Getting off to a Successful Start with Your Job Search

Beyond “I need to update my resume,” many job seekers don’t know what to do, let alone in what order to do it, especially if they are starting the job search from scratch. It can easily be overwhelming, especially if you didn’t expect to become unemployed, haven’t looked for a job in a long time, or just need to find a new job. Relax and take a deep breath. We are going to list, then briefly discuss, the A-1 priorities to successfully launch your job search (and reduce any feelings of anxiety you have about getting started). Here we go:

  1. Get (and keep) your emotions in check. This is the first order of business. If you need a day or a weekend to work through the emotions of losing your job before starting your job search, that’s fine, but no more than that. You don’t have time for a pity party! Now here comes the big secret: the moment you start taking real action steps to begin your job search, the sooner the feelings of anxiety, fear, and even anger will fade. Not dwelling on the past moves you forward to your future and your next job.
  2. Identify your keywords. What words apply to you? Start simple. What titles have you held? What industries have you worked in? What knowledge do you have? These concepts and others will form the messaging behind who you are and how you present yourself to the job market. There will be much more on keywords in The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) book.
  3. Get organized. You will need to make lists—of companies, people, and to-do lists. Think through how you will keep track of everything. Relying on your memory or sticky notes in a shotgun fashion is a recipe for disaster. In the thick of your job search, you won’t be able to keep track of what you’re doing without a system. Excel spreadsheets are highly recommended for creating lists of companies and people. Only create columns for the information you will really need (name of contact, company, company website, email address, phone number, date contacted). Don’t get carried away recording non-useful information. There are commercial services that can help you stay organized in your job search. Check out JibberJobber (www.jibberjobber.com) and CareerShift (www.careershift.com). Microsoft Outlook’s calendar feature can also help. You can record tasks to be done, schedule follow-up calls, and so on.
  4. Create a short list of target employers you would be interested in working for. It may be only three, five, or ten companies to start with. Add to the list as you discover new companies. The point here is to start the list that gets you thinking. Now, look up the companies on LinkedIn. Follow them by setting up alerts for news, press releases, and job postings. Google Alerts may also be used. If you have Twitter, follow the companies. This starts the flow of information from these companies (and others you’ll add), including jobs and industry trends, which will benefit your job search. Add this information to your Excel spreadsheets to create a complete picture of each company before moving ahead, to eliminate needless backtracking for additional research.
  1. Create a short list of networking contacts. This one is like the list of companies from the last step. Make a list of close professional colleagues you feel comfortable speaking to about your circumstances and job search. As you think of more, add to the list. This list likely will not exceed twenty to twenty-five names to begin with (although it could be more). After you make out the list, do not contact them. You are not ready (even though you may think you are). Regardless of your business or personal relationships, don’t “blow it” by not being properly prepared. Be patient. Read the Professional Networking section of The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) and do things right the first time.
  1. Update your resume. Either prepare one yourself or seek professional services (which will free your time for other job-search activities). Having your resume professionally prepared could be a good investment.
  2. Update your LinkedIn profile and expand your network. The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.)  book discusses LinkedIn at length and how to optimize your profile by leveraging the programming and algorithms. Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are in sync with each other (especially the names of former employers and dates of employment).  Expand your network by adding one hundred new connections (it’s not as hard as you may think). These have to be the right kind of high-value connections (explained in the book) that will significantly advance your job search.
  3. Create job alerts. Use websites like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com. You can choose to be alerted about titles, locations, specific companies (from your short list), and so on. Set up job alerts on LinkedIn too. Companies (and recruiters) post jobs on LinkedIn and you can receive notifications when they do. Are there any industry-specific or niche job boards you could search?  Get a sense of the job market, and start the flow of opportunities you are looking for. If a position pops up, and you’re interested, do not apply for it through the website. Research the likely hiring executive(s) and contact them directly. This strategy is discussed in The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) book.

 

Branding and Your Job Search

It is imperative that you craft a professional brand that announces your distinct talents and what you represent to the marketplace. The process of branding is discovering who you are, what you are, what are your unique abilities, and communicating them through various mediums to your network or target market.

The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) book lists numerous benefits of creating an impactful brand, including:

  1. You will differentiate yourself from other job seekers, and gain a huge advantage.
  2. You create the initial impression the employer has of you.
  3. You can more quickly convey your value to the employer.
  4. You can more easily match your skills and value proposition to the employer’s needs.

 

  1. You can better determine which opportunities to pursue.

The drawback of not having a professional brand is simple: you are an unknown, you become ordinary or a commodity. Employers will determine for themselves what they want to see in you. They will cast you in a light based on their own conclusions, which may not be the message you want to communicate. There is no perceived differentiation from other job seekers. And, you cannot command a premium, and have reduced leverage when it comes to compensation.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of creating a professional brand is the self-awareness of your unique skills and experience, and recognition of how they work together to create an impact. You will project the value of your abilities more clearly, resulting in a job that’s a good match for your skill set. Branding can also help you set your sights on what you want your future career to be.

Additionally, when your networking contacts know your brand, they are much more likely to advance it for you through referrals, recommendations, and so on. When the right opportunities come along, you become top of mind (because of your brand).

The professional-branding process is written about in The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.)The process starts with introspection and thoughtful reflection. In some cases, thinking through your branding can be both an emotional and a professionally enlightening event.

Think of it this way: as a job seeker, your goal is to connect with employers both intellectually (you can do the job) and emotionally (you’re a good fit). Having a well-crafted, professional brand helps on both levels. You must be perceived as the right candidate, and through branding you are better able to align yourself to an open job position.

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of your brand is determined by the connection that exists between what the brand claims and what it can actually deliver. In other words, you must be able to prove and quantify your professional brand. Failing to do so will have disastrous results. Don’t oversell your brand and capabilities.

Create a succinct brand. Think of it, in analogous terms, as a tagline or a theme that will be the foundation for your job search.

To help determine your brand, ask yourself some questions:

  1. What am I good at or an expert in?
  2. What have I been recognized for?
  3. What is my reputation with others (subordinates, peers, senior management)?
  4. What have been my strong points in past job reviews (if applicable)?
  5. What differentiates me from others with the same job?
  6. What professional qualities do I have that make me good at my job?
  7. What are the professional achievements I am most proud of?

The answers to these questions and the thoughts they provoke are essential to forming your brand. Now, synthesize the answers and thoughts into single words or short phrases that capture the concept of your responses. Here are some examples:

Sales

Award-winning sales executive with experience in workers’ compensation, pain management, consistently exceeding sales goals.

Operations Management

Operations executive dedicated to improving operational efficiency through effective leadership.

 

Account Management

Client-focused account manager focused on client satisfaction and retention.

ERISA Lawyer

Experienced attorney protecting ERISA fiduciaries from the Department of Labor.

A branding statement could also be a few separate descriptive words or phrases:

Process Improvement ▪ Lean Six Sigma ▪ Turn-around Specialist

Marketing ▪ Advertising ▪ Public Relations

The purpose of branding is to get you known for the value you offer, get you in the door, and differentiate you from other job seekers.