Maybe your current job just isn’t working out, or maybe you just graduated and are trying to get employed for the first time. The job market can be hard to crack in either case, no matter your age or experience. Start by networking and searching online for job openings, tailoring your resume and cover letter to match what employers are seeking, and then sending in stand-out applications. The process may seem daunting, but going in with determination and a plan will carry you through until you find the perfect opportunity.
- Start with self-assessment.
Before starting your job-search, take time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and the type of work you like accomplishing. The better you know yourself, the more likely you’ll find a new job that provides you with greater satisfaction.
- Conduct critical research.
Information is the true secret of a successful job-search. Gathering information on types of jobs, job openings, and prospective employers (and those employer’s hiring managers) not only provides critical information for tracking down real job leads, but helps you in tailoring your resume and preparing for the job interview.
- Write, edit, and revise your resume – and not just one resume.
Your resume is still the most critical tool of a job-search, one that can easily derail an otherwise smart job-search. Start with creating/revising a resume that focuses on your key accomplishments, skills, experience, and education/training. Once you have a top-notch resume, the key is tailoring it to each job, each employer – using keywords and phrases specific to the opportunity you seek.
- Create your online career brand.
The job market is slowly evolving from a paradigm of jobseekers and employers using job boards to find each other to one in which employers find jobseekers online — whether through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or the jobseeker’s personal Website. Building your brand simply means showcasing your expertise and passion online where employers searching the Web could find it — and removing any unsavory — digital dirt — you can find.
- Get organized.
Before you start applying for jobs, going to job fairs, or interviewing with employers, take a moment to develop a system that works for you in organizing your job-search. A simple spreadsheet works best for many — and some online sites can even help keep your job-search organized.
- Build, cultivate, and utilize your network of contacts.
For the vast majority of jobseekers, a large and strong network of contacts — of people who know you and want to help you uncover job leads — results in more job opportunities. Networking – in person and online – is essential to your job-search success. Continually seek out new people to add to your network.
- Consider conducting informational interviews.
A great tool for both researching and networking is the informational interview, which as its name implies, is an interview with someone in your career field who can offer you insights and advice. This tool is especially useful for new college grads and career-changers, but can work for any jobseeker who wants to learn more while expanding his/her network of contacts.
- Attempt to complete several job-related goals daily.
It’s a bit of a cliche now, but in all cliches there is truth – and that truth is that it takes a great deal of time and effort to find a new job. In a long job-search, it’s easy to get discouraged and distracted, but by focusing on achieving daily goals you can motivate yourself while also building a foundation for success.
- Don’t do it alone.
Job-hunting is also a lonely enterprise, and if you’re unemployed and living alone, the search can seem frustrating and endless. Instead, try to keep in touch with people in your circle who are also job-hunting — or consider joining a job club. Besides the camaraderie, sharing job-hunting ideas and strategies with others can help you focus and improve your job-hunting methods.
- Develop anecdotes and stories that showcase your skills.
People remember stories over bullet points, so your goal should be developing a set of anecdotes you can use in networking and interviewing situations that clearly demonstrate your skills, accomplishments, and passion for your work. Using stories may also help you feel more comfortable talking about yourself.
- Prepare for all job interviews.
Before you get called for your first interview, develop responses for common interview questions, and then practice them — ideally using the mock-interviewing technique with a friend, network contact, or career counselor. The more prepared you are for the interview, the more comfortable you’ll be – and the more likely you’ll succeed.
- Excel in the job interview.
Research the employer and interviewers, know your route for getting to the interview, dress appropriately, arrive about 10 minutes early (to compose yourself, observe your settings, complete any paperwork), greet everyone warmly (from receptionist to hiring manager), use positive body language (firm handshake, strong eye contact, attentive posture, and friendly smile), confidently respond to interview questions, show enthusiasm, ask questions of the interviewer(s), and close the interview with appreciation and a request for information about next steps in the process.
- Write thank-you notes after interviews to all interviewers.
A quick note (by email and/or postal mail) of thanks that emphasizes your interest and fit with the job and employer will not get you the job offer, but it will help make you stand out from the majority of jobseekers who do not bother with this simple act of courtesy.
- Continue following up with hiring managers.
Your work is not done once the interview is complete or the thank-you note sent. Following up with the hiring manager regularly shows your interest and enthusiasm for the job. The key is doing so in a way that is professional while not making you sound pesky or needy.
- Expect the job-search to take much longer than you can imagine.
You can hope to have a new job within a short period, but the likely reality is that it will take months to find the right opportunity and get offered the position. You should mentally prepare yourself for a long battle — and then you can be happily surprised if you are one of the lucky few whose job search is short.