Many candidates ask us about the market for a particular field or functional area as they begin their job searches. Our answer is simple: don’t worry about the market—you only need one job, and what makes a job right for you isn’t likely the same as anyone else. Focus instead on determining the types of roles that will enable you to do your best work and frame your search strategy around that. Here’s where to start.

Determine Your Most Valuable Skills and the Work Situations You Prefer

Think about your skills first. What tasks can you do that cause other people to struggle? What can you manage that requires real mastery? What work do you enjoy that makes other people notice and comment? With the right context, these skills demonstrate your competitive advantage—they will help you land your next job.

Consider the business situations you prefer. Look at your successes and determine what environments encouraged you to do your best work. Some people are attracted to intellectual challenges, interesting tasks, or high-profile, high-stakes scenarios. Others enjoy more predictable roles where they can do great work but leave it at the end of the day. What kinds of situations draw you?

Finally, think about what other aspects of work are most important to you: career growth, flexibility, job security, compensation, mission, and/or work-life balance. What will you accept when an offer is on the table?

Use these insights to create a decision framework for determining which types of roles would fit best. This framework will help you focus your research and apply only for jobs that meet your needs.

Look for Open Positions and Research Smart

Spend your time researching fields and functional areas that match the business situations you prefer where you can envision your skills making an impact. Start with Google Careers, Indeed, and LinkedIn but also check out more field-specific boards like Idealist for nonprofit opportunities or ASAE for association openings.

Most industry-specific associations have niche job boards that are worth searching. For example, the National Association of Independent Schools has a board for jobs in education, and the American Physical Society offers listings for physics careers. These can be great resources for finding positions and learning how organizations in those fields describe their work.

Check out our Busy Person’s Guide to Smart Job Research for specifics on what to look for and where to find it. The goal of your research at this early stage is to quickly determine:

  • Who the organization is and what they do
  • Company culture and values
  • What it’s really like to work there
  • Financial health and stability

Structure Your Resume To Get Attention

Resume writing is a particular style apart from other types of writing. Every sentence should be factual, tangible, and verifiable, explaining the context of your successes while clarifying your competitive advantage.

Staffing Advisors Vice President of Client Engagement Aileen Hedden emphasizes, “One thing about resumes remains true, the reader will spend about three seconds before they decide to continue or move on. The top of your resume should be compelling and quickly orient the reader to your background and skills. You can do this with an executive summary or something similar.”

A good executive summary is 100% provable and encapsulates the skills you want to apply to your next job. Be brief and focused, with three sentences at most.

An excellent example:
“15 years of experience negotiating complex multimillion-dollar international trade deals. Proven ability to open new markets (Asia and Europe) while maintaining long-term relationships with Fortune 500 organizations.”

For each past job, lead with the most impressive bullets relevant to the type of role you want next and include verifiable facts. What was the revenue, number of employees, number of international locations, or percentage savings of your initiative? Were your achievements unusual among your peers?

Revamp Your Resume Language

Be sure to describe your accomplishments in the language used by your future employer. For example, nonprofits don’t refer to impact in revenue dollars; they talk about mission. Government and military jobs have strict specifications for language and format. You have to do some homework, but it will pay off.

Staffing Advisors Project Director Lilly Khan offers this to candidates, “The lens through which you present yourself needs to mirror the types of roles you are looking for. It’s not just about your achievements. It’s about how they align with what you want to do. Figure out what problems these organizations are trying to solve and how your skills fit with that.”

Read ten job advertisements from organizations in the field or functional area you want to work in to find this language. It’s smart to incorporate keywords from job descriptions in your resume, but only as they relate to your proven experience and measurable competencies.

Ready for the Next Step?

Searching for a job isn’t easy, but following these steps should help reduce stress, save time, and provide you with the information you need to begin making a career decision you’ll be satisfied with long term.

For a detailed step-by-step guide through your entire job search, including tips for developing a compelling career narrative, more in-depth resume and cover letter writing tips, and interview strategies that work, read our Guide to Senior Executive Job Search.