If your goal is to get a new job this year, here are seven things you need to do to prepare yourself for your job search.
1. Update your résumé. While ideally your résumé is customized for a specific job, having an up-to-date résumé targeted for a specific “type” of position is the next best thing. So if you’ve taken on additional responsibilities in your current job, or you’ve changed your job target, or you’ve added new training or educational credentials, now is the time to talk with your résumé writer about updating your résumé. (And if you don’t have a résumé at all, now is definitely the time to put one together! A professional résumé writer can help!)
2. Develop — or update — your LinkedIn profile. A LinkedIn profile doesn’t replace the résumé…it complements it. Someone looking for a candidate with your skills and experience might conduct a search on LinkedIn and find your profile. Or, someone in your network might be interested in recommending you, and forward your LinkedIn profile URL. So make sure you have a LinkedIn profile — and make sure that it’s updated. (Yes, this is something your résumé writer can help you with.)
3. Know what you’re worth: conduct salary research. One of the most often-cited reasons to consider a job search is to increase your salary. But how do you know what you’re worth? There is more salary research data available than ever before. Websites like Glassdoor.com and Salary.com can help you see how your current salary and benefits package stacks up.
4. Build your network. It’s estimated that 70-80% of jobs are found through networking. Networking effectiveness is not just about quality — although that’s important. It’s also about quantity. It’s not just about who you know. It’s about who your contacts know. Many times, it’s the friend-of-a-friend who can help you land your dream job. Grow your network both professionally and personally. You never know who will be the one to introduce you to your next job opportunity.
5. Manage your online reputation. More and more hiring managers are checking you out online before they interview you. What will they find when they type your name into Google? How about if they check out your Twitter profile? Or find you on Facebook? Now is the time to conduct a social media assessment and clean up your online profiles.
6. Define your ideal job. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” That line, from Alice in Wonderland, is important to remember in your job search. If you don’t know what your dream job looks like, how will you know how to find it? What job title and responsibilities are you interested in? Do you want to work independently, as part of a team, or both? Do you like short-term projects or long-term projects? Who would you report to? Who would report to you? Answering these questions can help you define your ideal position.
7. Create a target list of companies you’d like to work for. Like your ideal job, you probably have a preference for the type of organization you want as your employer. Things to consider include: company size, industry, culture, location, and structure (public, private, family-owned, franchise, nonprofit, etc.). Once you’ve made your list, look for companies that fit your criteria.
This is going to sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people make this mistake when they walk into an interview for a job: they never bothered to research the company.
When you get the dreaded question, “why are you applying for this position?”, do you know enough about the company to answer confidently? Imagine the impression that interviewer will have of you when you say, “I am interested in this position because of the company’s mission statement” or “I enjoy the field of _________ and this position offers many opportunities in that area”.
It is important to know at least the basics about the company, its structure, and its stated mission/goals/purpose. The person who is interviewing you is attempting to discern if you will fit into their company culture and become a viable team member. They want to know that you care enough about the job. By demonstrating you’ve taken the time to learn about the position gives the interviewer an idea of what kind of employee you’ll be.
When you are acquainted with the company you are ready for the interview. If you are asked “Do you have any questions?,” you can intelligently respond with queries that show you did your homework. You are aware of the size of the workforce and the structure of the management team. You know the stated goals of the organization.
Researching the company before the interview is worth every minute you invest because it prepares you for anything you may be asked.
With unemployment rates still looking dismal, it’s important to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. One easy way to do this is to learn what the biggest mistakes job seekers make are, and how you can avoid them. Paying this extra attention to each part of the job seeking process should increase your appeal dramatically.
One of the biggest mistakes made early on is failing to network. It’s important to know that networking isn’t a simple cold and impromptu request for work. It’s building relationships that will be beneficial in the long run, if not the immediate future. Since the majority of jobs aren’t actually listed, networking can be a great gateway into the workforce. And while it’s very important to network, it’s just as important to remain tactful. If you meet or know someone who works for a company you’re interested in, for example, ask them about the hiring process and the work environment; don’t ask them for a reference. Throughout the entire job process you’ll want to be creative. Networking is no exception.
Apart from networking, there are other ways to expand your options. There are the classifieds, of course, but you should also keep in mind that employers often post job listings on their websites. To find these you can go directly to a company’s website or perform a search for the company name and the word job, career, or employment. If the company you’re interested in doesn’t have any listings, consider either mailing or dropping off in person your resume and cover letter.
Resumes are, unsurprisingly, another source of huge mistakes. It’s important that your resume is focused and detailed. People often send out the exact same resume to every posting they see, but this is ineffective. To avoid this mishap take a little time to tailor your resume to each position you’re interested in. Familiarize yourself with the language used in the job listing and on the company’s website and then use it in your resume (and cover letter). This will help convince them that you are familiar with and, maybe, an ideal match for the company. In the very least, it demonstrates you’re applying out of a genuine interest in the position and company, not out of desperation.
Another way to keep your resume focused is to avoid listing broad job responsibilities and activities on your resume. Instead, you want to list specific accomplishments, contexts, and quantities. It’s much more impressive to hear that someone increased profits by 7 percent in a period where competitors all saw a decline than to hear that the same person “helped avoid unnecessary expense.” Objectives, though not necessary, can be a great resume unifier. If you do decide to list an objective, make sure you state how you’ll benefit the company and not vice versa.
The mistakes made during the interview fall into the same category as those made in the resume. Too often people just aren’t specific enough or knowledgeable about the employer they’re applying with. The interview is your chance to drive home the fact that you are the solution to the company’s problem. You should know in advance how you fit in with the company’s future plans and adequately express this in the interview.
Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re alone in this. There are plenty of resources available. There’s probably at least one support group for jobseekers in your area. These groups can be a great way to network and keep focus. Focus and common sense are, after all, two traits to keep strong during your search.