The Right Way to Be Introspective on the Job Hunt

A man and his mirror image

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.”
~Carl Jung

Without a doubt, it’s important for job seekers to know themselves – what they like, what their aptitudes are, and so on. How else can you understand your own personal vision and find that good job fit if you don’t? But on the job search, you need to do more than “look into your own heart.” You ultimately require the correct frame of reference — an external context.

Initially, hunker down with yourself. Taking the time to think through and write down what you have liked and not liked in the various life experiences you have had allows you to identify values that are important to you and those things you want to pursue further. Really, what would it matter if a company holds a position that is fundamentally different from yours? Or has an opening for a position that is not interesting to you? Of course, it wouldn’t matter.

When it comes time to explore opportunities, get a good grasp on job descriptions, values that are promoted on company websites, the latest news from companies themselves, and any insider information that can be gleaned via networking or services like Glassdoor. You need this information that is external to you to shape how you look at yourself.

Now, swing your attention inward again. This second introspective look should appear much different than the first time you did it because you will be bringing with you everything that has been learned about companies and opportunities available. Ask yourself questions that get at answers that companies will care about. For example, “How would I solve this problem they are having? What are some examples of how I ‘walked the walk’ regarding X value?” Rather than being so singularly focused on yourself, the external frame of reference allows you to look at yourself through their lens. You see what attributes about you matter to them.

The bottom line is that you want to align yourself with the company so that the hiring manager readily sees a good fit between the you and them. This needs to come through clearly in your cover letter, your résumé, and your interview. If your internal focus is done without having an external context, the answer to a question like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” may not have anything to do with the future direction of the company. Giving an answer that is such a clear mismatch will knock any candidate out of the running.

Image courtesy of Jeremy Jenum

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