A job seeker’s checklist

Whether you are currently employed or out of work looking for your next opportunity, finding another job can be an arduous, emotional journey filled with ups and downs. Technology, competition, uncertainty, and the accelerating pace of business have all contributed to the changing landscape around finding a job. Nevertheless, there’s a lot at stake for making this process more efficient and effective. Getting qualified workers employed quickly is a triple win — for the individual, for business, and for government.

The purpose of this article is to provide a set of practical tools and advice to help today’s job seeker land his/her next role. Leverage the following checklist as part of your search or share with someone you know.

Personal brand

In a job search, you, the candidate, are the product/service. Packaging yourself into a strong, unique, and indispensable talent is the most critical element of your search. Your objective is to stand out from your competition; articulate a clear, concise value proposition; and enable potential employers to find you.

  • Resume: A solid resume is essential. Tailor your resume to each job application. Consider developing an inventory of resume bullet-point accomplishments to help with customization. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to review.
  • Elevator pitch: Crafting a 30-second summary of your background, skills, expertise, and value you bring to an organization will be essential for interviews and networking conversations. Keep it concise and memorable.
  • Transition plan/handbill: Take your elevator pitch a step further by creating a brief summary of your objective, desired roles, value proposition, core competencies, and target companies. This essential document will help your friends, colleagues, and networking contacts better assist you.
  • LinkedIn profile: A professional LinkedIn profile is a must, including a professional-looking headshot, customized URL, and captivating headline. Upgrade to LinkedIn Premium for additional benefits.
  • References/testimonials: Secure your formal references early in the process. Ask for letters of recommendation and LinkedIn endorsements to strengthen your personal brand.
  • Professional portfolio or “pitch book”: Stand out from the competition and make a powerful statement by highlighting your skills and accomplishments in the form of a booklet. Customize it for each position and bring a printed copy to an interview.
  • Personal website: A personal website is an effective way to tell your story and showcase your skills and past achievements. It conveys your technical savviness, professionalism, and, like any website, allows you to be discovered.
  • Articles or blogs: Sharing your knowledge demonstrates your expertise and is a great way for prospective employers to find you. Share links to articles with prospective employers.
  • Speaking events: Speaking at a conference or event positions you as an expert and allows you to make a positive impression on a captivated audience. It’s also a great venue for networking.
  • Webinar, or lunch and learn: Offer to organize a lunch and learn at a target company, or, to capture a wider audience, host a webinar and record it for on-demand viewing.
  • Skills development: Training, certifications, reading, and/or workshops will hone your skills and make you more valuable to your next employer, helping to position you as a continuous learner.

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Networking

Network, network, and network some more. A recent PayScale survey estimated that between 70–80% of jobs are filled through networking.

  • Your network: Start by tapping into your own network. Start with your LinkedIn connections. Search for former colleagues, friends, business partners, and send them a personalized invitation to connect and meet for coffee or talk on the phone.
  • Recruiters: A candidate-recruiter relationship built on trust and shared objectives is just that — a relationship. Keep recruiters posted on your status and, in turn, offer to help the recruiter by facilitating introductions with people in your network. Ask friends and colleagues for a list of recommended recruiters.
  • Job fairs: Virtual and in-person job fairs are a great way to network and make a positive first-impression on recruiters. Follow up and seek introductions with others inside the company.
  • Networking groups: Search for networking groups in your community. These groups provide practical advice and can be a great source of motivation and support.
  • Alumni: You already have something in common with alumni. Leverage this connection point as you reach out to them on LinkedIn.
  • Target companies: Sometimes it is not possible to secure an introduction, so be assertive and reach out to potential hiring managers at target companies with a personalized message.
  • Associations: Professional/trade associations are great sources for open positions, as well as networking contacts in your field. Reach out to association staff for ideas and resources.
  • Chambers of commerce: Like associations, chambers of commerce organize events and can provide a wealth of information on local companies.
  • Business publications: Reach out to the editors who cover your industry and request a coffee meeting or phone call. These publications also tend to advertise upcoming networking events.

Job applications

  • Resumes: Tailor your application and resume to the job you are applying for. Ensure every bullet point is relevant to that job.
  • Follow up: Do you want your application to stand out? With dozens or even hundreds of applicants per opening, you need to differentiate yourself. Write a concise, memorable follow-up to the hiring manager or recruiter to help keep you top of mind.
  • Interview preparation: Create an interview guide and customize it for each interview. You should also prepare for different interview formats, such as phone, video, in-person, panel, etc.
  • Etiquette: Always send thank-you notes after interviews and reiterate your interest in the position. Be flexible with interview schedules and be courteous to recruiters and company representatives at all times.

Managing your search

  • Be organized: Use a spreadsheet to keep track of your activities, including status of applications, daily activities, networking meetings, action items, and job search expenses.
  • Stay engaged: Hold yourself accountable by creating a plan and focusing on weekly progress. Keep your energy up and welcome the opportunity to meet new people and experience new adventures.
  • Assess progress: Periodically stepping back to assess your progress is critical so that you can make adjustments and avoid getting stuck in a rut. Where have you reached an impasse? Be objective and don’t hesitate to try new approaches.
  • Clear your mind: A job search can be extremely stressful and frustrating, highlighted by an inherent lack of control during the process. Take time for yourself to rejuvenate. Maintaining a clear perspective will keep you energized and optimistic.
  • Pay it forward: An often-overlooked aspect of job seeking is helping others. Make introductions, share best practices, review a resume or LinkedIn profile, provide LinkedIn endorsements, etc. Helping others will give you an extra boost of energy and confidence.

Sound overwhelming? Don’t let it be. Just get started, follow your plan, and celebrate small successes. One final, yet critical piece of advice: stay positive and don’t isolate yourself. You are not alone.

Embrace the journey!

Michael Barry is a marketing and communications strategist. He has an MBA in international management (University of Dallas) and a BA in economics (University of Dallas).

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