Executive Careers Blog

Play Good Defense In Your Job Search


In a previous column, I talked about the importance of being proactive in the job search.

In my encouragement of playing offense, I do not dismiss the role of good defensive moves.

Defense keeps the players in the game and gives them a chance to win.

Good defense keeps you in a thorough, thoughtful and proactive job search so you get a job that you want and not just any job you settle for.

The first coaching session I have with clients includes a 60-point checklist around career items AND a 40-point checklist around life items, most of which are NOT career-related.


There is no way I can coach someone on their career and not take into account the other aspects in their life that will influence their ability to focus, their willingness to do the work of the job search, their risk appetite. Having a solid foundation in the other, non-career related aspects of your life (e.g., relationships, personal finances, health and well-being) is good defense and critical to keeping you in top job search form.

I also ask about money in the first session because it dictates how much time and energy someone has to focus on their search: how much savings? What other cash is coming in? Are there freelance or consulting prospects to take financial pressure off so we can focus on what is best for the long-term career? A solid cash position is good defense. I’ve seen too many jobseekers let fear and desperation dictate their job search choices. Get the money part taken care of as a separate focus of your search with temp work or consulting, but reserve some energy for long-term career investment.

Finally, there is the temptation to run as hard and as fast as you can from the start, with no time off and no rest.

Some people think this means they’ll be faster to market and get ahead. Rest and reflection is good defense. When you push too hard, you may come across as pushy. You may push in the wrong direction and not realize it. You may burn out before any of your efforts have a chance to pay off. Remember that your search is a meeting of your efforts and what the market will bear.

You have to be able to stay in the search (game) long enough for the market to come and meet you.

More Executive Strategies on CNBC.com:Where To Find A Job NowHottest States For Green JobsExecutive Career Strategies

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others. Caroline is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and posts at CNBC Executive Careers and Vault.com.

Comments?  Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com