The sheer thought of going about the job search is daunting. Where do you begin? What jobs do you look for? Which ones do you decide to apply for? How do you begin building relationships at target companies you want to work at?
I’m here to help you develop a job search strategy that reduces your overwhelm and makes job seeking easier and more effective. Read on for the proven strategies you can use to step up your job search right now. It’s a long one, but you won’t want to miss these tips.
#1 – Have A Strategy
First things first. You need to have a game plan of how you’re going to go about the job search. Most people tend to miss this critical step and I’m here to say that it’s not one to skip out on. You need to be proactive and clear in your approach as you begin the job-seeking process. Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, lists proactivity as the number one most important habit for people to develop: “If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own.”
To do this, start with your core values. The secret to getting what you want out of your career and feeling fulfilled is developing and defining your core values. What matters most to you? What are your priorities in life? What drives the choices you make? Here is a worksheet from Brené Brown that can help you to determine what your values are. They will give you purpose and be the guideposts for you as you search for jobs. You can use them to begin filtering out the jobs and companies whose core values don’t match yours.
You can accomplish this by making a list of non-negotiables and nice to have’s that you’d like in your next job and company. Ask yourself or write down your thoughts to questions such as:
- What have I loved and disliked in previous jobs?
- What tasks do I most enjoy? Which do I absolutely not want to do as part of my job?
- In what ways do I want to grow professionally?
- What kind of work schedule and flexibility do I want?
- What type of work relationships do I value?
- What kind of benefits am I looking for?
Knowing the answers to these types of questions will get you feeling more grounded and targeted in your search, which will allow you to be more authentic and motivated as a result. You can reflect, document, and map out the direction you want to go in your career using L&I’s Career Development Plan too!
#2 – Do Your Research
We live in a time where everything we need to know is at our fingertips. Use the internet to your benefit as you research and prospect for jobs, creating a list of target companies and roles you’re considering.
Do as much research as you can to get the most information possible. Head to the company’s website and social media channels to take note of the language they use and understand their company values. Read about the company on Glassdoor to get a sense of the company culture, salary ranges, and what type of interview questions they ask.
You can use LinkedIn’s Advanced Search option to find and follow your favorite companies, as it will help you stay in the know about relevant news and positions as they become available. Use the search bar on LinkedIn and type in the company. When you do this, you can also find out who of your connections is associated with the company you’re interested in. Click “People,” sort by your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Connections and see who in your network you are connected to. You can use the same strategy with the roles you are interested in by typing in the job titles and seeing who in your network has the job you’re seeking.
#3 – Focus On Your Branding
As you get clear in the companies you’d like to work for and the roles you want to apply for, you’ll want to next focus on your personal brand and make any necessary updates.
Start by doing an audit of yourself. Employers will search for you online, so it’s important that you’re comfortable with what they will see. Google yourself and see what pops up. If nothing does or something inappropriate reveals itself, there lies a problem. When nothing or nothing good is found about you through a Google search, you will likely end up in the “less desirable” or “no” pile. Clean up any results you don’t like and work on ways you can improve your online reputation.
Create a website that showcases the person you are and highlights your strengths. Sign up for services or take advantage of features that best showcase your skills. Examples of this would be spotlighting your writing skills on Medium or your own blog, showing your creativity on TikTok, displaying your photography via an online portfolio, featuring your video creation and editing on YouTube.
You’ll also want to spruce up your public social profiles, especially LinkedIn. One of the first things you should do is turn on the “Open to Finding a New Job” on your profile, right underneath your profile photo. This allows you to discreetly share with recruiters and hiring managers that you’re open to work without blatantly sharing it with your network. If you can announce the fact that you’re looking for a job, do so. Use your headline to make the announcement. For example, “Marketer seeking opportunities in the tech industry.” (Also, if you don’t have a LinkedIn or haven’t touched yours in a while, read this post to learn how to use LinkedIn to your advantage.)
You should also think of your resume and cover letter as part of your personal brand toolkit. These are going to be what helps set you apart in the application process and help you land an interview. My top recommendations:
- Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for, focusing on your experience and skills and removing irrelevancies to have your resume more targeted
- Focus on achievements vs. responsibilities and quantify the value you bring
- Use specific keywords from the job description of the role you’re applying for and weave them into your resume (this will help your resume ‘pop’ when applying online, specifically with companies who use application tracking systems)
- Start off with a personal anecdote or story that relates to the role/company/industry to draw the recruiter or hiring manager in
- Think of it as your sales pitch where you highlight your top skills and accomplishments, explaining how your qualifications can bring value to the role and company
- Show your commitment to the research you’ve done, calling out key aspects of the company that interest you
If you need more hands-on strategy and guidance when it comes to your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile, I offer consulting services to help with this. If you’re looking to learn more about building and boosting your personal brand, head to this post.
#4 – Be Proactive & Build Connections
According to HubSpot, up to 85% of jobs are filled via networking. As the saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Instead of spending all of your time on the posted job market, look to your network instead. My recommendation is to spend 80% of your time networking vs. 20% actually applying to jobs. Dust off your networking skills and download L&I’s free resource, the Network Target List, to help get you started. This will allow you to begin thinking of all the possible people you can tap in your network. You can also use the below list that outlines all the possible avenues of how you can tap into your network and start building connections:
- LinkedIn Connections
- Virtual and in-person events (examples include industry and non-profit events)
- Your alumni network
- Social gatherings with family/friends/acquaintances (put feelers out and ask if they know anyone who works at the companies you are targeting – you never know who may know someone who can open a door for you)
- LinkedIn Professional Groups
- Pro Tip: Do an Advanced Search in LinkedIn to identify professional groups and get involved. This will help you expand your network, show your expertise, and potentially connect you to the companies you want to work for.
Speaking with and building relationships with people in your desired position, company, and industry is the most effective method for landing your job. It takes more time and energy, but it’s an investment in yourself and your career that will have a significantly greater return. Once you’ve determined target people you can speak to, use your existing connections to make an introduction on your behalf or reach out yourself for an informational interview. Ask for 15-30 minutes to speak with the person about the company and their role. It may feel uncomfortable at first but more often than not, people genuinely want to help others.
Here’s an example of a message you could write to me:
My name is [Name] and I currently work at [Company] as a [Role]. I hope you don’t mind me reaching out, but our mutual friend, [Friend’s Name], let me know you work for Salesforce and recommended that I connect with you. I saw that you have a lot of years of experience working there in the marketing technology space. I’m considering applying to the [Role] position but first wanted to speak with someone that works at Salesforce. I’m very interested in learning more about your career journey and experience at the company and would love the opportunity to speak with you for 15-30 minutes. I’d greatly appreciate it.
I know time is so valuable these days so feel free to respond whenever you have a chance. I look forward to hearing from you.
If you do get a chance to speak with someone at the company you’re considering, you’ll receive first-hand details such as how to stand out in the application and interview process, company culture, growth trajectories, the day-to-day workload and the like. That kind of information is beyond helpful in determining whether it’s the right company and job for you.
Only after you’ve fostered a genuine connection with someone should you ask for a referral. Reaching out to industry contacts is pivotal but bluntly asking them to help you get hired is not the way to go about it. Remember that a lot goes into building a rapport that can lead to a potential referral or access to insider information. Asking people for referrals or jobs without building a relationship or adding value may not turn out positively in your favor.
Think of every networking conversation you have as a mini-interview. Networking is a skill, and just like anything else, will improve over time the more you do it. This soft skill (that frankly many put on the backburner) will translate to your overall career success.
#5 – Market Yourself
Once you’ve started putting yourself out there and making yourself known, it’s important that you keep your connections engaged. One of the best ways to do this is to share relevant content of your own as it relates to your industry, passions, and experiences. Great examples of shareable content include research or articles you have found that your network will both value and appreciate. This is a sure-fire way to get the attention of those you want to connect with.
LinkedIn is the perfect platform to do this. You can also post any articles you write, videos you create, you get the idea. Get involved and stay active with Groups and interact with others’ content on LinkedIn. The more you share about yourself and the more you interact with others, the more you’ll be noticed as a thought leader and build recognition. For more ways to market yourself and stand out from the competition, read this post.
#6 – Show Gratitude & Pay It Forward
Throughout the entirety of the job search process, do not forget your manners. Acknowledge the actions of others when they offer you help or advice. Graciously thank anyone who endorses you on LinkedIn or puts in a referral on your behalf (a thank you note goes a long way!). Keep them apprised of how things are progressing and ask them how you can be of value to them to return the favor. Continue to strengthen and nurture your professional relationships ongoing. These types of relationships are not meant to be one and done!
The job search is all about the connections you make and have. So it should come as no surprise that my last recommendation would be for you to pay it forward by becoming a connector and supporter yourself. No matter where you are in your career, you didn’t get where you are today without some help. And when you pass that kindness on with the intention to serve others, it creates a ripple effect. So keep your eyes and ears open, facilitate introductions between mutual connections, and offer to meet with others to talk about your role and company.
Your experience and your being connected to people could prove valuable to others. By paying it forward, you’re helping the recipient to adopt a similar mindset and make it a habit to do the same for someone else in the future. And that is the beauty of networking.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Success Manager at Salesforce and has over 10 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.