Summer is over and it’s time to focus on your job search. Finding a job is hard work so you need to define a plan and get started. It can easily take six months or more to land a full-time position so if you hope to have a new job in the new year, you need to get to work now. Here are some suggestions:
- Create a plan – You need to define your goals and a specific plan of how you plan to achieve them. You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going. Assess your skills, strengths and interests. Think about the type of work you enjoyed on internships, part-time jobs or even on campus. Document your plan and measure your progress against it. Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable. Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.
- Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags. As you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools. Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go? Have someone else proof it for you just to be sure there are no typos or errors. Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback. Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings. Think about who you could use for references and collect their current contact information. Ask their permission to use them as references and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job. Having the right tools won’t get you a job but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.
- Develop a Target list – What companies are you most interested in working for? What industries are of greatest interest to you? Start your list with your current preferences and then begin your research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and need your skill sets. With a variety of online tools you can do significant research into these companies to prepare you for networking meetings and interviews. Your target list will help guide your job search efforts. Once you have a list do further research to identify contacts at each company and review recent postings.
- Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80% of all jobs are filled through networking. Online postings often receive responses of hundreds of resumes. To stand out and be noticed you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager. Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts. Networking is NOT asking for a job. It is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value etc. Networking involves a significant amount of listening. Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies. Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies? What about former co-workers or classmates? Sign up for the alumni network at your school and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts. Most people will give a fellow alum a few minutes if asked. Sign up for linked in and identify contacts there as well. Consider preparing a networking profile to help contacts see what you have to offer and the companies that interest you. Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts. Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company. Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week. It does make a difference. It is the single most important thing you can do to find your next opportunity. I tell students they should spend ten times more time networking than they spend reviewing online job boards.
- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – When you are invited in for an interview be sure you thoroughly prepare. Practice and ask for feedback. Use your career services office at your alma mater or rely on friends and colleagues. Think about how you would respond to frequently asked questions. Research the company thoroughly. Prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers. Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming well prepared.
- Always say thank you – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note. Stand out from the crowd. If the timeframe is quick, send an email thank you but still send a handwritten note. It can break the tie between two finalists.
- Protect Your Social Media Presence – Some potential employers will check out applicants online before making an offer. Be careful of photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about. Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success.
So, plan your journey. Get out from behind the computer and start networking your way to a successful job search. Success in this job market is NOT about how many online applications you can submit but about building relationships in your target companies so you have boosters there when the right job opens up.
See more in Lee Miller’s article, “Goodbye to summer, hello to career advancement“!