Out of work or considering a change? Be prepared for this question. by Barbara Babkirk, November 1, 2013

If you’ve ever been in a job search, well-meaning friends or colleagues have certainly asked you this question: What do you want to do?

While, “I don’t really know”, may be an accurate reply, it will not move the conversation in the right direction to receiving appropriate contacts or job leads.

If you are not clear about your job target, you’ll need to figure out a good response or you’ll be likely to avoid opportunities for networking and leave important contacts without accurate information about how they might assist you in your transition.

Contrary to what you might believe, answering the question “what do you want to do” does not require naming a specific job title or position as you might have believed. In fact, in these days of quirky job titles, it could eliminate options if you named the wrong one.

Instead of a job title, focus on your key competencies in order to steer the conversation toward positions where your skills and strengths align. Having examples of times when you have demonstrated these competencies may come in handy if the person with whom you are speaking wants to know more—so be prepared.

If you are considering a significant career shift, it will take several conversation about the skills required in specific fields or jobs in order to make the link between you and new options.

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