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It’s What You Do, Not What You Want

Heather | March 24, 2011

Towards the end of my graduate school career, I spent a lot of time reading career advice books and websites, trying to find just the right information that would help me figure out exactly what kind of job I wanted, and of course, how to get it. There was a lot of information, and a lot of good information, but there was at least one lesson I had to learn on my own, without any textual help:

What you want does not matter. It’s all about what you do.

Here’s what I mean. As I neared graduation, I, like many recent graduates, I’m sure,  made a Plan. My Plan involved applying to public libraries, since I had spent much of my time in school concentrating on issues affecting public libraries. Since I knew jobs were tight, I planned to apply to school library positions as well, and then maybe jobs with publishing companies, magazines or websites. The kind of job I might have applied for after college had I not gone straight to graduate school.

That was my Plan. I imagined casting a wide net, and finding just the right job for me out of those many possibilities. Here, though, is what I did:

I applied to one public library system.
I researched schools in my city and sent my resume and cover letter to any school with a place to receive them.
I got a job in a school library.

It was a lovely job, a great job. That’s not the point of this article. The point is that I said I wanted one thing, but I concentrated on another. Most of my efforts ended up being directed towards school libraries, and I ended up with a job in a school library. It seems clear-cut, but it wasn’t to me at the time.

Through your job search, and throughout your career, it’s important to ask yourself what you want. It’s even more important to ask yourself what you are doing to get what you want.

Make lists of the steps you’ve taken to get where you are. Take a look at your resume. Adopt the perspective of a friend, or even a stranger, and try to imagine what it looks like you want. Maybe you’ll surprised by what you find. Maybe not. It’s always good to take a look, especially if you find yourself frustrated with your job search.

Are you exactly where you thought you’d be? Somewhere else entirely? Share in the comments!

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Category: Internships, Jobs

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