Who, What, Why…Successful Job Search

Posted by Patra Frame
job search

Many people start a job search by telling close friends they need a new job or by updating their resume. Both of those steps are necessary but first you need to think about what you want from this change. One of the basics of investigative journalism serves as a great way for you to gather the most important info – Who, What, Why, Where, When. Smart journalists weave important stories from these basics, and you can too.


Who are you now? Very few of us start a career and simply move up the line in it forever. Jobs change, career interests change, life changes. I regularly talk to people, from their 30s to 70s, who are asking “what do I want to be when I grow up?” Yet many feel as if they should know the answers, rather than seeing that curiosity is a major factor in growth. What is important to you now? Sometimes this is as simple as a job that pays the rent but more often you are seeking something more. Articulate what is really important to you now – in both career and life terms. Who have you become since your last job search? Since you started this career?

Look back at past jobs and bosses. Which offered the best match for your goals? Which made you feel successful? When did you have to ‘make lemonade from the lemons’ you were stuck with? Which offered you a sense of contribution to your major goals? Use this information to help you decide on your needs now. Assess your career path – are you making the progress you want? If so, why? If not, why not? What do you need to change? Do you have a specific job in mind now? In two-three years? Who do you want to become in that time-frame? If you have not thought about this recently, now is the time to create a career plan for this job search and the following few years. If you have long-term goals, make sure your plan supports them.

Who supports you? Every successful career has a lot of supporters. These are the people in your field and outside it who help you grow and develop as well as those who offer alternatives and tough feedback. Your job search needs a small nucleus of people who will offer useful feedback and emotional support throughout. Some people find it useful to think of selecting an advisory board.

Who knows you? In your field? In the job you want? Where you want to work? It’s more often who knows you than simply “who you know” that results in opportunity.


What goals do you have for this job search? What job or two most meet those goals? What research have you done already on specific jobs of interest? Do you currently meet at least 75-85% of the requirements? If not, what do you need to learn or do in order to be a strong contender? What success stories and bullet items do you have to create the resume and social media profiles that sell you for the job that you want?

What have you done to be visible as a potential candidate? How is your social media presence helping your search? Or hindering it? How up-to-date is your profile on all social media you use and ClearedJobs.Net? Do you need to edit it to show the skills and expertise you have for the job you want next? Clean up some old posts? What do you need to do to add solid recommendations to your LinkedIn profile, for example? What publications or work samples or other resources could you add – be a bit creative here, many cleared workers just assume there is nothing. A very successful person I know added some work he had done as a volunteer since it fleshed out skills he had developed, but that were not obvious in his paid work.


Why have you chosen this job as your next move? You will be asked that in the search. More importantly, you need to think about the “why” here to be sure it meets your goals. You need to understand why you succeeded in certain jobs. What type of boss and environment do you need to do well? What values do you seek in an employer to match your own important values? It is a combination of all these that create your “Why.”

Is this work you like and can do with little effort at a time when your focus may be on family needs or education? Common, but not what you want to tell a potential employer. Here you might talk about the satisfaction you get from the work and the value you bring immediately to meet their need. You want to mention what you like about them as an employer – and why!

More often, you might be seeking a new position that lets you develop new skills or work in a different agency or add supervisory or P&L roles to your skillset. Your “why” is some form of growth. Here you talk about both the value you currently bring and the growth you have had recently and how/what you want to continue to develop. Add in which values you share with them. Ask about their development process for new hires and internal promotions processes.


Where do you want to work? Targeting specific employers eases your job search tasks while increasing your probability of success. You have seen or worked with other contractors, so you have some insight into those you want to work for or avoid. You may have a mental list of interesting possibles. A little research can turn up others.

Once you have begun a list of potential employers you need to research each. Start with their websites – not just the career pages. Look them up on Glassdoor and Vault. Do an online search for recent info on each. Build on that by talking to people you know. Then look at your other connections on social media – who works there now, who has worked there – what can they tell you? Ask for introductions if you do not know anyone at a specific employer. Learn about why they work there and what they like and dislike. As you begin to create a list of those employers which really interest you, then follow them on social media and connect with their recruiters.


Are you already in full job search mode? If not, when do you want to be? The when aspect of job search influences whether you have time for a strategic development of your goals, networks, and support system. If searching now, you need to be doing that along with all the other parts of job search. Either way, your results depend on putting the work in to find the right options and make your best decision.

When to do what is a part of basic job search planning. Ideally one starts early with time to build a plan, research your options, update or clean up social media, reconnect with old peers and bosses. Doing that all at once along with creating the right resume and registering on ClearedJobs.Net, marketing yourself, and getting your references set up is possible, but takes a lot more time each week.

When is often full of bad assumptions. Many people think the winter holidays make a bad time to job search, while hiring managers are usually busy filling positions then. Others think the summer is a bad time due to vacations and, again, hiring managers are busy hiring. Even during the end of the government’s fiscal year or the change following an election, many positions continue to need to be filled. Don’t let yourself waste time thinking that now is a slow season for hiring. Now there are always people hiring.

Who, what, why, where, and when creates the framework of a successful job search and career move. Your ‘Pulitzer Prize” is landing in a position that provides what you want now and need to reach your goals. Good hunting!

Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Monday, November 30, 2020 1:52 pm

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