Every successful project first begins with a well-thought-out plan, and your success largely depends on the components of that plan.

For example, depending on your personality, you may subscribe to the method of “I will know my dream job when I see it.” Personally, with my creative personality, I empathize with this method (which is not really a method as much as it is just intuition). However, this is a poor choice for planning a career move.

Here are the things you must know BEFORE you begin writing your resume, and for that matter, your entire job search – if you want to ensure any kind of purposeful direction and control over its outcome:

  • Your career goals.
  • Your driving motivators.
  • Your dream job.
  • Your target markets.
  • Your titles/positions of choice.
  • Other important career parameters.

Your Career Goals

This is a statement about where you want to go and the goals you want to reach in the next 3 to 5 years. It’s really, really important that you give yourself some time to focus on your answer and write it down.

It’s amazing how oftentimes when we put career hopes and dreams on the back burner (i.e., in the back of our minds), we simply cannot have anything more than a foggy idea that is unfocused, not ready, not purposeful, and not exciting. The simple ACT of committing to focus on what YOU want and writing it out is a simple, but powerful step forward on conscious and subconscious levels. It’s also the precursor to a highly targeted, powerful, and effective resume.

Your Driving Motivators

What are the bottom-line needs you have to meet to make your next career move? A different position, a new industry, more money, a new location, or more work-life balance? List your top three.

Your Dream Job

Picture a blank canvas on which you can draw any picture you like. Crystallize your vision of your dream job by closing your eyes and think about what your dream job means to you.

  • What does it look like?
  • Where are you working? At home looking out the window? In your garden? Or looking out at the skyline from your downtown office on the ninth floor?
  • Is the environment cutting edge and fast paced, or highly technical? Or is it refined, traditional, or academic?
  • What kind of people are you working with?
  • What are you doing? Working independently or with a team?
  • Are you brainstorming or planning or are you more hands-on, managing projects?
  • Are you working with your hands, building or doing something tactical and “in the present,” or are you paving roads into the future, thinking of the bigger picture and creating plans? Are you implementing those plans or directing a team to do it for you?
  • How much money are you making? Are you traveling? If so, how often?
  • Where are you? In your current location or have you relocated? Are you in the city or a smaller, more rural area? Are you working internationally?
  • If you want to do some even deeper soul searching into defining your core skills and abilities, there is a great online assessment test at www.keirsey.com.

Your Target Market/Title/Position of Choice

Whether you are changing industries or staying in the same industry, you will want to write down your target market and what position you are pursuing. If you apply for multiple positions in multiple industries, you will soon find yourself changing your resume to match every different position and getting spread way too thin with very few good results.

If you are looking to change industries, here is a tip for you: the easiest way to check out an industry for its career potential is to connect with people in those industries who can answer your questions and give you the mentoring you need to decide whether or not to move forward.

Other Important Career Parameters

Now you want to list all the other parameters important to you. This can include travel, benefits, work environment, future opportunities, company type (i.e., traditional, growth oriented, family friendly, etc.), and anything else that is relevant.