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Dear Electra,

HELP!! I swear I have looked in a million websites, companies etc. Hours and hours and hours. I have a B.S. in environmental planning, and want to get into almost anything....Research, conservation, education, anything related to what I am in now. I would like to find a position in the Los Angeles area. I only have a few strands of hair left...Can you save me/them with your suggestions???

Hairless in Los Angeles

Electra has worked with hundreds of job seekers (with and without hair) and she KNOWS where your problem is. The problem is that you want to "get into almost anything."

This is probably the number one reason why a job search will hit a brick wall. You think you're being flexible when, in fact, you are unfocused. "Flexible" sounds good, doesn't it? You're accomodating, willing to go anywhere and keep your options open. What's wrong with that?

What's wrong is that you are only scraping the surface and never getting to the people with the ability to hire you. And now that jobseekers are using the Internet, problems stemming from lack of focus are magnified a hundred times.

You need to FOCUS! Until you know the name of the job you want and the kind of company you want to work for, you are NOT job hunting--you're "just looking." Hours and hours of looking. How do you know which job you want and which employer? Begin by researching and guessing your way to your ideal job and employer.

Here's an example:

Let's say you've had internships, some experience or just an interest in working with Environmental Impact Reports. Focus on THAT. Learn about the kinds of skills you already have that will make you a good candidate for a jobs working with EIRs. Is there some training or software experience or special knowledge that will add to your employability? Are you qualified for an entry level job in this field? [This is where Career Information comes in handy.]

If this setting looks like a good fit for you, then you now have a JOB FOCUS: writing, researching or working in some way with Environmental Impact Reports.

The next thing you need is a SETTING FOCUS. You have to figure out what KINDS of organizations/companies need EIRs and hire people to write them. Cities? Architectural firms? Construction companies? Manufacturing plants?

Learn as much as you can about how these organizations may differ--from book research, searching the Internet, talking to people in that field or allied fields, your former professors, classmates, associations of people who do this or hire this kind of folk, etc. What kind of company or organization is the best fit for your work style, career goals, special skills? [You'll want to do some industry research and some networking to answer these questions.]

ONCE you know that you want to do a job writing EIRs and you know the kind of company - THEN - and only then - are you ready to "job search."

What you do next is go to a library--the largest and richest one available to you--and ask the librarian to help you compile a list of, say, construction firms of X size in Y location. (While you could--theoretically--do this research on the Internet, the reality is the best research sources cost money and are not given away for free on the Internet. Your library has already paid for them. Besides, it might take you weeks of online looking to find a list HALF as good as the list you can get from your library in an hour. Make sure you ask the librarian to help you! We know where everything is!)

THEN--and this is the fun part but you HAVE to do all the other steps first--get BACK on the Internet with your list in hand and visit the websites for the companies on your list.

Guess what? You are NOW going to see job postings, get ideas and contacts. Even if you don't see job listings, you now know enough about the companies--and what they need in an EIR reporter--to send them a tightly written resume and cover letter. BECAUSE, you see, the resume you write for an EIR job is going to be different (way different) from the resume you would write for a job as a nature walk docent or park ranger or nature museum program planner or city environmental review officer.

Do you see? You can NOT get to this point as long as you are wandering around the store (Internet) "looking at everything." (Don't feel bad--I have seen 100K a year executives falling into the same pit! IF you learn this lesson you will be the BEST job hunter in your neighborhood and everyone will say, "I don't know how it is that Sally always finds the best jobs. She's amazing!")

Once you pick a focus and start working it, you might find that the job or the setting aren't what you expected or just not right for you.

No prob!

You start ALL over again with another focus. But, please, chase only one Job Focus and Setting Focus at a time. It is impossible to do a good job when you're chasing two cats at once. Work one search at a time and stick with it until you know what you need to know.

The GOOD news is, all those other short-of-hair people who are wandering around looking for "anything" are no LONGER in your way. When you find a job or a company, you will be one of 5 people (maybe the ONLY person) applying for the job instead of 2,000 unfocused, I-can-do-anything people.

Learn more about this kind of REAL job search at:
JobStar - Step by Step Hidden Job Market
JobStar Los Angeles - Finding Individual Employers on the WWW
[Also for San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego.]


Page last updated: 7:26 PM on 5/22/09