To make the best use of your time, thoughtfully strategize, plan, and define your job search goals. Doing this ahead of time enables you to go into your process prepared with a narrow focus as opposed to just slinging resumes to random companies and hoping that one of them sticks.
I’ve worked with several hundred startup job-seekers over the past few years in both individual and group coaching sessions using versions of this framework, and I’m excited to share it with Startup Search readers.
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Create Your Guiding PrinciplesFocus on identifying your ideal MSSR—the Mission, Sector, Stage, and Role—that you’re looking for—when running your job search. This helps to build your top of funnel for identifying jobs that are actually right for you.
Mission: What matters to you most in your next chapter?
Sector: What industry, sector or space are you targeting?
Stage: How big of a company would you like to join?
Role: What would you like to spend your time actually doing?
Keep a document where you write down what is most important to you in each category and update it as you learn more about your goals during your researching, networking and interviewing processes. Some categories may be very clear immediately, while others may have more flexibility in your mind. That’s okay and you should leverage your networking conversations to help inform and clarify each of these areas as you look for roles.
Think about each aspect of MSSR, and start prioritizing them based on what’s most important for you to find in your next role.
Let’s take me for example: I spent a decade at Goldman Sachs, but I was seeking a more mission-oriented next chapter. I knew I had a passion for helping others on their career journeys, so I started exploring the career development space. The people doing the things I cared about were all in workforce development under the edtech umbrella, so for me Sector was the most important aspect of my search and I was more flexible on things like the exact Role or company Stage.
Mission can sometimes be the least obvious guiding principle for someone to nail down, but perhaps the most important since it defines the overall arch of your search. You should honestly ask yourself what matters most to you. Your mission doesn’t need to be a social impact-oriented mission like decarbonization or food insecurity. An equally important personal mission could be delivering beautiful brand experiences or taking a B2B sales process 0-1. Mission is the open-ended quick summary of what matters most to you.
For me, the mission I value is helping people navigate career transition moments at the intersection of startups, talent, and community. This is a highly defined mission statement that I can quickly use when evaluating if potential opportunities are right for me.
There’s no right or wrong way to prioritize your guiding principles. Ask yourself what excites you the most and what you’re optimizing for in your next role. Start by writing down your initial reactions and then work on refining each of your ideas, using research and networking conversations to continually hone what matters most to you.
Other ConsiderationsSome other factors to consider include location, compensation, team culture, learning environment, manager and company trajectory. Many people run their entire job search using these additional factors by saying things like, “I’m looking for a great manager and a collaborative team where I can really grow.”
But there are major challenges with this approach. Your definition of a collaborative culture or a great manager could be very different from others’ views on these same topics. Focusing on subjective intangibles will result in random introductions or opportunities that are likely to be not a good fit.
Define Your GoalsIt’s key to do a little self-reflection exercise and think about what’s most important to you in each category. You should physically write it out so that you can refer back to this first draft later.
Next, try to identify one or two guiding principles you care about more than the others. Which parameters will drive your search? Which are flexible? Which are non-negotiable? Bear in mind that the more non-negotiables you accumulate, the more difficult it will become to find that role in a reasonable amount of time.
Then create a networking plan of people who can help you to clarify the guiding principles about which you’re least certain. Maybe you’re excited by both fintech and healthtech. Speak to people doing jobs relevant to the one you’d be doing in both those fields to learn more. Use those learnings to consistently refine your own goals.
Conversations are power in this process – have a lot of them and use each one to help you learn more about yourself, what you’re seeking, and the space you want to work in next.
Defining job search parameters is super personal. There’s no right or wrong framework – this is about you intentionally finding the next fulfilling job.
Spending more time at the beginning of a job search to be intentional about what you want leads to the best outcome: landing a job that makes you happy. You want to accept your new job knowing that it’s the best one for you and that you’ve fully weeded out the other opportunities that didn’t fit your guiding principles.