Six Steps To Conducting An Effective Job Search

How prepared are you for planning and conducting an effective job search? Successful job seekers must have both good information and well-developed job hunting skills. Three important factors for a successful job search are an awareness of your goals and skills, an understanding of the labor market, and a well planned campaign.

Experts recommend that you begin an active search six to nine months in advance of your target employment date. You can begin the process by visiting the Career Center early (for students, nine months to a year before graduation).

The following six steps are used to conduct an effective job search.

STEP 1. Start with Self-Assessment
The first step in the process of finding the right job for yourself begins with an identification of your interests, values, skills, experience, accomplishments, and goals. How can you seek a position if you don't know what you want from a job and what you have to offer prospective employers? Self-assessment may be a time-consuming process but it will definitely provide you with some invaluable information to help facilitate your decisions and to prepare you to market your background effectively.

Values An awareness of what you value (qualities that are important and desirable) in a career will aid you in exploring career goals and attaining greater satisfaction in your work.

Review this list of possible values and check the ones that are most important to you. Next, prioritize them into your top five.
- Job security
- Working as part of a team
- Working independently with little or no supervision
- Making a contribution
- Professionalism
- Mentally challenging
- Pleasant environment
- Challenging, stimulating co-workers
- Variety in tasks to accomplish daily
- Financially rewarding
- Creativity
- Possibility of advancement

Interests (areas that arouse your attention or enthusiasm) are closely related to values and frequently trigger skill development. You can identify interests by looking at lasting themes in your life, i.e., consistent choices you've made, activities that have persisted over time, the way you spend your time, or recurring dreams. Thoroughly examine your most enjoyable times in-depth. If after doing so you are still not clear about your interests or cannot rank them, consider meeting with a career center consultant or check into some vocational guidance.

A skill refers to something you do well, including handling problems or tasks. The key to having a successful job search is recognizing your skills and being able to communicate their value, both verbally and in written form, to a prospective employer. You should convey this in an accomplishment statement.

This should:
- Describe your skills in concise, unambiguous terms.
- Refer to actual experiences to demonstrate your skill level.
- Connect your skills concisely to the needs of a prospective employer.

Some of the most marketable skills are those which are useful in a wide variety of work environments. These are known as transferable skills. Good examples of these are the ability to communicate verbally, write effectively, and use word processing or database software; these are all valued skills in both the private and public sectors.

STEP 2. Research and Explore Career Options
The next step in the job search process is to explore the "matches" between your identified skills, interests, and values and the demands of career fields and organizations. Resource materials on occupations (available in the reference section of your local library) and informational interviews are two excellent tools for this search. You can also
Perhaps the best way to explore career options is to try out intended jobs through internships, cooperative education positions, part-time or summer jobs, or volunteer opportunities.

STEP 3. Choose a Career Field, then Target Employers
After thoroughly researching possible careers/jobs, several field options will emerge as most realistic and attractive. These options should become your career or job search goals. It is probable that no single career will have the potential to utilize all your skills, allow you to develop all your interests, and incorporate a value system completely compatible with yours. Therefore, try to target a career field that will satisfy some of your high-priority needs. Other needs of less importance can perhaps be satisfied in your leisure time activities.

At this point, it is useful to get realistic feedback from experts in the field or career consultants to determine if your assessment is realistic. A meeting or two with a Career Center consultant is strongly encouraged to discuss your analysis and decisions. During this or any other part of your job search, expect to use the resources of the Career Center frequently. Good research on employers will not only give you the competitive edge, but also help you decide which employers you want to reach and which strategies you will use to contact them.

STEP 4. Prepare Job Search Materials and Develop Job Search Skills
Once your job goals have been targeted, resumes and application letters can be tailored to reflect your qualifications as they relate to the interests of prospective employers. Guidelines for developing these job search materials start with Designing Your Resume, Resume Checklist, and Sample Resumes.

While most job applicants are well aware of the need for well prepared resumes and cover letters, many do not realize the need to spend an equal amount of time mastering job search skills necessary to be effective in today's market. Learning which job search strategies are productive, how to interview effectively, how to market yourself well, and how to handle salary issues once an offer is made may be the subjects of regularly scheduled workshops offered by your Career Center.

STEP 5. Plan and Conduct Job Search Campaign
Next, establish a target date for getting a job and decide how much time you can devote to your search. Some individuals believe they cannot afford to take time from their busy school or work schedules. Others just procrastinate. Whatever the reasons, the results are the same…your search will languish and you may miss out on industry hiring cycles and job opportunities. So get organized early by setting aside a certain amount of time each week to work on your search. Use a calendar and weekly planner and work backward from your target date.

The greater number of contacts and interviews a job seeker has, the greater the number of job offers. Therefore, it makes sense to use multiple strategies.

A. Actively Investigate Advertised Vacancies The most commonly used job search technique is to respond to advertised vacancies, both in print and electronically.

Sources of vacancies include:
- Career Center job listings
- State Department of Labor
- Newsletters or publications from trade or professional associations.
- Classified ads (most major cities have these available on-line).
- Employment services and agencies.
- Personnel department postings and phone lines.
- Various Internet sources

Unfortunately, the most popular method for locating positions, responding to advertised vacancies, is not the most effective. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, nearly 80% of the openings available at any one time are never advertised. Job-seekers should respond to employment ads, but the main thrust of your efforts should be toward establishing networks and identifying the hidden job market.

To increase the odds of your success in responding to advertised vacancies, by telephone or letter, keep these tips in mind:
- Do not waste time responding to long shots.
- Use your cover letter to answer every requirement in the advertisement.
- Personalize your response as much as possible. Direct your materials to specific individuals, not "To Whom It May Concern," or "Dear Sir/Madam," unless the advertisements are blind newspaper ads (name of organization withheld). A quick phone call can provide appropriate names. In a blind ad, address your cover letter using a specific position title, (e.g., Dear "Marketing Manager").
- Try to contact or write to the manager who will make the final hiring decision as well as the personnel representative named in the advertisements

B. Develop a Contact Network
Once you have targeted a career or specific position, you should acquaint yourself with professionals in that field or organization. These professionals offer you an insider's view and can constitute your contact network, which can open doors that might otherwise remain closed. Your network can also consist of family members, friends, classmates, professors, and electronic discussion groups.

C. Contact Employers Directly
There are several methods and combinations of methods that can be utilized to contact employers directly.
- Send a letter of application and your resume to the Human Resources department or specific managers. This direct contact method is most successful for candidates in high-demand fields (e.g., engineering and computer science). The success of this method is greatly increased when letters are followed up by phone calls, which may result in an invitation to visit the employer.
- Contact managers in organizations by phone or letter to request an appointment to discuss the information you have obtained by reading annual reports, trade literature, etc. Indicate your desire to meet with them even if they have no positions currently available in their department. Some job seekers find it useful to state that they will be looking for jobs in the near future, but are now just gathering information about organizations. Do not expect to be interviewed for a job at this juncture.
- During your appointments with department managers, emphasize your knowledge and interest in their organizations.
- Always follow up all interviews with thank-you letters, phone calls, and, when appropriate, resumes that have been revised based on information and suggestions provided by managers.
- Even if managers have no positions available, once they have had a personal interaction with you, they may think of you the next time they have, or hear of, an appropriate opening. It is critical to stay in touch with these managers, at least on a bi-monthly basis.
- Many job seekers have used informational interviewing to create new positions by identifying organizational needs (through the interview, research, etc.) and proposing these needs be filled with their own skills.

D. Follow-Up and Record Keeping
No matter what job search strategies you choose, follow-up and record keeping are important for success. Maintain a careful record of all interviews, thank-you notes sent, referrals made and follow-up actions. Job seekers who fail to maintain this information often lose valuable contacts as well as credibility with prospective employers.

E. Be Persistent
Job searching is hard work and there are times when you will get discouraged. But if you keep up with it, you can avoid feeling anxious and will actually have more energy. If your search is not producing the results that you would like, avoid blaming yourself and try a new strategy. Do not be reluctant to submit your credentials on more than one occasion to an organization for which you would like to work. This attitude demonstrates your enthusiasm and interest.

STEP 6. Obtain Offer and Continue to Develop Your Career Action Plan
Congratulations! Your job search campaign has been successful. You have been offered a position you wish to accept. Send a note to all the people who helped you relaying the good news. To ensure success in your position and the continued growth of your career. Remember to continue to use all six steps cyclically to assist you in your career progression or job change.

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For more employment related articles click these pages:
Getting a job
How To Have A Successful Job Interview
Job resource center


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