width=292When we are young people ask us, What do you want to be when you grow up? It's a common enough question. Our parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends all serve to influence our decisions. Sometimes circumstances force us to choose a particular path. How may times have you heard someone say, Well I wanted to be a dentist, dancer, actor, or sportscaster, or something else? But they didn't become any of those things owning to personal or other obstacles that prevented their entry into a desired area.

The questions then become: Are you happy with the field you chose? Do you enjoy your work? Is there something else you would rather be doing? If you are happy and have other pursuits that fulfill other needs, then perhaps your path is strong enough to prevent the feeling you were meant for something else. Your profession might provide you with new skills and security; you therefore do not dedicate a lot of time to seeking other things outside your chosen field. Otherwise you might consider searching for a more fulfilling role - a position closer to what you truly want to be 'when you grow up'.

Many people panic and put themselves under stress when they feel the pressure of having to FIND A NEW JOB. Searching for a new job is a full-time job. Job seekers do not realize the value of keeping a journal of accomplishments, an updated résumé, and list of personal and professional attributes that make them unique. These things are important. Why? You never know when someone will ask for your résumé. How are you to remember all of the things you have done? You have probably held various roles. Can you recall all of the things you have accomplished?  Writing them down would certainly make it easier. Will you be able to create a really compelling story on paper when the time comes? If the time comes sooner rather than later, won't you feel rushed? Won't you feel like you forgot something? Or many things? You never know when a situation might present itself. You might happen upon a great opportunity, network and identify a position that is perfect for you, or be in search mode resulting from a layoff. Whatever the reason, preparation will put you closer to the finish line.

Values and career goals change over time, which is why it is important to track your progress. As search strategies change, so too does the efforts of a job seeker. Maintain an awareness of market conditions so you will be knowledgeable regarding your worth. Certainly you don't want to be in a situation where you are unaware of your value, or worse, caught off guard.

Most people do not know what they need to do to launch an effective search. Many people are under the misconception the résumé will get them the job. The résumé is only a tool to land the interview. You still need to get the job. This requires many more skills, including strong interpersonal communication and the ability to present achievements in a compelling way - aligned of course with the prospective company's goals.

Here are some quick notes to help you on your way:

Résumés do not need to be limited to one page. Present a compelling story. There is no rule about paging. That might mean that your résumé is two pages. This is okay. A résumé works if it gets you the interviews. Period.

Do not add things like age, marital status or hobbies unless they are really unique. Your age and other personal details have nothing to do with your ability to perform the essential functions of the job. Hobbies like running and reading are not compelling. Many people enjoy those things. Did you run a marathon? Did you climb Mt. Kilimanjaro?  Things like that should be included. Otherwise, they will learn about you once you are an employee.

Your cover letter is an important component of your search. It is part of the résumé package, and you should definitely have one when applying. It is also an opportunity to highlight relevant things that might not be included in the résumé. Tailor it to meet the needs of a particular opening. You don't need to rewrite the entire thing; however, it should not be boilerplate.

You cannot just post your résumé on job boards and expect the calls to come in. Looking for a position requires planning and careful networking. You must be a proactive job seeker. Speak to friends and friends of friends. Make use of social networking sites. Join traditional networking groups. Leave no stone unturned.

Follow up with a note after an in-person or phone interview. With the extensive use and immediacy of the Internet, people no longer take the time to draft handwritten notes. This can go a long way in making a memorable impression in the mind of a hiring manager. In the interest of expediency, you can also send an email.

Pursuing a new role? Plan accordingly; keep notes; develop your strategy; conduct the research; and use all of your tools to drive career success.