Founder of Virtus Career Consulting, speaker and author of the career empowerment book
As a career coach, most people I talk to are looking for a job.
If you’ve been job searching without success, following the steps in this article should improve your results.
First things first: Treat your job search like a job, not a hobby.
Sebastian Vettel did not become a four-time Formula One world champion, top driver for Red Bull Racing, and number one driver for the prestigious Ferrari racing team by “dabbling” in auto racing.
Okay, perhaps it’s extreme to compare your job search effort to the hyper-competitive world of motor sport. The point is, perseverance in a job search is your single most important strategy.
If you’re unemployed you should spend 8 hours a day on your job search. (Yes, I’m completely serious). However, searching online and depositing your resume into the internet abyss is not effective.
12 things you should do during your job search work day:
- Create a simple job prospect tracker to manage your pipeline.
As your prospects increase, it can get messy quickly if you don’t use an organization system. A tracker helps you keep details in a central location, enables you to efficiently execute timely follow up, act on next steps, and remember who people are when they contact you.
If a contact calls and doesn’t identify the company they’re calling from, it will be embarrassing and reflect poorly if you have to ask, “Who are you, again?”
A basic tracker can be created in Excel or Word and should contain:
- Applied? (Y/N)
- Date Applied
- Contact Name
- Last Contact Date
- Contact Email/Phone
- Next Step
- Next Step Due Date
- Optional Notes or Comments
Tip: Update the tracker with each prospect’s status change.
- Follow up with your prospects once weekly by email or phone (unless instructed otherwise) indicating your continued interest. Ask for a status on your candidacy.
- Create a master resume of all your experience and skills to support creation of a tailored resume for each job you apply for. Include the most relevant, transferable skills and experiences, tying it back to the position description to create a focused, targeted resume. Take time to target your resume for each opportunity and it will set you apart from other applicants.
- Work on closing your gaps. What skill gaps do you have when reviewing job descriptions? Are there soft skills you could improve, or software and technology you could learn? Read articles, books, take online or instructor-led courses, watch tutorials, volunteer to build or deepen your skill base, and practice everything you learn.
- Write out approximately 5 interview stories on your top accomplishments. Practice telling the story succinctly, naturally, and confidently.
This article details how to create solid interview stories.
- List your matching skills, strengths, and experiences for every job description you apply to, writing a brief supporting story for an interview.
For more on how to map your skills to a role, refer to this article.
- Research common (and tricky) interview questions and master your responses.
- Write specific and thoughtful recommendations for people on LinkedIn about what they do best, and ask for recommendations from others.
- Network. Contact two new people (minimum) each week for networking (e.g. phone call, Skype, or in person for coffee — lunch meetings get expensive). During the conversation, explain opportunities you’re seeking and companies you’re targeting. If they know someone who works there, they’ll tell you, and you can ask for an introduction.
- Continuously improve your LinkedIn profile. Hone and focus your story on what you do well and what you’re looking for so it’s crystal clear. Turn off profile update notifications on the main page of your profile if you don’t want the activity made public.
- Attend job fairs and career groups. Spend time doing boots-on-the-ground searching and networking.
- Research companies you’d like to work for. Search your LinkedIn contacts to find people you know who work there, or have second connections and are willing to introduce you. Ask the new contact for an exploratory conversation to learn more about the company and discover if opportunities exist, or are on the horizon.
While working these 12 tactics, set a few reasonable (but challenging) goals to complete each week. Staying focused and action-oriented doesn’t come naturally for everyone.
- Goals channel your focus from irrelevant activities.
- Individuals tend to persist through setbacks when working toward a goal.
- Goal-setting increases productivity.
- Goals influence changes in behavior. If you tend to procrastinate, goal-setting will help. Get an accountability partner if you need one.
Identify help you need to accomplish your weekly goals and ask for it, e.g., resume or cover letter assistance, networking/social media strategies, strengths identification, interview preparation techniques, etc.
No matter where you are in the application process with a role, keep applying, keep networking, and keep searching!
I know people that were a top candidate in multiple opportunities and within days all jobs were off the table: the candidate was too expensive, the employer decided not to move forward with the role at this time, they re-posted the job for a fresh candidate pool, a decision was made to move forward with local candidates only, etc.
You psychologically can’t afford to lose momentum and start back at square one. Keep your pipeline moving until you receive an offer letter.
Key Takeaway: Don’t simply search jobs on the internet and submit your application with hundreds of other job seekers. A company of 1,000 employees receives, on average, 100,000 applications annually. An effectivejob search strategy, is a multifaceted strategy.
If you continue to lack success, consider engaging a reputable career professional to help determine where you might be going astray.
All the best to you!