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Find the Career You Want

Dear J.T. & Dale: Everything I've read about job searching lately says you should be very specific about the type of job you want so you can focus on the best opportunities. Well, I have a clear idea of what I want to do next, but can't seem to find any job postings for it. What should I do? — Amanda Dale: What you should NOT do is focus solely on yourself. I've always been skeptical of the "do what you love, the money will follow" philosophy — ask any poet. The advantage in narrowing your job search is to jump out of the long line of applicants for generalist positions and jump into the shorter lines where companies are looking for specialists. To do that, you have to understand your target market — not just what you're selling, but who's buying. J.T.: I recently worked with a woman who had such a detailed description of the job she wanted that when we looked at all the local companies that could possibly hire her, guess how many we could find? Three! I persuaded her to redefine her target, making sure she had a sufficient base of employers in order to have a realistic chance of getting hired. Then there's the bigger issue, and it's a hot subject these days: employability. It comes down to basic supply and demand. It's hard enough to figure out what demand you want to supply, but guess what? The market fluctuates over time, and demand changes. To get employed, you've got to figure out which skills are most marketable right now; then, to stay employed, you've got to figure out what new skills will be in demand. Dale: So instead of searching only for jobs that are "what you want to do," also include in your search all the jobs that will get you closer to that ideal position. See yourself as evolving toward one of the places in the job market where you can say, "This is the work I'd love to do," while meanwhile, you pay attention to where the jobs are evolving, looking for the spot where there are employers saying, "I'd love to hire someone who loves doing that job." J.T.: The beauty of this approach, Amanda, is that working on your evolving career takes away the pressure of finding The Perfect Job. There's nothing wrong with landing a job that will keep you employed while you search for a better one, and then a better one, and eventually the best one. Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Career choices image from Shutterstock