Are you thinking about changing jobs or starting a job search in 2024? You probably have been told many times (or read it on this blog!) that your resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letter template are essential for your upcoming job search—sometimes called a career marketing campaign. But should your first step be to prepare these documents? Job search is a business process, so think about planning, organizing, and data gathering as the first steps for the project. Your “project plan” might include the following items.
- Job target,
- List of target companies,
- Networking contact list,
- Social media audit,
- References, and
- Questions to ask at an interview.
While we have tried to recommend these preparatory steps in the order you may want to do them, your needs may vary. For example, if you have an interview tomorrow, one of the first things to do this evening will be developing your list of interview questions. Or, if you are active on social media, and like to send out potentially controversial posts, your first step may be to delete them or “lock down” your social media accounts.
Select your job target.
You might think that having your resume ready would be the first step in a successful job search, but figuring out what you want out of your next job is actually the place to start. The clearer you can be about what your next job will look like — title, company type, location, responsibilities, salary, benefits, etc. — the easier it will be to find.
Prepare a list of target employers.
Identify 10-20 specific companies that you’d be interested in. Follow the company on social media, check for open positions, and look for people you know who already work for the company.
Specific job openings can be fleeting. They may be filled before you are ready to apply, or an insider may already have been pre-selected for the opportunity. But when you follow the company through social media, mass media, and your industry contacts, you will be well-positioned for the next opportunity.
Document your business and professional accomplishments.
Being able to articulate your accomplishments and your ability to handle challenges is important to your job search. Prepare 3-5 “career stories” for each of your recent and relevant jobs before you begin your job search. Use CAR (Challenge-Action-Results), PAR (Problem, Action, Results), or STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Results) statements to structure your story. These can be used on your resume or LinkedIn profile and/or in an interview (especially to answer behavioral or situational questions).
The vast majority of jobseekers that contact me, I have found, focus on their job description rather than their accomplishments, so you will set yourself apart with this step alone.
Develop a networking contact list.
Who do you know that can help you in your job search? The more people you connect with, the more help you can get. Identify the specific people you want to connect with as part of your job search. The first step is making a list of the people you know — personal contacts, professional connections, people in your community who might be an asset, college classmates, etc. Then, prioritize your list. From your entire list of contacts, who can help you the most? Who are the 10 people you should reach out to first?
You’ll find that LinkedIn is a powerful tool for this process. Many of the people you want to contact will be there, so they will be relatively easy to contact, even when they are now in other cities and countries.
Conduct your own social media audit.
More than half of employers say they have rejected an applicant because of what they found on a jobseeker’s social media profiles, so the time to review your online reputation is before you start a job search. Locate and review all your profiles. Evaluate your presence, removing any “controversial” content (avoiding religious or political status updates and “scrubbing” posts that show you engaging in anything that a prospective employer might find offensive or inappropriate). Update your privacy settings, keeping your profile photo, employment, and education information visible.
Should you identify your references before you even start interviewing? First, it can take time to line up your references. You want to have references — ideally, 3-7 people who can attest to your character, work ethic, knowledge, and experience. You want to prep your references ahead of any interviews so they are ready to take the call, if necessary. In addition, your references can provide Recommendations for your LinkedIn profile, making it stronger.
Make a list of questions to ask in an interview.
Even before you begin your job search, remember that the goal is to get in front of the hiring manager or recruiter to have a chance to learn more about the job and company and how you can be the right fit for the role — and make sure the company is the right fit for you. A job interview is supposed to be a dialogue, so preparing questions that will help you understand the company — and the job — is important. You can ask questions that will help you get to know the company’s culture, their expectations for the candidate in the job, and even why the role is open. Now, when you prepare your project deliverables—resume, cover letters, and LinkedIn profile—you will have everything you need right on your virtual or physical desktop. That will be especially valuable when the interview for your dream job is tomorrow morning!