Many career coaching clients ask for help with their resume, or have questions about networking, working with recruiters or performing well in interviews. While these are all important aspects of job change, they are usually not the first things to address. For most people, the job search process needs to begin with a personal inventory.
What is a "personal inventory?" In short, it's becoming aware of three broad areas: 1) Your strengths - your skills, abilities, experience and knowledge. The things you know how to do. 2) Your preferences - the things you know how to do that are the most rewarding and enjoyable to you. The things you prefer to do. 3) Your values - aspects of the job or employer that you will or won't accept - travel, commuting time, work schedule, business or government, large or small company, hourly/salaried/commission, office or outdoors, industry sector and similar characteristics.
Having a clear sense of what you can do, what you prefer to do and what you will or won't do is a critical first step in making a job change. The personal inventory helps in these ways:
Career goals can be identified that are realistic and suitable, allowing your job search to be focused on the most likely opportunities among the myriad of different job options available in the marketplace, and not be distracted by jobs that don't meet your needs.
A resume can be written that reflects your "message" - how you want to be seen in the employment marketplace. Your resume will be understood and well-received by the right people.
Networking contacts will be able to provide you with targeted help, since you will be clear with them about who you are and what you are looking for.
Professional recruiters will know which jobs and employers to send your resume to, and will not waste time and energy on jobs that are not a good fit.
You will be well-prepared for job interviews, since you will be ready to talk about your strengths, preferences and values in a succinct and powerful way, using specific examples to make your points.
Conducting a personal inventory leads directly to the other steps in a job search - resume, networking, working with recruiters and doing well in interviews. Finding the right next job is an important accomplishment to be sure. More broadly, the self-awareness will help you stay on track for a satisfying career long after the next job is landed.