by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
As part of the celebration of Quintessential Careers’s 15th anniversary, we’re presenting lists of 15 tips on some of the most essential topics in college, job search, and career.
Unless you are one of the lucky few who works in a high-demand career, finding a new job can be a challenging and frustrating experience. You can make the job-search a bit easier on yourself if you use proactive strategies for finding a new job — and the tips included in this piece are applicable to all job-seekers, from those just starting out to experienced folks who need a quick refresher.
Here’s our list of the 15 best tips for finding a new job.
- 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. Learn more by reading one or more of these Career Assessment and Self-Reflection Articles.
- 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. Find the research tools you need in our Guide to Researching Companies, Industries, and Countries.
- 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. For help with your resume, check out our Resume Resources and Tools fr Job-Seekers.
- Create your online career brand. The job market is slowly evolving from a paradigm of job-seekers and employers using job boards to find each other to one in which employers find job-seekers online — whether through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or the job-seeker’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. Learn more by reading one or more of these Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Tools for Job-Seekers and Career Activists.
- 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. Here’s a really simple Sample Job Lead Follow-Up Log.
- Build, cultivate, and utilize your network of contacts. For the vast majority of job-seekers, 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. Learn more in our Key Career Networking Resources for Job-Seekers.
- 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 job-seeker who wants to learn more while expanding his/her network of contacts. Learn more in our free Informational Interviewing Tutorial.
- 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. Read more in these two articles: The Networking Buddy System for Job-Search Success and For Networking and Support, Join or Start a Job Club.
- 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. See our Career Storytelling Tools for Job-Seekers.
- 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. You’ll find many ways to be prepare for your next job interview in our Guide to Job Interviewing Resources and Tools.
- 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. For more information, see our article 10 Best Job Interview Tips for Job-Seekers.
- 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 job-seekers who do not bother with this simple act of courtesy. Learn how to write a thank-you note in our article, 10 Tips for Writing a Job-Search Interview Thank-You Letter.
- 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. Read our article, The Art of the Follow-Up After Job Interviews.
- 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.
Final Thoughts on Job-Search Success
Here a few other points to ponder if your job-search situation does not fit the typical model — if conditions are such that finding employment will be unusually hard.
First, having both a positive attitude and outlook are extremely important. Employers can sense desperation and despair; organizations want to hire positive and competent people. If you’ve been unemployed for a long period and depressed or recently downsized and angry, find a way to shrug it off when job-hunting or you will only be hurting yourself.
Second, if you’re an older worker trying to find a job, you may face age discrimination. Among the ways to proactively counter any issues about your age are to limit the number of years of experience you list on your resume (by keeping to the last 10-15 years), eliminate dates in education section of your resume, and focus on adaptability and flexibility in the interview.
Third, remember that you may need additional training or experience, especially if you are entering a new career field.
Fourth, you may need to consider temping or volunteering for a short period to gain experience and build network contacts that can lead to a full-time position.
Fifth, in the most extreme cases, you may need to consider relocation to a place that has a higher concentration of jobs in your field.
Finally, please note that you’ll find no mention of posting your resume or responding to excessive numbers of job listings on job boards among the 15 tips for finding a new job. While you should include targeted job boards and job search-engines as a small part of your job-hunting strategy, many misguided job-seekers waste much too much valuable time that could be spent on more useful elements of job-hunting — searching for jobs online, responding to job “openings” that have already been filled or that never were openings. Job boards and job search-engines are good tools for conducting research for keywords and employers, but rarely for finding a new job.
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. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.