Three important factors for a successful job search are the ability to articulate your goals and skills, an understanding of the employment market, and a well-planned job search campaign.
Job seekers need to be well prepared and knowledgeable about the proper strategies to plan and implement a successful job search campaign. Creating a strategic plan will help you focus and better manage how you spend your time. By following the steps outlined below, you can be in control of your search and reach or come close to one of the destinations that you choose.
You will be best prepared to take on the demands of your job search after you have completed the first two stages of the career development process, self-assessment and career exploration.
Step 1 in the CEC's career development process, Assessment, provides invaluable information for your career decision-making and prepares you to market yourself successfully. The focus is on you! To prepare for an effective job search, it is important that you can articulate your strengths and professional 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? Review the information in Assess Who You Are before proceeding to the next step. If you are not clear about your strengths and goals, you may also want to consider meeting with a career coach (see below).
Doing the Research
Once you have a clear view of your strengths, interests, abilities, and other attributes you need to explore what is "out there" in the word of work. What are your options? This is Step 2 in the CEC's career development process, Exploration.
Successful job seekers have good career, job and labor market information and are aware of what the options are in the workplace. Avoid the shotgun approach of applying randomly to job postings. Rather, do the research on the industry, job sectors and roles you plan to pursue so your options are clear. The more you are able to identify your target positions, the more likely you will be to end up there!
If you have not done so already, check out the Explore Careers page in the Career Toolkit for more information and use the company and job listing resources found in this section. Then consider the following action steps:
- Based on your job market research, focus on a few job titles for the jobs you really want
- Create a target list of employers who employ people in those roles
- Research those employers thoroughly online and through networking
Creating a Strategic Plan
If you have completed the first two steps in the career development process and have a clearer understanding both of yourself and the opportunities available in the job market, you are ready to move to the next phase of your job search campaign.
Begin by creating a strategic plan to serve as a compass to guide you in the job search process. If you haven't met with a career coach, plan to arrange a meeting. Begin this process 9-12 months before your target date to be employed since on the average it takes 6-9 months or more to land a job.
However, locking yourself into a plan with the goal of finding an "ideal" job is too limiting. Rather, consider other options, broaden your scope and create strategic Plans A, B and C. Think "outside the box" and be creative. Consider an interim position, such as a bridge job that gets you closer to your ideal position. Look into internships, or explore temping as a possible way in to an organization. Have a back-up Plan C to earn income if you are unable to implement Plan A or B within your timeline.
Developing Your Job Hunting Skills
With your plan and good employment market information in hand, now is the time to develop and fine-tune your job hunting skills. Follow these action steps:
- Develop effective marketing tools - spend the necessary time to create a powerful resume and cover letter that focus on demonstrating to the employer that you have what they need. Be sure to emphasize your strengths and accomplishments and have a CEC career coach review your documents.
- Prepare to market yourself "verbally" to people you know and meet, including during networking activities and interviewing. Develop a brief and compelling "elevator speech" as well as a two-minute infomercial to capture the listener's attention and highlight your skills, accomplishments, and experience.
- Build your online brand by creating a profile and getting connected on LinkedIn, a professional networking site with over 100 million registered users. You can research companies, join and contribute to groups, including the Simmons College group, set up informational interviews to gather information, advice, and leads relevant to your job search, and much more
- Join a local job search networking group or job club
- Prepare for the most frequently asked interview questions. Write down your answers and practice out loud with a friend who can give you constructive feedback.
Executing the Plan
Now your job search is in full swing! In the CEC's career development process, you are at Step 4, Implementation.
Since employers are often deluged with resumes for a particular job opening, competition can be extremely high. It is not usual for job seekers to respond to 50 job postings in order to land just one interview. How can a job seeker possibly stand out amidst the competition and clutter?
The answer is to be proactive, not reactive. Networking is the best way to find job leads and tap into the hidden job market. Continue to research organizations online, and take advantage of a multitude of job posting sites, many of which can be found in Simmons Library Career Guides. There you will find job sites specific to career fields, such as nursing, accounting, and human services. Once you identify an organization and a position of interest to you, consider how you can network your way into the organization, get a referral, and stand out from the crowd so you are not just another anonymous applicant in the resume pool.
Job Listing Resources
As noted above, there is an almost endless number of job sites to check listings. The following are selected sites to help get your search moving:
- Simmons CareerLink - many employers prefer to hire Simmons' students and alumnae/i and post their openings on our own CEC-maintained job board - so start here!
- Simmons Library Guide to Job Hunting Online
- See the Simmons Library Career Guides by Discipline to find resources specific to your areas of interest
- Specific company websites - eg, Citizens Bank, Home for Little Wanderers, etc. - most large companies have a specific "Careers" page that lists openings and often includes an online application form
- Professional association websites - see the Simmons Library Networking Career Guide list to get you started
- Web crawlers - these are the big aggregators, such as Indeed.com and Simply Hired, that "scrape" job boards and company sites and carry all postings in one place
- Large national job boards - these include Monster and CareerBuilder, among others
- Network! Network! Network! - a reported 70-80 percent of job seekers find their position through contacts. Many jobs in the "hidden job market" are not posted and must be discovered through people you meet. Review the Optimize Your Networking page for ideas on how to network and where.
- Apply to posted positions - but remember, only 20% of existing jobs are posted while 80% of job seekers apply for them.
- Contact recruiters and employment agencies —-to locate temporary work assignments, which may lead to permanent employment. Ask professionals in your chosen field if they can recommend a specific firm or recruiter. Usually recruiters work better with experienced professionals and those in a defined field such as accounting or marketing.
Evaluating Options and Making Informed Decisions
Congratulations! You've received a job offer. Now what?! This is Step 5 in the CEC career development process, Decision-Making. it's the moment you've been waiting for:
- Analyze the offer, using criteria you determined earlier in your job search, including fit with your goals and the outcomes from your self-assessment exercises
- Weigh your options
- Review the CEC document Steps for Effective Negotiations
- Review the Career Toolkit information on negotiating a job offer
- If you want, meet with a CEC career coach to assist you with the decision-making process and to prepare for negotiation
A Final Note
Throughout your job search, remember to strive for the three P's - be Proactive, Persistent and Patient:
- Have confidence and remain optimistic about finding a job
- Set goals, follow through, and actively engage in the process outlined above
- Create a weekly plan, keep good records, and build in accountability with a friend or job search buddy
- Focus on what you have control over - your job search campaign - not the overall economy
- Get the support you need - finding a job can be a full-time job!
- Be realistic and manage your expectations - your next job may not be that perfect job, but it's a next step. It may also take longer than you expect to secure a position, which is especially true in a tougher job market.
Meet with a Career Coach about Your Job Search
As outlined above, undertaking a job search is a multi-step process that can unfold over several months. You will succeed if you are organized and clear about yourself and your objectives. If, after reviewing the above, you feel you could benefit from the expertise of a CEC career coach in preparing for and managing any aspect of your job search - from clarifying your personal strengths and career goals, to exploring the employment market, to building your job search strategy, to preparing your marketing tools and practicing interviewing skills - then consider contacting the CEC to set up an appointment with a coach.
For More Information
- CEC's Job Search Checklist - download this checklist and use it to help manage your job search
CEC's Self-Marketing Plan - use this template as your plan to assist in defining and evaluating opportunities
- CareerSpots Videos - check out these videos, especially "Researching Companies," "Career Fair Success," and "Top 10 Interview Mistakes" and related CareerBytes videos
- Simmons Library Career Guide to Job Hunting Online
- NACE Knowledge Center - Career Development/Job Search page
- Quintessential Careers - a comprehensive job search site with career tutorials, articles and advice
- Job-Hunt.org - broad and deep resources for the job seeker, including Best Employers lists by region
- Job Search Strategies - Thomas Denham Blog
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Career Toolkit for Alums
The purpose of the Career Toolkit is to assist you in your career planning. Whether you are unsure of your career direction or need help with your job search or with applying to graduate school, you will find the resources you need to begin your preparation.
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