by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Want to make your next job-search as stress-free and rewarding as possible? Job-hunting success really comes down to developing (and implementing) a detailed job-search strategy. Truly successful job-hunting cannot succeed when done haphazardly or within a limited timetable.
While the 10 steps outlined in this article cannot guarantee job-hunting success, implementing these 10 steps as part of a comprehensive job-search plan should help you achieve greater satisfaction and success, ultimately finding the job or career of your dreams.
Step 1: Make the Time and Emotional Commitment
With job-hunting, there are never any guarantees in regard to the length of your job-search or to the degree of your success. One thing is certain, however; in job-hunting, job-seekers need to make a full commitment to finding a new job — and that commitment involves time, emotions, and planning. For many job-seekers, job-hunting is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs — of periods in which there seem to be no new job leads to periods in which opportunities are everywhere. You have to prepare yourself for the long haul — even if you are one of the lucky few who find a new job quickly.Unless you are currently unemployed, try to avoid undue panic and time pressures in your job-search. Don’t jump at the first job offer you receive unless it truly is what your looking for in your next job. Consider taking a survival job or even a part-time job if you are currently unemployed — or about to be unemployed — and your finances are running low.It’s a cliche, but it needs to be emphasized again here.
Job-hunting is WORK! And it’s work that needs to be dealt with every day. Do not let a day go by in which you have not accomplished at least one thing related to your search for your next job.
Step 2: Reflect on Who You are and What You Want
Decide whether you simply need to change jobs — or change careers. Are you still passionate about your work? Unless you are perfectly clear in the type of job you next want, take some time for reflection and self-assessment. Identify your strengths and accomplishments. Focus on the parts of previous jobs that you really enjoyed. Take a look at your hobbies and volunteering efforts. Make a list of the things you enjoy doing — and a list of the things you never want to do again. If you like, take a few career assessment tests to learn more about your personality type and style — and think on the results.This step is a critical one, so don’t skimp on the time it takes to really discover who you are and what you want. The dangers of skipping or skimming this step are at best an unfocused job-search that ends in some mediocre job and at worst a long period of unhappiness and frustration.Learn more in these sections of LiveCareer:
Step 3: Explore Your Options by Researching Potential Careers, Jobs, Employers
Once you have a good grasp on your strengths, accomplishments, and interests, it’s time to conduct research to find your ideal job, career path, and prospective employers. Any number of tools and resources are available for this step; use as many of them as you can. Research — or rather the information you obtain from the research — is critical to job-search success. You may need to consider both short-term and long-term job/career goals; short-term job opportunities that will get your foot in the door, and long-term career goals for once you’ve established yourself in a new career.Learn more in these sections of LiveCareer:
- Career Exploration Tools
- Researching Resources
- Informational Interviewing Tutorial
- Company Career Centers
Step 4: Develop an Educational Self-Enhancement Action Plan
Once you’ve completed your self-assessment and finished your research on your ideal jobs and career path, you may find you are lacking the skills, certifications, or education you need as minimum requirements to get hired — or even to get job interviews. What can you do? Develop an action plan for achieving whatever education, training, or certifications you need. Don’t be discouraged if you need additional education — regardless or your age or situation. There are many education outlets — local and online, full-time and part-time — and almost all of them offer some sort of financial assistance.Learn more in this section of LiveCareer:
Step 5: If Necessary, Develop a Plan to Obtain Additional Experience
The other problem you may find after conducting your self-analysis and research — especially for new college grads or experienced workers who are seeking to change careers — is that you lack the necessary experience to move into your new career. If so, now is the time to immediately find multiple job experiences (if possible). Consider interning, consulting, volunteering, and other part-time experiences. Besides gaining the necessary experience and skills, you may learn much more about your career path, which can help you focus even more directly on ideal jobs and employers. The final benefit from these experiences is that you expand your network of contacts, which should help you uncover more job leads.Learn more in these sections of LiveCareer:
Step 6: Hone Job-Search Marketing Tools/Skills
Your key job-search marketing tools include your elevator speech, cover letters, resumes, and interviewing technique. However, before even thinking about these tools, first develop a list of your key accomplishments, skills sets, talents, and abilities. (You may have gathered some of these in previous steps.) Focus just on those skills, experiences, and accomplishments that you enjoy, and where you can, quantify those accomplishments.Learn more in these sections of LiveCareer:
Once you have these lists of your key attributes and abilities, it’s time to put them into all your key marketing documents. Your goal here is to develop a very basic cover letter and resume — both of which you will then customize for each job-search situation and each job lead. Develop your elevator speech and interview responses, but remember that these too should be customized to fit the job-search situation.Learn more in these sections of LiveCareer:
Step 7: Prepare a Balanced Job-Search Strategy
To achieve job-search success, develop a detailed strategy — and stick to it. Haphazard and part-time job-searching may still provide you with some new job opportunities, but more than likely, it will simply lead to a growing sense of anger and frustration on your part. And your job-search must be balanced so that you are poised to take advantage of all potential opportunities. Focusing too much in one area, such as job-hunting online, will greatly limit your opportunities.In priority of time you should spend, develop a plan utilizing these job-search tools:
- Industry-Specific Job Sites and Geographic-Specific Job Sites
- General Job Sites
- Traditional Job Employment Ads
For an over view of job lead creation, read: 10 Ways to Develop Job Leads.
Step 8: Never Stop Job-Hunting, Following-Up
To succeed in your job-search, you can never afford to take a break from it. While you should be pleased with yourself for sending off great cover letters and resumes to prospective employers, you can’t just let your job-search documents sit there with the hiring manager doing nothing.
Follow-up is a vital part of a successful job-search — and critical to getting closer to an interview. Be professional, but be persistent.
Many organizations have lengthened the time spent on filling job openings, so follow-up with the hiring manager and ask about a timetable for filling the position; the key part of the process is not so much the information your receive (thought that helps), but that you show your continued interest in the job and the employer. Don’t start calling everyday, but stay in touch enough to keep your name circulating.Don’t forget to follow-up after you’ve had interviews too. First, follow-up with a thank-you note to everyone you met at the interview. About a week after your thank-you note, remember to follow-up with the hiring manager.Learn more in these sections of LiveCareer:
Step 9: Make Adjustments to Your Plan, As Needed
Because of the nature of job-hunting, you will face peaks and valleys — and perhaps a few potholes — in your road to a new job or career… but you may also find some unexpected crossroads and bends in the road you hadn’t anticipated. Be prepared to make adjustments — sometimes wholesale adjustments — to your job-search plan. It’s best to think of your job-search plan as an organic entity rather than a static one; as things or situations change, take the time to reflect, and then make any necessary adjustments to your plan. And just as with any road trip, take the time to stop in a rest area, review your map, mark your progress, catch your breath, and then jump back in until your next stop on the journey.
Step 10: Do All the Little Things
Sometimes the success of your job-search will swing on the degree to which you successfully complete all the little things in a job-search. For example, always keep focused on your manners and job-search etiquette — and remember to dress and act appropriately. Be kind and appreciative of all the people you come into contact with in your job-search. Pay special attention to secretaries and receptionists — they typically know everything that goes on within their department or company. Don’t forget the people in your network; keep them informed of your on-going search progress. Finally, make certain your references know as much about your current situation as possible.Learn more in these sections of LiveCareer:
Final Thoughts on Job-Search Success
Like many things in life, the more time, effort, and energy you put into planning and executing your job-search, the faster and better your results should be. By developing a comprehensive job-search plan as outlined in this article, you should have a strong foundation for a successful job-search.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years.