By Hallie Crawford

U.S. News Money, July 10, 2018 —

Essential steps to defining your job search strategy.

The very thought of having to start a job search can leave many professionals overwhelmed and feeling stuck in a job they don’t enjoy. With so much information available online and so many tools available to assist you with your job search, it can be hard to know where to start. Many job seekers feel they just don’t have time to update their networking profiles, resume and cover letter in order to find a new job – and keep them up to date on a regular basis. In fact, even unemployed professionals, who especially need a new position, find job searching overwhelming.

Many times giving up on job searching, or feeling overwhelmed before you start, is due to a lack of a defined strategy. It’s important to have a plan, a weekly schedule and to set realistic goals to have a successful search. Let’s talk about four ways you can jump-start your job search strategy.

Have a clearly defined direction.

Before you can start your job search, it’s essential to know what your ideal next job is and what positions you want to apply for. During your search, all of your steps should take you toward that final goal. Otherwise, you won’t get anywhere quickly in your job search.

Take the time to identify what elements of your current job you don’t like and why you want a new job. Is it because you have a micromanaging boss, you don’t like the office culture, you aren’t finding fulfillment or something else? This will help you identify what to look for, or watch out for, when searching for a new job.

Part of defining your direction is discovering or refining your personal brand. This includes things such as:

  • Your strengths
  • Your experience
  • Your personality type
  • Your values

Not only will this help you search for the right kind of job, but it will also help you do better in job interviews. You will know yourself better and be able to represent yourself better to a hiring manager.

Once you have identified what kinds of jobs you want to search and apply for, you will want to update your resume and LinkIn profile.
These items, as well as your cover letter, should represent you and communicate your brand. However, the formatting of your resume can detract from your brand, so make sure you are consistent in the font and format you use for your documents. Make sure to include keywords and marketable results in your resume and LinkedIn profile. Finally, ask a friend to proofread your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile.

Informational interviews can lead to job interviews and then eventual new careers. (Getty Images)

Once your documents are updated, you must start networking, effectively.

Networking is a critical element to your search, since 60 to 70 percent of jobs are found through the hidden job market. Try sites such as Twitter, Meetup, Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s also helpful to reach out to your alumni or industry associations. Schedule two hours each week to keep in touch with your connections by emailing them an update on your search or an article, setting up a phone or coffee meeting and attending a networking event.

Is there anyone in your current network whom you could reach out to about possible job openings? If not, set the goal of connecting with two to three new people each month. These should be people you actually want to connect with. Perhaps you admire them for their accomplishments or they have a job that you are interested in learning more about. Determine what you want to accomplish by reaching out to the person and then make the effort to nurture your new relationships.

It’s also helpful to choose two to three groups to join. By participating actively in networking groups, you can provide insight and input to others and receive insight and advice as well. Choose groups that you are interested in and try them out for a few months. If they aren’t helpful or effective, try out a few others.

An underutilized tool that is helpful in your job search is the informational interview.

This is a meeting or call with someone who works in the specific position or company you are interested in. Informational interviews are great for learning more about what it’s actually like to have that job and networking into the organization you are interested in.

Start by reaching out to people you already know, either in person or in your network, and be clear about your intentions and motivation. Generally, an informational interview takes about 15 minutes and will give you time to ask five or six questions, so you will want to think carefully about your questions and send them to the other person in advance.

An informational interview is not a job interview, but bring a copy of your resume and business card just in case. Always follow up after an informational interview, thanking the person for their time.