When you travel places, you likely use a GPS to help you navigate your way. It gives you an overview and turn-by-turn method to guide you and prevent you from getting lost. Similarly, before you begin any job search, you need a GPS to get you to that career destination. That GPS includes a job search strategy plan and a map of your career assets, career value, and career goals.
Create a Job Search Map
On a piece of paper, draw a square. In the upper left corner, list your top skills and strengths. These should be both hard skills and soft skills. Consider the attributes and character facets that make you an asset to a team as well as the overall organization. Be sure to also consider the industry-specific skills (i.e. business development, client relationship building, etc.) that have formulated your career path and professional tool kit.
In the upper right corner, list the types of companies and locations you would want to work for and at. This is important because you want to pin down a list of companies that you will be reaching out to and desirable locations. In the bottom left corner, list the types of environments that you will flourish at. Consider if you want to work at a small startup or an established Fortune 100. In the bottom right corner, list what you need out of the role and why.
This exercise will help you identify target organizations, target roles, and target locations. Once you have completed it, you can begin planning your job search strategy.
Plan Your Job Search Strategy
Any good strategy requires a plan, and your job search is no different. “Spraying and praying” (i.e. applying to any and all roles that just pop up on a quick search on LinkedIn) just doesn’t work in today’s job search world. You need a streamlined and targeted job search strategy that maximizes your energy and career goals.
Spend 10% of your time (no more than 2 hours a day) applying to job boards. Remember, job search boards have a 4%-8% response rate, but networking has almost an 80% chance of getting you a new job.
Spend 60% of your time actively networking – in-person and online. Expand your LinkedIn connections and begin reaching out to targeted people in your industry who may hold decision-making powers. Look at the thought leaders in the industry and career space you are in. These do not have to be specific people at the targeted company, but who may also be an excellent avenue for speaking to and having introductions made.
Spend 10% of your time researching companies, researching trends and topics related to your industry, and begin following companies on LinkedIn, high-ranking professionals at those companies, and start interacting with them on LinkedIn.
The other 20% of your time should be spent on 1:1 informational meetings with key individuals at targeted companies, as well as interviews and meetings.
You also want to speak to people outside these companies of interest but who are still in your industry. The larger your network is, the better. The more you get out there and meet face-to-face, the more you will also fine-tune your interview skills and understand what positions, companies, and work culture best meet your needs.
Keep in mind that your job search is about finding the right fit for you, not only being the right fit for the company. Both should align. Just as the company is interviewing you, your mindset should be focused on answering the question: is this company the right fit for me and my long-term career? Consider your 5-year and 10-year plan. Will the company lead to you something better, will it open new doors and new opportunities, or will it be a stepping stone to that next part of your career ladder?
Once you have your job search map, job search strategy, and long-term career goals in place, you are ready to program that GPS to take you to your next career destination.