by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Need to launch, change, or fix your career? It’s a daunting task. As we all know, however, experts say that if you break a task down into digestible bites, it doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming. That’s the idea behind our Career Planning and Job-Search Calendar — to break down the task of starting or repairing your career into monthly components. If you follow this plan — and all the planets are in alignment — you just might find yourself in a job and/or career you love by this time next year. If you can’t wait a year, feel free to compress this step-by-step guide into a shorter time frame.
- It’s resolution time and time to take stock. Ask yourself where you are in your career, where you are headed, and where you want to be. Make lists of what you like and don’t like about your current job or career. Read more in our article, Making and Keeping Your New Year’s Career and Job-Search Resolutions.
- This is also a good time to take steps toward both short- and long-term career planning. Check out our article, Developing a Strategic Vision for Your Career Plan.
- Set a course for yourself for the next year (and perhaps the rest of your life) by writing a personal mission statement. See our article, Using a Personal Mission Statement to Chart Your Career Course.
- Determine whether your working life is out of balance with your personal life by taking our Work/Life Balance Quiz. Then read our article, 10 Tips for Getting Your Work/Life in Balance. If you think you might need some outside guidance in getting your career on track and achieving balance in your career and personal life, consider working with a Life of Career Coach. Watch for our upcoming Quintessential Careers Directory of Life and Career Coaches and an article on how to choose a coach.
- Consider using a Career Journal throughout these next 12 months (and beyond) to help you think about your current situation, brainstorm potential ideas, analyze alternatives, formulate plans, implement your solutions, document your successes (and failures), reflect on your accomplishments, and learn more about yourself and your career. Journaling also gives you an outlet to express your emotions (good and bad) about your career progress. Read our article, Using a Career Journal to Further Your Career Development and Empower Your Job-Search.
- Network! It’s the most effective way to get a job or change careers. Tell everyone you know you’re looking for a new job or career and ask for advice and referrals (don’t ask for a job!). See our Art of Networking section.
- Get to know yourself better. Take some assessments to learn more about your skills, interests, personality, and values. Check out the Career Assessment Tools & Tests section of Quintessential Careers. For some free and inexpensive online assessments, visit our Online Career Assessment Review, which we update each year.
- Thinking of changing careers? Check out our Career Change Resources.
- If your plans involve relocating for a new job or career, now’s the time to start planning the move. See our article, New City, New Job: How to Conduct a Long-Distance Job Search.
- If you don’t already do so, start tracking your accomplishments in your current job and brainstorming achievements from your past jobs or from your education. This information will be important when you start sending out resumes and cover letters and going on interviews. See our article, For Job-Hunting Success: Track and Leverage Your Accomplishments.
- Keep networking!
- If you’re just starting your career or planning to change careers, use the information you learned about yourself in February from taking assessments and listing your accomplishments to explore career fields. See our Career Exploration Resources section.
- Start thinking about your resume. Test what you know about resume-writing and resume strategy with our resume quizzes.
- If you’re not already a member of a professional organization, join one. Experts rate professional-organization membership as one of the best forms of networking. If you’re already a member, consider joining another. To find organizations in your field, see our section on General Professional Organizations and Associations.
- Consider developing a a SWOT Analysis, a tool used in business to assess a product’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. By looking at yourself as a product, you can assess your own internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities, and threats. See our article, Using a SWOT Analysis in Your Career Planning.
- Work on identifying the skills you possess that are transferable and applicable to multiple jobs and careers. Identifying transferable skills is especially important for job-seekers with minimal experience, as well as career-changers. Learning to portray your transferable skills strategically is extremely important in resumes, cover letters, and interviews. See our articles, Transferable Skills — a Vital Job-search Technique, and Career Changers’ Most Powerful Resume and Cover-Letter Tool: Transferable Skills.
- After assessing your skills this month and having explored careers in March, you may discover you need to update or sharpen your skills or add new ones. Start looking into schools, degrees, or certification courses that you might pursue. Don’t forget about the possibility of distance learning, which will likely enable you to keep your current job while developing new skills and credentials. Check out our Distance Learning Resources and, of course, our College Planning Resources.
- Consider joining a volunteer organization. Experts rank volunteering as the next best form of networking after joining professional organizations. Take a look at our article, Volunteering Can Reveal Your Work Passion.
- If you’re a new college graduate or about to be, think about your next steps. Read So You’ve Graduated College … What’s Next for You? Eight Critical Issues Facing New Grads.
- Spend the month researching companies, a critical preparatory step both in planning your job search and which companies you’ll apply to and later when you prepare for interviews. See our Guide to Researching Companies, Industries, and Countries and our article, A Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Companies.
- If you’re unemployed or a college student, consider working as a temp for the summer. It’s a great way to network at various companies, build your skills, and garner items to add to your resume. Read our article, Temping Offers a Way to Build Your Resume — and Much More.
- In the months to come, you’ll get into the nitty-gritty of job-hunting. Test your knowledge of job-hunting with our Quintessential Careers Job Skills Quiz and your marketability with our Test of Marketability.
- Keep networking!
- Review the list of companies you researched in May and narrow it down to those you’d really like to work for so you can target them in your job search. Twenty companies is a good goal to shoot for. Work on identifying hiring managers for the companies you’ve decided to target.
- Begin to explore a technique that’s a highly effective subset of networking — informational interviewing. Conduct informational interviews at the companies you’ve targeted. At this point, you’ll probably find it more helpful to interview people holding the kind of job you’d like to hold in those companies, rather than hiring managers. Your goal is to find out more about these companies first-hand to affirm that you’d like to work for them, find out what their needs are, and learn more about the kind of position you want to hold. To read more about conducting informational interviews, see our Informational Interviewing Tutorial and Researching Employers through Informational Interviews.
- Start to get your resume in shape. See our Resume Resources section. Consider hiring a professional resume writer to write your resume or provide a makeover or critique of your existing resume.
- Summer is a surprisingly great time to network, so take advantage of this time to network as much as you can.
- Since about 80 percent of employers now want resumes to be sent to them online, you’ll need a text version of your resume for at least some of those submissions (for others, employers will ask you to send your resume as an attachment, usually as a Microsoft Word document).
- Start thinking about cover letters. Test your knowledge of cover letter with our Cover Letter Quiz.
- If you decided earlier in the year that you needed additional training to land your dream job, you may be starting that training now or in September. Come up with a good time-management plan so you can handle your new school responsibilities along with everything else you’re doing. If you’re starting your last year of college, be sure to make the most of it. See our article, Your Senior Year in College: 15 Activities that are Pivotal to Your Job-Search Success.
- Keep networking!
- Your cover letter should be specific for every job you apply for, but this month you can write the basic "guts" of your letter so you’ll have something you can adapt for each job. Ideally, you’ll be targeting the 20 or so employers you listed in June and using information from your company research and informational interviewing to tell the employers in your cover letters how you can address their needs and solve problems for them. Explore our Cover Letter Resources and consider consulting a professional resume writer if you need additional help.
- Consider creating yet another version of your resume — a Web-ready resume that can be published on a Web page. That way, employers can access your resume 24/7. See our article, A Web-Ready Resume Can Be a Major Advantage in Your Job Search.
- Begin to learn everything you can about interviewing so you’ll be ready when you start getting called for interviews. Peruse our Guide to Job Interviewing Resources, especially our Job Interview Questions Database and our article, The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Preparation.
- The Internet should play an important but by no means predominate role in your job search. Learn how to make the best use of the ‘Net by reading our latest job-hunting annual report: Quintessential Careers Reports on the State of Internet Job-Hunting.
- Before you go full throttle with your job search, make sure you have all your references lined up. Read our article, The Keys to Choosing and Using the Best Job References.
- As you prepare for interviews, are you ready to negotiate your compensation package? Test your knowledge and readiness with our Salary Negotiation, Compensation, and Job Offer Quiz. Then review our Salary Negotiation Resources.
- Consider compiling a portfolio to take to interviews and showcase your skills and accomplishments. Learn how in our article, Your Job Skills Portfolio: Gaining an Edge in Job-Hunting.
- You’ve probably been job-hunting through the year, but with all the preparation you’ve done in the preceding months and all you’ve learned, now’s the time to let loose your full-blown job-search campaign. Think it’s crazy to job-hunt as the holidays approach? Any number of experts refute that idea and cite the holidays as one of the best times to job-hunt. If you decide to network at any holiday parties, just be sure you know all the Holiday Office Party Do’s and Don’ts.
- Be sure you are poised to write a thank-you note after you go on each job interview. Find out how with our article, FAQs About Thank You Letters.
- Beyond the thank-you n te, be sure you are following up after each interview. See what you need to do in our article, The Art of the Follow-Up After Job Interviews.
- Not getting interviews or job offers? Depending on how long you’ve been going at the job search full force, it may be too soon to panic. But as a preemptive strike, you may want to read our article Ten Questions to Ask Yourself if You Still Haven’t Found a Job>
- If all goes well, you may be able to quit your old job this month. Be sure you know how to do so. Read our article, Resigning with Class: How to Diplomatically Resign From Your Job.
- While it may be too soon for success, if you’ve followed these steps, you may just be able to ring in the new year with a new job! Best of luck to you!
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.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.