"D" is for "Direction"
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” [said Alice]
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Or as a VP of mine used to say: "If you succeed, and you don't know why, it's an accident and probably won't happen again. If you fail and don't know why, you've learned nothing... and that's just a waste of everybody's time."
I'm not saying you need to know what you want to be when you grow up before hunting for a job to keep the wolves at bay. I'm saying you need to have a plan for even the most random-ass job search or you won't get anywhere, except somewhere random ass and less interesting/profitable than you'd probably like.
So here are some very tangible, very measurable things you can do to help at least face in some direction when searching for a job:
- Set written goals based on this list and any other activities you hear about. Lots of people know more than me. Write down what they say.
- Get a friend to keep you honest. Tell him/her/them what your goals are. Ask them to beat you with a frisbee if you don't do what you said you'd do.
- Write down all the possible different job titles for all the different jobs you might possibly accept. This will help you when doing job searches online. Keep the list updated with new titles you find during your search. This will help you learn what other people call what you want to do.
- Write down the names of twenty (at least) companies that you think you might want to work for. This will help you check their websites every week for job openings (some of which you won't find on the Monsters of the world).
- Contact the HR departments of each of those companies. Explain you're searching for a job and that you find the idea of working at their company something to aspire to. Ask for their advice on how to best present yourself for future jobs. Don't ask for a job at that point; you're making a new friend, not pimping (yet). Ask what you can do to make yourself more attractive as a candidate. Ask if you can stop by sometime and meet with them and/or get a brief tour. You are doing all this in order to have someone at the company besides the hiring manager of a future job as a contact there. HR people are good at this. They want you to like their company, and they want to help you get a job, even if it's somewhere else... because their stock-in-trade is referrals. They might send your resume to someone you've never considered, because they're better at thinking about jobs like that. Do this until you've got contacts at all 20 (or more) companies. Then make a point to re-contact each HR person you've heard from at least every 3 months. Or if you know of someone else who might fit a position they've got posted. Think about the relationship from their point of view.
- Go back and do that last thing. Seriously. If there's one tip I have on this list that will bear fruit, it's the cultivating HR friends thing.
- Set some stretch goals. If you find you're getting comfortable sending out 3 resumes a day, try doubling that.
- Have both a "designer-y" resume and a "boring Word resume" available. Art directors and heads of agencies will want to see the pretty-pretty one. HR people want the Word one.
- Think about the next job. Not the one you're going for, but the boss of that one. Look for those positions in the job listings, too. If they're hiring a new art director, odds are they'll be asking him/her to hire some designers. When you find those jobs, add them to your HR contact list from above.
Looking for a job is a job. Most jobs provide helpful people called "bosses" who set directions for you. While looking for work, you're your own boss... which basically sucks. I know. I've done it. I'm sorry... there's no help for it. Get together with a group of friends once a week and report what steps you've taken. Celebrate with each other, even if you don't have jobs, or don't have the one you want. Why? Because you're a designer... a creative person living in the Age of Content. You rock and your talent will be rewarded.
Sooner rather than later, if you set yourself some directions.