You’re ready to start the job search process. But where exactly do you start? Do you simply turn on your computer and type in “find a job in ______” into the search window? Magically, 50 perfect jobs appear right before your eyes. You get your pick of those 50 opportunities and you wind up with the perfect job, living happily ever after.
Okay, so the job search process may not be exactly like the fairy tale mentioned above. But it doesn’t have to be painful either. If you’ve got the right information and tools, finding a job can be straightforward. And at the end of the process you can even find yourself with a job that’s a great fit.
But you need a road map. The Ultimate Guide to Job Search will walk you through each of the steps of the job search process, including assessing who you are, researching career options, networking, and learning how to leverage social media in your job search.
The job search process can often seem overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to tackle every step all at once.
If you’re not sure what kind of job you want, start with Step One (self-assessment). If you already have an idea about or know what you’re looking for, skip ahead to:
Step One: Self-Assessment
If you’re not sure what kind of job you want and you just start applying randomly, the chances are good that you’ll end up with a job that’s not a great fit. And that can lead to career unhappiness. You may get a job quickly, but you will likely find yourself looking for another job soon thereafter.
Doing a deep dive into who are you are and figuring out what makes you tick is a great place to start when choosing or changing your career path. Self-assessment involves looking at the following personal traits:
Let’s start with talking about personality traits. I’m sure you’ve heard of the terms introvert and extrovert. In the context of the well-known career assessment called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, introversion and extroversion are assessed in terms of where people get their energy. Do you get energized by being around and interacting with people? Or maybe you are more introverted, and you get your energy by being with just a couple close friends or by yourself.
You might be wondering how this can affect your career. I’ll give you an example.
Chris is an engineer who tends towards extroversion and is working in a job where she mostly works alone on a computer all day performing detailed analysis. Although Chris is good at her job and is considered a technical expert, she feels frustrated and bored most of the day.
After doing some self-assessment, Chris realizes she still wants to work in the field of engineering, but doing a different role where she can interact more with people.
Ultimately Chris finds a new role, still working in engineering, but now in technical project management. Instead of doing detailed analysis, Chris gets to focus more on the “big picture.” She also supervises a team and interacts frequently with colleagues and customers. Overall, Chris feels more satisfied and energized in her new job.
If you want to learn more about your own unique personality preferences, check out 16 Personalities, a free career assessment that gives you incredibly detailed and reliable information about your personality type and information to help you in your career, personal relationships, and more.
Assessing what you’re good at can also help tremendously when looking for a job. However, just because you excel at something doesn’t necessarily mean you should get a job doing it. For example, I’m great at organizing. After college I got a job as an office assistant where I was organizing and filing most of the day. I came to realize very quickly that I did not enjoy performing organizational tasks in my job.
A great place to look when assessing your strengths and skills is classes you’ve taken. This can be courses you took in high school, college, or even graduate school. If you do an inventory of the classes you’ve taken, I’m sure you will see some themes and similarities start to emerge.
Another area to look is jobs you’ve already had or are currently doing.
Get a scratch piece of paper and a pencil (or jump on your computer and open a Word doc) and list one or two of your most recent jobs. Underneath each job, list all of your work tasks or job duties.
Next, circle or put an asterisk next to the work tasks that you excelled at the most.
Lastly, take a highlighter and highlight the work tasks that you not only excelled at, but that you also enjoyed. Refer to this list of work tasks that are circled and highlighted as you look for your next job opportunity. You probably want at least some of these work tasks to be present in your next job.
Do you have the necessary skills?
In our rapidly changing world of technological advancement, it often becomes necessary for job seekers to acquire or sharpen job specific and / or technical skills.
For example, there might be a job you want to apply for, but it requires a certain skill set or certification that you don’t have.
Think back to when you were a kid:
- What did you like to do?
- What games did you play?
- Were you an avid book reader, or were you constantly building things?
- Did you like directing activities and games?
Childhood is a great place to think about when getting in touch with your interests and passions. When we’re kids there aren’t as many restrictions and “should’s.”
When you go to a bookstore or browse Amazon, what genres do you gravitate toward? I realize free time as an adult is limited, but when you have time to yourself, what do you do?
As adults I think we tend to forget, and even bury, our interests and passions because we are so busy being responsible and just surviving day to day. If you’re having trouble recognizing or getting in touch with your career interests and passions, check out Finding and Living Your Passion.
Career values are things that are most meaningful and important to you in your career.
Examples of career values include: having flexibility in your career, helping people, having autonomy, making a large income, using creativity, etc. If you are in a job that does not reflect your most important career values, chances are you will not be happy long-term.
Step Two: Career Research
You know what type of job you’re looking for, but now what?
Career research is an integral step in the process of finding a job. You might know, for example, that you want to find a job in the field of marketing. However, there are literally thousands of job opportunities within the broad field of marketing. In order to know exactly where you want to be and what you want to do, you need to explore various jobs in the field.
There are two great ways to do this: Online Tools and Informational Interviews
Online Tools for Career Research
O’Net is a career information database and it’s a great place to begin exploring careers. You can search for careers by categories like fastest growing jobs, keywords, education level, and more.
Once you have identified career area(s) of interest, I recommend you perform a LinkedIn people search with that keyword. By looking at the varying profiles of professionals on LinkedIn, you can see the wide variety of roles in your targeted industry.
- To do a people search, log in to your LinkedIn account (or create an account)
- In the upper left search window (pictured below), select or type “people”
- Add industry keywords in the various search fields and click “apply”
It’s incredibly helpful to explore careers by talking to professionals working in jobs of interest. This is called informational interviewing.
There are many ways to find professionals to interview. You can start by browsing through the list of professionals you found when doing your LinkedIn people search.
To get in contact with someone who is not already in your LinkedIn network, you can do the following:
- Upgrade to LinkedIn Premium and get a FREE month of unlimited InMails
- This feature allows you to send a message to any linkedin member
- Send a personalized connection request
- Focus on people who appear to be doing work that is interesting and aligned with your goals. They can give you tons of insights, letting you figure out if its right for you
- You can write something like “Dear Ms. / Mr. ____. I am sending you a connection request because we have similar professional backgrounds in ______. Let me know if you might be open to chatting briefly over the phone. I would love to hear about how you got started in _____ field and/or at ____ company.”
- Send a message to your contacts on other social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
- Use these platforms to see if connections, even two levels deep, to people working in your targeted industry.
- You’d be surprised how often people are willing to introduce you to others. “Pay it forward” is alive and well in professional social networking!
For more information on Informational Interviews, I recommend reading Three Steps to a Perfect Informational Interview.
Step Three: Social Media / Personal Branding
A recent study showed that 77% of organizations currently use social media platforms to recruit talent.
It follows that if you spend time building and utilizing your social media accounts in your job search, you will greatly increase your chances of getting noticed and landing an interview.
However, with the large amount of social media platforms in existence (and more being created every day), it can be overwhelming for job seekers to figure out where to focus your attention.
According to that same study, 94% of companies surveyed use LinkedIn to recruit candidates, while 54% use Facebook, 39% use Twitter, and less than 10% of companies use other social networking sites, including YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, and Foursquare.
Create a LinkedIn Profile!
Creating a profile on LinkedIn can dramatically increase your visibility to potential employers, including hiring managers and recruiters. Creating a profile is free and only takes a few minutes. However, you want to build your profile over time and make it as thorough and relevant to your current career goals as possible.
For step-by-step help with creating a strong LinkedIn profile, check out this great guide on LinkedIn’s site.
Facebook is also widely used by companies to recruit and screen candidates.
Unlike LinkedIn, which is strictly used for professional networking, Facebook is used for both personal and professional purposes. Therefore, it’s worth spending some time making sure you’ve got the necessary privacy settings in place for your Facebook account so you can protect your reputation and personal brand.
While you may want to share certain memories with your friends, you should think long and hard on whether you want your future employee to see them as well.
Take a look 20 Tips for Building a Professional Facebook Profile, which will help you separate you professional and personal lives.
Step Four: Applying for Jobs
Once you have done some self-assessment and explored specific areas within your targeted career field, it’s time to start applying for jobs!
In today’s competitive job market, it is imperative to make yourself stand out. Having a strong, well written resume and cover letter are key, but before you even sit down to write your job search documents, I suggest first doing some digging.
Using a more traditional approach to job search can be a good place to start. By “traditional job search strategies,” I am referring to applying for jobs online by uploading or sending your resume and cover letter for posted job openings. But this is definitely not the only method of job search out there.
So what does that mean for you as a job seeker?
It means that building and learning how to leverage your professional network is crucial to finding a job in today’s economy. Below I will cover both traditional job search strategies as well as the non-traditional approach (i.e. job searching via the hidden job market).
Traditional job search strategies:
It can be tempting to immediately jump onto the major job search engines. However, not all companies post their jobs and internships on these sites. Some companies just post opportunities on their own sites.
Therefore, if there’s a company you really want to work for, make sure to browse the “employment” area of their site.
Job Search Engines
There are many reputable online, free job search engines that I have used both personally and professionally with clients over the past 20 years. The sites I recommended are listed below:
Indeed is a great site to use if you’re looking for full-time and part-time jobs and features company profiles, reviews, and salary listings.
SimplyHired is a comprehensive search engine that allows you to search by location and offers a salary estimator tool.
LinkedIn is not only the world’s most reputable and popular social media platform for professionals, it also features a robust job search engine and allows companies to reach out to candidates and recruit them on site.
Glassdoor not only features anonymous company reviews (including working conditions, company culture, and salary information), but it’s also a large job search engine.
Jooble is among top-5 Jobs and Employment sites in the world and has been helping to find a job for more than 15 years.
LinkUp has a reputation for being the most trustworthy job search engine because unlike most other job search sites that are aggregates of other job boards, LinkUp indexes jobs exclusively from company websites.
Monster is a large search engine which gets millions of visitors per month. It can be a good tool to use initially in your job search to learn about the wide variety of jobs available in any given industry.
Flexjobs was created by a mom searching for flexible work while raising her kids. Flexjobs is a site I have personally used to successfully find flexible, contract work. It’s an amazing job search engine that is great for job seekers looking for remote, flexible, part-time, and full-time work.
Interestingly, Robert Half has been around since 1948 and is therefore one of the most reputable job sites out there. Robert Half specializes in law, finance, and technology industries.
Unsurprisingly, USAjobs features job postings in the public sector and is the US Federal government’s official employment website.
Dice is a great search engine for technical job seekers, with an impressive number of job postings in fields like IT, engineering, and computer science.
Snagajob offers job postings mostly in the hourly job market so it’s great to use if you’re looking for flexible or temporary / contract work
Non-traditional job search strategies (i.e. the hidden job market):
Studies show that roughly 85% of jobs are filled through networking.
What exactly does this statistic mean? The answer is simple: most candidates today land jobs that are never actually posted or advertised.
Therefore, including networking as part of your job search strategy is critical if you want to try to land one of these unadvertised opportunities.
The following strategies have been proven to help job seekers land hidden jobs:
Strategy #1: Grow your professional network
LinkedIn is by far the most effective online platform to use when growing your professional network.
- Since the primary focus is professional networking, LinkedIn has literally thousands of professionals who are open to connecting.
- Learn how to grow your network with LinkedIn.
Other social media platforms can be incredibly useful in terms of growing your professional network.
- You can join professional groups on Facebook. This will allow you to send out targeted messages regarding your job search to your contacts.
- Twitter is a great platform to use to follow companies of interest. From here you can keep up to date on news like mergers, acquisitions, and other organizational challenges / goals.
- Learn more about how to use social media platforms in your job search.
Strategy #2: Conduct Informational Interviews
- Learning how to approach professionals and contacts is an important step when preparing to do informational interviews.
- Preparing a list of questions is also a good idea. The questions you ask should be mostly about the person you are interviewing and less about yourself. Learn about the art of asking the right questions in an informational interview.
- Most importantly, always remember to be gracious and send a thank you note (within 24 hours if possible)!
Strategy #3: Contact Employers Directly
Make yourself stand apart from the average job seeker by crafting a stellar letter of interest / prospecting letter to show an employer or company of interest how you can be of value and service to their organization.
Strategy #5: Attend in-person networking events
Attending conferences, trade shows, and smaller networking events and mixers is an excellent way to expand your network and develop meaningful relationships with professionals in your field.
Attending conferences can be costly, so if budget is a factor try attending local events if possible.
You can also try to search online for professional associations and find a local chapter in your area. Most likely there will be networking events periodically that you can attend.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to finding a great job. To learn how to further set yourself apart from the competition, take a look at this step-by-step guide on tailoring your resume to a specific job and company.