When I lost my job I thought I knew how to get a job. My impromptu, unscripted job search plan was to look for a job the same way I would have years earlier, when I got out of school. What I didn't understand was that times had changed, and the way to get a job at that time was different than six years earlier. My job search plan was outdated and ineffective.
After I started JibberJobber I saw plenty of professionals implement a job search plan that was outdated and ineffective. Many of them had been employed for over 20 years, which means their job search plan was grossly outdated. Doing the wrong things well, even though they would have worked 20 years ago, doesn't mean you're getting closer to your next job.
In this post, I'll share with you what I should have done, and what I advise people to do right now if they're looking for a job. You'll have the elements to create a customized job search plan for your own particular situation.
1. Take a breath, calm down, pull yourself together
I know, this might sound cliché and unrealistic. If you are in an unplanned job search there is an element of panic. I get that. You think things like "in two months I will have burned through my savings," and "I can't even afford to have that networking lunch everyone says I should have." This carries over to personal grooming habits where you find yourself in your pajamas all day, not having talked to a real human multiple days in a row.
You are in panic/survival/fear mode and it is unhealthy for many reasons. Not only does it cloud your thinking, it puts you in a state of mind where you lose hope and optimism. Worse, others can sense this and they hesitate, or refuse, to introduce you to key contacts that could help you land your next job. I speak from experience, and I beg you to get perspective. You are faced with a problem, and you are a problem solver. You need to be in a healthy place to solve this problem, so calm down and get grounded.
2. Come to terms with networking
To most jobseekers, "networking" is like an unwanted four-letter word. People think networking means you have to be an extrovert, or you have to enjoy crowds, or want to be in front of people. As an introvert I've learned that none of those are true. Networking is about personal relationships, and it can be done one-on-one.
Relationships can be made and nurtured with technology or over a meal. It doesn't have to be in a network meeting. I do believe, however, there is great value in attending face-to-face networking meetings. But go with a purpose, and work on that purpose, even if you have to get uncomfortable. When I finally came to terms with networking, and focused on personal relationships, it was like I was freed from unrealistic expectations. It became fun, it was easier, and I found a lot more value than when I was doing what I thought networking was.
3. Consider your branding strategy
When I give presentations on personal branding people sometimes get upset. They don't want to be branded like a can of soda, or worse, like a cow. But they are hung up on the word "branding." To put it into perspective, in the olden days we might have said "reputation." Actually, "reputation management" is coming into fashion again. It's really the same thing.
I define personal branding not necessarily as something that you do, but as how others perceive you.
Of course, you can do things that will influence how others perceive you, but realize that you may not have complete control over your personal brand. How do others perceive you? How do you want them to perceive you? What can you do to help others perceive you the right way?
Your branding strategy will involve a combination of tactics, such as changing your profile pictures on professional networks, as well as your email signatures; updating your LinkedIn profile (with info on what you're looking for in a new job); and maybe even writing articles on LinkedIn, or for your own industry-driven blog. There are plenty of ways to help others perceive you differently. Think about what you could and should do and then start working on that right now.
4. Get your marketing in order
One of the questions I hated in my job search was "tell me about yourself." I hated trying to cram "me" into 30 seconds. There was so much more breadth and depth to me and my career, but I was supposed to say it all in just a few sentences?
As much as we might dislike questions like this, we need to figure out how we'll respond. Do you have your 30-second pitch wordsmithed and memorized? Does it sound natural or robotic? Do you have answers to other questions you know you'll hear in interviews or networking situations? Does your LinkedIn tagline appropriately communicate your brand message?
Don't let others assume things about you. You should control the narrative about you, and this is done with your marketing statements—your elevator pitch, your tag lines, and your response to the question "tell me about yourself." Having these items nailed down is an important part of your job search plan.
5. Schedule as many informational interviews as you can
Informational interviews are so powerful! Get as many as you can. Start with people you know who are working, whether they are in your industry or not. In a nutshell, the process goes like this: Ask someone if you could spend 30 minutes with them, and then ask questions about their company, their role, the industry, their profession, etc. Don't ask for a job. You might not even bring up the fact that you are in transition (you could say that you are looking at some career options).
Go into the interview prepared with questions that will really help you understand their world, and maybe some opportunities there. At the end of your meeting, ask them who else you should talk to, and whether they would feel comfortable making introductions.
From this exercise, you should be able to set up quite a few informational interviews. Treat everyone you interview with as a new network contact that you want to have a long-term professional relationship with.
6. Have the right follow-up tools and processes in place
With a renewed focus on these tactics you should see quite an uptick in new contacts and the need for follow-up. How do you manage and keep track of all of this information? How do you not miss opportunities to follow-up? You need a system, and I would be remiss to not mention JibberJobber. JibberJobber is the web and mobile app that I created to help keep your job search organized, and to help you follow-up and not miss follow-up opportunities. Check it out!
7. Update your resume and create a cover letter template
You must revamp your resume to include your most recent work experience. Also, update your summary section, and make any other necessary changes that you feel will help better sell you when you begin applying for jobs. Of course, you'll have to customize your resume to every job you apply for, but getting basic updates complete before you begin your search is a must. Also, create a basic cover letter template that you can customize to each job you apply for, too.
A successful job search is part science, part art, and a lot of just sticking with it. I've prescribed elements of a successful job search plan, but you might find some tactics work better than others. If you find something is more effective, do more of it! If something is less effective, find out why, and either change how you do it, or eliminate the tactic. Don't give up on your job search plan, but tweak it and make it progressively better.