Many job seekers focus solely on their next job. “What would I like to do better than my current job?” “Can I find a place with more flexibility or a better boss and office culture?” “What job will pay better?”
All good questions — but there’s often a problem. They are thinking just one just move at a time.
A better idea: plan two or three chess moves ahead.
Figure out what kind of a job you’d like to have in, say, 5 to 7 years, or even 10. Then look work backwards: what skills and knowledge do I need in order to be qualified for that kind of job?
Enter Gap Analysis, an important tool for targeting your very next job, so that it will qualify you for the one after that — the one you’d like even more.
How can you do a Gap Analysis? Here are the steps:
- Check on Indeed.com for some “can’t get yet” jobs that you’d like in 5 to 7 years. Print out these ads.
- Number each skill and each knowledge area that the ad lists. For example, 1: “Manage cross functional teams“. 2: “Research possible new growth areas“. 3 , 4 & 5: “Determine and present new business development ideas”. 6 & 7: “Leverage knowledge across the operation on uses of dynamic modeling in the cloud“.
In this partial example there are 7 specific skill sets and knowledge areas. Do this underlining and numbering for a few of your “can’t get yet” job ads.
Tip: you should be finding 20-30 skill and knowledge areas in each job ad. Really.
- Compile all these for several jobs, noting the recurring ones.
- Now, write down in a column each skill or knowledge area, with the most frequently listed skill or knowledge areas at the top of your list and the least frequently requested at the bottom.
- Then note for each one whether you currently have it or not. (It’s fine to ignore those that occur only once.) The frequently occurring skills or knowledge areas you don’t have are your gaps — what you need to get from your very next job to make you competitive for your “can’t get yet” job.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You don’t have to be expert, you just need some experience. Employers highly prize experience — even a little experience. And you don’t have to acquire every single skill or knowledge area. But you will need the most frequently occurring ones.
(It may also be helpful to look at the bios of people already who have your “can’t get yet” job. What were their routes to where they are?)
- The last step is to compare your gap analysis list with what the next jobs you are considering ask for. Figure out which type of job will give you more of the skills you need to close up the gap. (You can use the same sort of underlining and numbering system described above.) Maybe you’ll have to think outside the box to get the skills and knowledge you need for your “can’t get yet ” job.
Recommendation: try it. Gap analysis will take you a couple of hours at most. You may want to consider using Jobscan to accomplish this faster. Jobscan allows you to paste in a job ad and then your resume and compare key words. But I think my technique produces more thoughtful, thorough results. Most of my clients have found it to be surprisingly useful.