Keep your professional goals in mind, despite the urge to panic

Even though I am traditionally a business advisor, I do spend a good deal of time providing career advice. I believe if you are an entrepreneur, your business is your career; otherwise, your career is your business.

A few weeks ago a bright alumni of the University of Pennsylvania contacted me for some guidance. Less than a year out of school, he had been laid off from his consulting job and was using any resource he could to find a new job. Like many other discussions I had recently, he was so panicked at being out of work that he was willing to entertain positions in fields he wasn’t really interested in, a mistake in my opinion. Our discussion prompted me to want to share a quick list of the best things you can do in your job search given the current economy.

Have a professional/career goal

  • Know what it is you want to do long term and figure out what job or experience will get you there in the short term.
  • If you don’t have a professional goal, use this time to figure it out- it is very hard to succeed if you don’t know what you are trying to succeed at.

Get in the game

  • When the economy rebounds (which it will) the most desirable hires will be people who are already working in a related industry/job.
  • Try to get a paying job first, but if you can’t, be willing to take an internship, a lower paying position or a job with deferred salary so that you are “in the game” and continuing to build your relevant skills and contacts during this tough time.


Stay on course

  • Don’t take a job that is unrelated to what you want to do. It will distract you from your professional goal. It will also be confusing for a future employer who may perceive that you are not committed to a particular path. (The gentleman who called me a few weeks ago was a consultant- he wanted to be a consultant but was interviewing in investment banking. I told him to stop immediately).
  • You will be better off putting every resource into securing some position (paid or otherwise) that is in the path of achieving your goal than getting unrelated experience. Going back to school or doing continuing education or seminars related to your desired career path would be a better option than straying from your path.


Put your ego aside

  • It sucks to get rejected. Don’t take it personally; most companies are struggling to pay their existing employees right now. Be creative in how you can convince them to take you on (deferred pay, trial internship, etc.).


Be prepared

  • If you are fortunate enough to get an interview, make sure you have done your homework and can communicate why you are perfect for the job. Don’t blow it- if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail.


Use your networks

  • Contact everyone you know and tell them what your goal is and what type of position you are currently seeking.
  • Are there groups you belong to that could help you? Alumni organizations, fraternity and sorority alumni groups, social and professional groups have large, expansive networks.


Make a switch, if needed, when the time is right

  • People switch employers all the time, so if the one you land in now is a good stepping stone to your ultimate goal but you need to switch down the road, no worries, just use it as a milestone.