What To Do Before You Start Looking For A Job
They say the early bird gets the worm, but that comes with a lot of planning and preparation. If you're thinking about leaving your job and are dreading the search it might be time to change your strategy for a more effective job search.
We're talking about what to do before you even start looking for a job.
Most people freshen up their resume, zip up their cover letters, do a little bit of research and then nose dive into hundreds, if not thousands, of job postings. It can get tedious and downright confusing at times if you're not prepared.
If you want to skip the article and download the worksheet right away, you can do so HERE. Although we highly recommend you read the rest of the post, the option is up to you. Now, let's continue.
We'll get to talking about the art of the resume and all that other good stuff later, but right now we're going to zero in on your goal, strategy and tactics.
If you want to get a job, you need to have a clear goal, with a sound vision and then execute on small tactics to get you there.
We're not talking about fluffy words that HR taught you to say, or you think they want to hear, we're talking about real strategy to achieve what you want - a new job.
Companies that are hiring are doing so because there is a clear business goal that they are trying to achieve. If you want to get hired, you have to align with their business goals. Period.
Now, let's dive into your plan of action for the job hunt!
Create a Great Goal, Not a Good One
Let's establish what your goal is. Maybe you want to move up the ladder? Perhaps you want to switch industries. Looking for a higher salary? Open up our worksheet (download here) and complete what your goal is in as much detail as you can.
Let's use an example case study. Let's say Jane Austen is looking for a job (ha!). She is currently a junior public relations associate but wants to find another job because she doesn't like the current company culture and there is no way for her to move up.
Can't move up? Tried speaking with your boss to no avail? Move out. I know - it sounds harsh but it's the truth. Some companies simply don't have the room, or money, to promote you.
Now let's write some goals for Miss. Austen,
Poor Goal: I want to find a job in Public Relations.
Good Goal: I want to find a manager level Public Relations position at a tech company in 6 months.
Best Goal: I want to be in a Public Relations position at a software tech company in 6 months by applying to 3 new jobs per week in 6 months or less.
You see the difference in the goals? Most people stop at the good goal, but I don't want to help you be good - I want you to be great. Establish what your goal is. If you get stuck on this, don't move forward. Take a break, do something non-work related, and even try to get it out of your mind completely before coming back.
Without a clear vision of what your goal is, there is no strategy or tactics.
A goal this great is normally defined in business school as a S.M.A.R.T. goal: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. If your goal doesn't include, or answer, all those things in one or two sentences then get back to the drawing board.
Strategy, Strategy, Strategy
Strategy is a key component in achieving your goal. Let's say you skip this part - no strategy. You can go right into creating the tactics, the nitty gritty stuff, like actually applying. Like an untrained marathon runner you'll start off strong, slow down in the middle and take a seat before you've even reached the end. Don't do that to yourself.
Looking for a job is a job and if you want to win it will require more discipline. Unless you want any random job, but you don't strike me as someone who just wants any job.
The strategy part will define your approach. You are trying to persuade the hiring manager that you are the right candidate for this role. How do you plan on doing that?
Here's the thing about the job hunting, and hiring, process that no one ever tells you... You need to be memorable as a candidate.
Whether it's in how you speak, your appearance, or questions that you ask, the first key to finding a job is to be memorable. Something about you needs to entice the hiring manager into remembering who you are.
Hiring a new employee is often a disturbance in the office. It can sometimes take weeks to simply get approval on a job description before it's posted, training needs to be aligned and the candidate needs to be brought up to pace on projects. The hiring manager is sometimes sifting through hundreds of resumes and cover letters.
Developing a sound strategy to approach your job search, keeping in mind that you want to be memorable, is the best offense. This can be achieved a number of ways but it will vary depending on what your goal is. So in this case, let's continue with our example of Jane Austen.
Poor Strategy: I'm going to impress the hiring manager with my PR experience and my degree in PR.
Good Strategy: I'm going to impress the hiring manager with my PR experience, talking mostly about my experience working with tech teams and my degree in PR.
Best Strategy: Impress the hiring manager by aligning my PR skills with tech, experience working with tech teams, showing how much value I brought them and how I can bring some of that towards the new role.
Jane is on to something if she goes with the best strategy.
It's My Objective
We're on a roll - don't stop now. Defining your objective is going to be critical in how you execute your tactics. You don't just want to nose dive into a ton of job listings. Your already established goals and strategy deserve more.
In this step we'll define the pool you can play in. That's right, a pool. A small, toddler pool. You might be thinking - why do I want to play in a toddler pool? Good question!
Have you ever stood on the beach looking out at the ocean? It's wide, vast and who knows how deep it is. The ocean represents the job market and your resume is a drop of water. That's right, a drop of water.
Sounds daunting isn't it?
The key to landing the job you want requires intense focus and defining, as tightly as you can, how small or big your pool is. The smaller and more closely you can define your pool, the easier it will be to assess your next move and perhaps even beyond that.
Let's continue trying to get Jane Austen a new job with the example below:
Poor Objective: I'm going to apply to public relations manager jobs.
Good Objective: I'm going to apply to public relations manager jobs at tech companies only.
Best Objective: I'm going to apply for 3 different job titles that equal the manager role at 20 tech companies that I like using only tech job boards and tech networking events.
Let's roundup what Jane Austen is going to do before she starts looking for a job:
I want to be in a Public Relations position at a software tech company in 6 months by applying to 3 new jobs per week in 6 months or less.
Impress the hiring manager by aligning my PR skills with tech, experience working with tech teams, showing how much value I brought them and how I can bring some of that towards the new role.
I'm going to apply for 3 different job titles that equal the manager role at 20 tech companies that I like using only tech job boards and tech networking events.
Tactics: Go do it!
Think Big, Work Small with Tactics
Now that you have your goal, strategy and objective in place, it's finally time to work on the tactics. It's the really hard part - you have to go out and do it. Be sure to track your progress, take notes and reassess the landscape after every move or feedback.
Also, as a tip and nod to being memorable - write a hand written thank you note. I know, I know, people say an email will suffice. It probably may, but remember I don't want you to be good - I want you to be great! Just think about it, every person who applies to the same job will be reading advice that an email will suffice. What a better way to be memorable than to send a hand written note.
Better yet? Write the hand-written note in advance. After your interview, swing by the front desk and discreetly ask the front desk to deliver the thank you note after you're done. We'll talk more about this strategy at a later date.
Good luck on your job search!