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Career coach: Job search strategies that work
Have you gone through a redundancy, been stood down, furloughed, let go, or fired? Whatever the reason, finding a new job is crucial. This can be a stressful time, and you may feel confused and overwhelmed about what to do next.
Many people tackle their job search process by relying on the easiest option. They make online applications to advertised roles and then wait to be selected for an interview. If they are called for a screening interview, they attend the interview and hope to be selected for the job.
Some applicants may be lucky, however, many more are not. And if you are one of the unsuccessful ones, that’s when your confidence may take a beating.
But the easy option is not a professional approach to secure one of the most important things in your life – a fulfilling career. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.”
The key to an effective job search is to build your confidence by gaining clarity about what you really want and then: preparation, preparation, preparation.
RELATED: How to gain career clarity and focus
Do you know specifically what you have to offer and what you want in your career? If not, you won’t be able to market yourself effectively when you start your job search efforts.
Treat your job search like a professional marketing campaign. This is a marketing exercise in which you are the product and the prospective employers are your customers.
This self-assessment process enables you to analyse what you have to offer before you begin the search process and helps you to articulate what you want during your search.
Here are the key areas in order to market “You”:
- Define the Product – “You”
- Analyse the Market – “What Jobs?”
- Develop Marketing Strategies
- Implement the Strategies
Know your product
In order to understand yourself and what type of roles, industries and environments suit you, take time to conduct self-assessment exercises that will provide valuable insights into:
- Your technical skills, knowledge and career accomplishments
- Your personal values and interests. What is most important to you?
- What satisfies you in a job, your motivators and de-motivators
- The qualities you possess that are desirable to employers
What are your functional and transferable skills? Analyse your self-management skills and your personality traits. Consider your ability to handle yourself in varying situations, your work content skills and the technical, specialised skills you have acquired through formal education and training.
By identifying your accomplishments, you can include them in your updated resume – an essential tool in the job search process. The self-assessment process again provides you with more confidence and clarity when you are communicating during networking or job interviews.
The big plus of gaining career clarity is that it will also help you to manage your career and stay true to your goals after your search is concluded. Because once you know what you have to offer and you have created a strong resume and LinkedIn profile, there are a number of strategies you can employ to go to market.
The easiest option is to apply for advertised roles, however, statistically they only account for about 20% of job openings. About 80% of jobs are ‘hidden’ – that is, they haven’t even reached the Human Resources department of the companies yet.
A hiring manager may be in the process of deciding exactly what resources are required for a specific project, someone may be thinking about resigning, someone may be promoted soon and an opening will be become available shortly or there may be budget for additional headcount. In order to get your foot in the door in these cases, networking and target marketing will be the best way to go.
The pros and cons of each job search method:
Search firms and recruitment agencies
Benefits: They know the market and what is available now, including jobs that are not yet advertised on job boards. They understand the hiring process and can provide interview practice and feedback. They can identify and realign unrealistic expectations.
Challenges: They work for the employer, not for you. They make money on placements and many will not spend time on you unless they can suitably match you with a current assignment. They may recommend several candidates, not just you, for the role you desire.
Advertised roles online
Benefits: An excellent source of company information, some job opportunities are posted on company websites and job boards. The internet will provide a flavour for industry trends and movements within organisations.
Challenges: Not all information on company websites is up to date and sometimes advertised roles will already be filled; also not all job openings are listed. Emailed resumes may get lost amongst the large number of resumes received and almost always, the resumes go straight to Human Resources and not the hiring manager. If you aren’t careful you can spend an extraordinary amount of time in front of the computer rather than effectively networking face-to-face or using a more effective channel.
Tips for responding to advertised roles online
- Read the advertisement carefully and highlight the core requirements of the role
- Analyse the requirements to get a clear idea of the most important aspects of the job
- Try to contact the decision maker or advertiser to gain as much additional information as possible about the role before you apply
- Write a strong cover letter drawing the closest possible match between your accomplishments and the job requirements
- Analyse and customise your resume to the role, truthfully and effectively
- Mirror keywords from the job ad in both your resume and cover letter
Target marketing directly to companies
Benefits: You decide what company you want to work for, in which area and for whom through effective research. You make the initial contact when you are ready. You could be on the radar of your desired hiring manager – creating an awareness of your existence and capabilities and over time, if you nurture this relationship strategically, you may create your own luck.
Challenges: There may not be a role available so it may be a waiting game before they’re ready to hire. Also, unless you have a recommendation from someone respected by your target audience, your marketing email or letter may not be given any consideration.
Benefits: You contact the people you know for information, advice, ideas and support. These people may be able to provide additional contacts to aid you in your job search.
If you have a strong LinkedIn profile and have positioned yourself as a key person of influence in your field through the content you share, you will find networking easier as you will attract your desired audience.
Networking is all about developing and maintaining relationships as there may be mutual benefit in the long run. You may uncover “hidden jobs”, develop new contacts in the industries you have targeted and learn who the key people are in a company. Networking also gives you the opportunity to practice your interviewing skills.
Challenges: It is time consuming. Some people feel uncomfortable with the concept of networking, mistakenly thinking they are asking for a favour. Statistically, networking is the most effective way to find a job, even if you do it remotely. And a recommendation helps to cut through the traditional selection process.
When allocating time to your job search ensure you spend about 70% to 80% of your efforts identifying and building your network, and the remainder of your time applying for advertised roles, working with recruitment consultants and target marketing.
As Abraham Lincoln said, by sharpening your axe, and preparing well, you will conduct a more effective job search. I would add that you must leverage each job search strategy for success and never underestimate the power of networking.
Jane Jackson is a Career Management Coach and author of Navigating Career Crossroads. For more information, contact her here.