I started my first real job search in 2006. Even way, way back then, going to the “want ads” from newspapers was an outdated strategy. Now, no one talks about using newspapers. But there is still plenty of confusion on how to start a job search. Below are the steps I suggest to anyone who is ready to start their job search
7 Steps to Start a Job Search
1. Stop, calm down, take a moment.
One of the worst things you can do is react to panic and fear. I know unemployment can be one of the scariest and most emotional situations of your life. Let me encourage you to really take a pause, calm down, get in the proper state of mind for what could be a complex but doable process. But please, go into this with the right mindset.
2. List job titles you want to pursue
It is critical that you know what your target is, and specific job titles is part of your target. In my 2006 job search I listed two roles I wanted, and in the course of my job search I added a third (more exciting) title. Your list can change with time, so don’t worry about committing to any particular title, but you should have a list of titles to pursue. Eventually, this list should be whittled down to something manageable (instead of including every job title that you are qualified for).
3. List companies you want to work for
You must have a list of target companies where you want to work. This will help you in various ways, including focusing your networking efforts and search on the right companies. Also, when people ask how they can help you in your job search, you could say that you are looking for introductions to specific target companies (I suggest you name three or four specific companies).
4. Make a list of network contacts
This is one of the harder lists to make because we tend to second-guess whether people should actually be on the list or not. You think of someone, then before you write them down talk yourself out of listing them for one reason or another. Let me encourage you to skip the second-guessing, and just list EVERYONE that you can think of on your network contacts list. You might not communicate with all of them, but as your job search goes on and on, it might make sense to reach out to people who you had earlier passed over.
5. Create and refine your job search marketing material
I could make an entire list of your job search marketing material, the most obvious of which is your resume. In addition to your resume (and at least one general cover letter), you need to have some basic statements down. These include your Me In 30 Seconds (aka Elevator Pitch) statements (you could have various statements for different audiences) as well as a response to “tell me about yourself?”. Expect to use these statements regularly and refine them almost every time you use them.
6. Figure out your job search organization system
No doubt I recommend JibberJobber (I’m the creator of JibberJobber) instead of job search spreadsheet. Whatever you use, know that this organizational system is a central part of your successful job search. I quickly outgrew my spreadsheet in about two weeks, as do many job seekers, because as a job search goes on you add more contacts, companies, and jobs, and you want to log interactions between any of those records. Again, I could write a great deal on this, but suffice it to say you’ll need some system to stay organized.
7. Reach out to contacts with purposeful requests
This is one of the hardest parts of the job search for many people because this is where we start to communicate with people. We generally like to help people, not ask for help from people. But we need to work through those feelings and ask our contacts for help. Please, do not ask them to “review your resume.” Imagine you get ONE request from each friend. Do you want to use your one request for a review of your typing? NO. Purposeful requests include meeting (in person or on the phone) or asking for introductions to people who have your target titles or work at your target companies. Each purposeful request changes based on who you are making the request of, but please don’t waste your first (and maybe your only) request with something trivial.
These are my seven steps to start your job search. Did you notice that I didn’t include networking with recruiters? Perhaps you should network with recruiters, but in my experience, it is generally a waste of time. Focus on the steps above, iterating and going through each of them as you get closer and closer to your dream job.
My goal would eventually be to have as many informational interviews as I could get, which is a very powerful job search strategy. Each of the steps above can lead up to a great informational interview strategy.