefore, always give each and every contest their best effort. We should do the same when we’re competing for a new or better job.