You might be one of the many job applicants that don't know what they want out of their next career move. For these job seekers, a search can be messy and result in stagnation and an unsatisfying job. You might be on the opposite side of the spectrum, mostly knowing what you're looking for, but still applying to jobs with similar titles, salary, and responsibilities to ones you've had in the past out of comfort.

Whichever type of job seeker you are, it's important for you to apply for the job you want. And figuring out what that means is a process that should begin before the actual job search. Once you've nailed down what you want, you'll stop applying for the job you already have, and career progress can begin.

And figuring that all out may not sound like the easiest thing in the world. We often find it difficult to decide exactly what we want out of our career. After all, for many professionals, a job is the thing they do during the day that allows them to do the things they love at night and on the weekends. We don’t think too regularly or nearly enough about where we want our career to go.

Time can often be the obstacle in thinking about your career this way. After all, when you’re busy with work, there’s a good chance you’re more worried about your latest project and your next deadline rather than the next job you’re going to be applying to. And the effort needed for a regular workday often takes away any motivation to think towards your career’s future rather than rest and relax after work.

But it’s important to start focusing on what you want out of your career early. The effort you put in will make leading a targeted, effective job hunt a whole lot easier in the future.

So invest the time right now, whether before or during your job search, to think about what your career progression curve looks like. Think about what you want your next job title to be. Think about what you love and what you hate about your current job so that you know what to look for and avoid in your next role.

Consult with others around you. How have mentors and managers of yours made progress in their own career? Ask someone who is in the position you want to hold to review your resume and tell you how to better tailor it in future applications. Find out if training or certifications are mandatory or nice-to-haves.


And if you have no idea what you want next, use the plethora of job descriptions on the web to piece together what responsibilities, job titles, and requirements sound like a fit for you. Just remember to always be looking forward in your career – push yourself, even in times of uncertainty, to be upwardly mobile. If nothing else, you'll find yourself getting good exposure and practice while adjusting your expectations.

Write all these things down in a Word document, a checklist, or a notebook, and try to update it once a month. That way, when the time comes for you to move on from your current employer, you will already have the basis for finding highly relevant opportunities. You will be able to start right off the bat by targeting the right companies, the right roles, and the right cultural fit.

Applying for the job you have will only set you back in your career progression. You’ll end up doing the same thing you always do without expanding your skills. You’ll end up right back where you were with all the frustrations you felt at your old job. And all of this only serves to slow you down.

Too many of us struggle to get out of our comfort zone. Remember that a lot of training comes on the job, even for executives with fancy titles or managers with large teams. They, too, could have applied to similar jobs at similar companies with similar compensation, but they chose to reach higher and were rewarded.

Find out what you want out of your next role and let that knowledge guide your applications. It will be reflected in your future job satisfaction.

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