Seven Things To Do At The Start Of Your Job Search
Employment figures are improving so much that the Fed might finally raise rates! Anecdotally, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from my recruiter colleagues about openings, especially recruiting openings. When recruiters need to be hired, that means the company is anticipating increased hiring in the near term. If you’ve been thinking about a job search or if you got discouraged before and are waiting to jump back in, get your job search started ASAP. Here are seven things to do to in the first week of a job search:
Block time on your calendar
A proactive job search will take several hours per week – 10-20 if you can manage it. These hours won’t magically appear without you protecting your calendar. Job search requires focus, so pick time when you are still fresh. As you get busier in your search, remember that you will need more time and you will need time during normal business hours, so block out extra time now so your colleagues don’t claim it for their own meetings.
[Related: Job Searching and Overcoming Rejection]
Pull together your “example” list
For your resume, online profile, cover letters, interviews, and networking meetings, you will need to outline your value proposition. The best value proposition is backed up with examples. Go year-by-year from undergraduate through today, and itemize the roles you played and projects you worked on. Include volunteer and extra-curricular activities as well. The most recent examples will carry the most weight so don’t panic if you can’t remember the distant past. (You still want to include the past, however, because there may be a unique story to tell about a skill, personal quality or accomplishment that happened to be early in your career!) Your examples might repeat – that’s ok as you’ll pick just the most substantive ones. Some examples may not be that exciting or have tangible results – that’s ok as you only need a handful. You’re looking for the stories that will form the backbone of your networking pitch, your correspondence, and your interview points.
Do a resume data dump
If it’s been a while since you’ve written or updated your resume, then you might have severe writer’s block as you try to remember what you’ve done, including dates, titles and other factoids, as well as write it in resume style. This can be overwhelming and cause you to procrastinate on this very important marketing tool. Instead, write your resume in prose. Or dictate it into a recorder. Or take your example list from above and attach dates to it. These data dumps won’t be a proper resume but they’ll get the facts out there, and then you can edit for aesthetics, wording and format.
[Related: The New Resume Rules]
Focus on your LinkedIn headline and summary
A comprehensive LinkedIn profile is different than a resume, but initially your LinkedIn can be a simple chronology for education and experience. You can play around with these other sections later. Most importantly, start with your headline and summary. The headline is what appears under your name (mine says “career expert, executive coach, recruiter, author, speaker and comedian). Yours can be your current title if that’s descriptive of your role and scope, or it might be your industry expertise, years of experience, functional expertise, or some combination. The summary is the first box people see, and it primes the reader for everything else that follows. (It may also be the only thing people read before deciding whether to call you in or agree to your networking request!)
Ping three old contacts per day
If you reconnected with three old contacts every day for the duration of your job search, you would have rekindled ties with almost 100 people in your first month alone. Do not limit yourself to contacts that you think are relevant to your search. Reconnect with people from your alma mater, first internships, all the way up to your current affiliations. Reconnect with people from old trade associations, volunteer stints and hobby classes. Just say hello. If you feel like you need a reason, tell them they popped up on your LinkedIn or Facebook suggestions for people you might know. This outreach practices networking overall – you’re not ready to pitch for a job so don’t bother limiting yourself to job-specific contacts. You also clean up your database. Finally, you don’t know who people know. You might find that your rowdy frat buddy is now at a company you would want to research. Reconnect now on a friendly, non-job related basis. Then, if you do need to ask a question later on, you have already reconnected.
Skim business magazines for articles that catch your attention
While you’re working on your marketing and shoring up your personal connections, you also want to be mindful of the external market. The job search is a meeting of the minds between candidate and employer. Who are these employers? What are their concerns (that will prompt them to hire you)? What are the innovations happening in the industry (that will color what hiring managers are looking for)? How do your interests translate into roles that companies will hire for? To get this information you need to know about business. It’s unrealistic to think you will read every business publication cover-to-cover – it will take too long and may actually be a form of avoiding a more active job search. But at least look at the headlines and start getting familiar with what is trending and what you are interested in. For your interests, read deeper and incorporate specialty publications and industry blogs.
Rest and reflect
You will burn out and sour on your job search if you don’t take a break. You also might spin your wheels or go down the wrong path if you don’t stop to reflect on how your actions are contributing. Build in active and engaging breaks each week – a walk in your favorite park, a movie, a yoga class. Don’t spend a lot of money because you want to take breaks repeatedly throughout your search. Troubleshoot your search to ensure you are focusing on the right things and giving attention to all areas. The activities I mention above are internally-focused (your schedule, your marketing) and externally-focused (your network, market research). Aim for a balance of internal and external. If the internal comes more easily, make sure you schedule external activities so you don’t only do one half of a search (like the job seeker who edits their resume over and over without ever sending it out).
Purposefully, I haven’t listed anything about applying for jobs or reaching out to contacts about jobs specifically. In the first week of a search, you’re not ready to pitch for jobs. You don’t want to get called in with a sub-standard resume or no examples to share or no knowledge of the market. That said, I also limited this preparation period to one week (this is a suggestion which is aggressive I admit) to ensure you don’t prepare, plan and analyze for too long before going after actual jobs. If you have more time for your job search (a long severance, a cash cushion), you might take more than one week for this kick-off. But not that much longer – you want to network and interview sooner than later to get real-time feedback on how you’re perceived in the market.
This article previously appeared on Forbes.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business coach with SixFigureStart®. She has coached executives from Amazon, American Express, eBay, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, Tesla, and other leading firms. Her latest book is Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career (Forbes Media, 2015). She also writes a weekly advice column on Forbes (where this post originally appeared).
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