Shopping with a Purpose

It is so much easier to find “it” when you know what “it” is!

A couple of weeks ago, my sixteen year old daughter asked me to take her shopping for a dress for Homecoming.  Having suffered through such excursions in the past, I strategized how to make this fun and efficient.  Before setting out in search of the perfect outfit, I queried my daughter as to her preferences of style, length and type of dress.  This information, along with the acceptable price range, helped narrow down where to start the shopping trip.  Once in the right stores, surrounded by possibilities, the saleswoman (having asked about preferred colors, cuts and styles) presented several dresses for my girl to try.  Since we had a good idea what she was looking for, we were able to help her and the process was quite efficient.  It was an enjoyable and successful outing!

And so it is with career transitions: if you start with self-knowledge and identify your preferences, meaningful work in an environment that suits your style is much easier to find.  Being “open to anything” can make it difficult for other people to help you and can be personally overwhelming.

This past weekend, a group of alumni came to Darden for Finding Fit, a Career Transitions workshop.  The group had a wide range of backgrounds, but all came seeking a focus and a plan.  An alumna who ran her family’s business for the last fifteen years was contemplating “what to do” now that the business has successfully been sold to a larger company.  Two alumni who will be retiring from active duty in the US Navy and US Coast Guard respectively, were faced with similar open slates.  Another alumnus had recently left his role as President of an arm of a large global communication company and knew what he doesn’t want to do, but wanted to figure what he DOES want to do.

In every case, the participants needed to know themselves to enable good decision making and marketing plans.  Professor Jim Clawson masterfully guided the group through a self-assessment process using objective, projective, behavioral, 360 and journaling exercises.  When you are facing a search or a possible transition you might employ this process.

The process includes data generation, insight gathering, theme identification and implication development.  Getting a clear idea of what makes you tick, will help you determine what type of work you will seek to achieve a desired lifestyle – it will help articulate your career objectives.

Articulating your objective includes the “What, Where, and with Whom” of work including role, skills utilized, intensity, schedule required, type of organization (size, structure, market position), culture, type of industry, location, etc.  Job seekers often balk at the idea of focusing in such a way, but once they do they realize their search is so much more effective and the likelihood of finding a well fitting job is so much higher.  Knowing what you are looking for will help you identify your target audience, tailor your marketing plan appropriately, connect with the right people and uncover the little known opportunities because you will be shopping in the right store!

In the words of one of the workshop “graduates” going through the self assessment process helped him   “learn about myself, my  purpose and how to find the work that I will find satisfying.”     Hopefully their impending transition processes will be as efficient and successful as my daughter’s dress shopping outing!

Resources available to help with getting to know yourself:

Connie Dato English MBA ‘91, Director of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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