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How To Find One’s ‘Why’ In Today’s Job Market

By Jen Jamula

It’s no secret that the job applicant pool has recently deepened, and many know first-hand that unemployed stretches are lasting longer. With competition being high, a differentiating factor for candidates is expressing their “why,” or how they could meaningfully contribute to and align with prospective employers.

Natasha Buckie has been building high-performing teams for over a decade and, as co-founder and partner of 31Talent, she thoughtfully connects professionals with scaling organizations and develops today’s leaders. Read on to hear Natasha’s thoughts on the power of “why” in today’s job market.

Jen Jamula: Finding one’s “why” sounds like something to do with chakra-aligning crystals. How does this concept figure into job interviews, and why is it integral right now?

Natasha Buckie: The pandemic changed everything. What was important yesterday doesn’t seem as important today. Whilst candidates used to come to us wanting to work for the largest tech company offering the best perks or unlimited leave, they now are looking for more meaning and purpose in their work life as well.

During the interview, hiring managers want to know how you have taken the time to figure out what you want in your career. With remote working now the norm, and team members receiving offers from other companies through LinkedIn every day, companies need to believe there is a deeper desire to be a part of what they are building.

Jamula: How does a candidate begin the process of finding their “why”?

Buckie: Ask yourself the question: Apart from money, why does what I am doing at work matter to me? Then find companies that align to the answer. Not only does this narrow the scope of your search, but it will set you up for success should you land the job.

When in your previous role did you feel valued, appreciated, celebrated? What have you found are your superpowers or unique talents? Write these down and be very specific. It can be the start of developing your own mission statement.

Jamula: And how does one keep this exercise organic, without reciting canned jargon from a company’s mission?

Buckie: By investing the time in understanding your why before you begin your job search – and only targeting companies that align with this – you are ruling out companies that need to use “jargon” to sell a mission. It isn’t jargon when you believe it.

Once you have taken the time to find what motivates you, lead by asking questions that dig deeper into the company’s mission, like: Does everyone at the company know what they are working towards and why? Do they understand the metrics used to meet these goals? What practices are in place to support DEI&B? When a company invests in supporting their employees, people genuinely want to work harder.

Once you’ve taken time to find what motivates you, lead by asking questions that dig deeper into the … [+] GETTY

Jamula: Do you have other tips for successfully aligning with a company’s values?

Buckie: Many candidates do not spend anywhere near enough time thinking through questions to ask during interviews. Firstly, spend at least one hour writing 20 questions you want to ask. Then ask yourself: “If I only get the opportunity to ask three of these, which ones would I ask?”

Secondly, ask to meet as many people from that company as you possibly can. The more people you meet, the more you are able to determine not only how diverse the team is there, but also what team members seem to have in common, which should be something you can hopefully see in yourself.

Jamula: Are there any pitfalls one should look out for?

Buckie: As a candidate, you are interviewing companies just as much as they are interviewing you. Any company that only talks about their values and neglects to talk about how those values are lived every day may not be delivering on their promise. Ask about what work they have done towards achieving their mission. This is a great time for the interviewer to outlay strategies the company has implemented, and resources that have been allocated.

Jamula: Anything else you’d like to offer those seeking positions right now?

Buckie: Whilst the job searching process can take a long time, treat everything as if it is a learning experience and therefore valuable.

If you are at the start of your job search and are in a position to do so, take advantage of this time to truly reflect. Get clarity on what motivates you and where you add value, and identify companies that could fulfill this for you. As Richard Branson said: “Explore this next great frontier where the boundaries between work and higher purpose are merging into one, where doing good really is good for business.”

Jamula: Where can readers find you?

Buckie: For companies looking for exceptional team members to join them, and candidates looking for their next opportunity that aligns with their “why,” you can find us through our website or LinkedIn.