Before You Get Your Heart Set on a Job, Research the Market Need

 Research Market Need Photo by Jonatha...

Once upon a time, as recently as the 90s, people thought journalism was a good career. They studied it, they edited campus newspapers, they went to journalism school or took jobs in small towns to work their way up to a big paper in a major city.

We all know how that turned out once the Internet exploded. Is journalism still a career? Yes. Is it a good career for a new professional? No, for the simple reason that the market doesn’t need very many entry-level journalists.

It’s easy to get your heart set on a certain career. But that doesn’t mean the career has its heart set on you.

To succeed professionally, you need to understand the ebbs and flows of the market. You need to understand which industries are on the rise and which are on the way out. 

When ArcVida’s co-founder Elissa Unton graduated from the University of Southern California after earning her MBA, she really wanted to work in investment banking. Unfortunately, it was 2008, a year when there were many more jobs lost in investment banking than created. Had she graduated a few years earlier or five years later, she might have found just what she was looking for. But her graduation coincided with the precise point when post-graduate jobs in investment banking would remain almost nonexistent for several years.

So Elissa pivoted and pursued and landed a job in financial planning and analysis because it would allow her to use many of the same skills: strategy, analytics, and communication.

When I left politics, I had my heart set on working as a lobbyist and communications director for an agency that worked to combat domestic violence (DV), which was an issue I had been passionate about since college. The only problem? There were two of these positions in all of New York City, because most of the organizations focusing on DV provided direct service to families rather than lobbying for legislative change.

But I held out, and after 14 months of making connections with DV experts all over the country, taking steps to start my own lobbying organization, and serving on the board of a coalition of DV service providers, I was offered one of the two jobs in New York after my predecessor moved to Maine.

But after less than two years in that position, I realized that DV was a dead end in terms of my career and what I wanted to do in terms of lobbying and communications.

What I learned from the experience was this: while you can hold out for 14 months to land the job of your dreams, if there are only two positions in the entire city, the field will almost certainly offer zero room for growth.

Although I was less passionate about the issue of education, nonprofit education organizations were flourishing at the time, and there were lots of opportunities for me to put my lobbying and communication skills to work. So I pivoted, much as Elissa did.

Sometimes career coaching focuses so much on helping clients discover what makes them happy that they never take the time to investigate whether anyone is hiring for their dream job. Too much reflection on what someone wants can set up unrealistic expectations: “I should be able to live where I want to live, do what I want to do, make what I want to make, at the company I want to work for.”

That’s why we spend so much time having our clients focus on market need, so they can set realistic expectations and go after companies that are hiring for what they want to do. As our co-founder Elissa likes to say, “Don’t try to be a blacksmith in a town with no horses.”

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Published on 12/5/2018