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Is it time to start the job hunt? Here’s how to get started.

Every New Year’s, I take time to reflect and write down my resolutions (now habits, but more on that another time), as well as think about where I would like to be in three to five years.  While I tend to look holistically at family, health, personal growth, community contributions etc. A lot of people also use this time to think about their career. If you happen to be in this camp, and came away from your reflections with a nagging feeling it might be time to start the job hunt, the following steps will get you started.

Do Further Soul Searching

Make sure you know your motivations for making a change and what you want to optimize your job hunt for.  We have all heard the saying, you never want to run from something, you want to be running towards something.  And in today’s environment, it isn’t often a question of having one option, it’s often a question of having several options that offer different profiles and advantages.  Before you begin to think about companies and positions, outline the answers to the hard questions:

  • What parts of your current job get you excited and what parts leave you uninterested?
  • What results have you demonstrated in your current and past positions?  What are you most proud of?
  • What new opportunities, knowledge or responsibilities are you looking for in your next job?  Make a list of how your current knowledge and skills support that vision.
  • What is the job or role you want two jobs from now? What types of job opportunities will move you closer to those goals?  
  • What are the “must haves and nice to haves” of any new role? List as many as you can and then prioritize them, as this will help you long term when you have multiple offers.  Some examples include compensation, work/life balance, flexibility, ability to move internationally, entrepreneurial culture, strong advancement opportunities.

Get Current & Organized

Before you dive into your hunt, it is worth taking a short amount of time to get organized, get your resume in order and have set up a system without the pressure of networking, recruiter calls and interviewing.  

  • Recraft your resume.  While resumes are a cursory glance at your experience, outcomes, and qualifications, it is impossible to get away without one.  And a poor resume can limit your opportunities significantly. We assume you know the minimum standards for a resume, and have triple checked things like formatting, dates, and spelling.  Once you have the bones of your resume, it is worth it to spend some time focusing on the clear outcomes and results you have achieved and backing up those experiences with quantitative numbers.  A solid resume will include points such as “increased client revenue benefits by X% YOY,” “captured $X in cost savings through improved vendor negotiations,” or “increased team productivity by 25% through implementing new planning process.”  One big watch out. Make certain you never disclose confidential client information. All companies understand proprietary knowledge and it is perfectly acceptable to describe a company or client as “a multi-national bank” vs. providing the name.  
  • Update your LinkedIn profile (and click the box on “open to opportunities”).  LinkedIn has in many ways become more important than your resume for initial screenings.  You should spend as much time, if not more, making your profile comprehensive and up-to-date.   While some people choose to only list positions and timelines, we highly recommend you take the time to draft a solid introduction and comprehensively describe each role you have had.  The same resume rules for outcomes apply to LinkedIn, although you have as much space as you want to provide detail. To truly take advantage of LinkedIn, you will probably want to make certain you are posting articles of interest, commenting on sector issues etc.  
  • Set up a personal website.  While LinkedIn and your resume will give recruiters and your network and idea of what you have done, having a personal website is a great way to show what you have done.  You can go more in-depth on projects, approaches, and results. If you really want to take it to the next level, I highly recommend setting up a blog that demonstrates your areas of expertise.  It’s not necessary to blog daily, but commenting on industry trends, tossing out thought-provoking questions to your readers and being engaged will go a long way to demonstrating your interests.  
  • Know your elevator pitch. Consider this your stump speech.  Craft a statement no longer than 90 seconds that you can use as an introduction or extend if appropriate.  A typical elevator pitch could go something like as follows: “Yes, I am just starting my job search to move into the digital advertising space focusing on helping advertisers modernize and optimize their marketing mix through new social platforms.  I’ve spent the last two years helping brands develop integrated social marketing campaigns so I’m excited to expand beyond the operational and more into the strategy and sales of digital advertising. Some of the companies I’m looking at are X, Y, and Z.”  
  • Develop a networking plan.  Make a list of 20 to 30 people in your network to reach out to and begin to have exploratory conversations, ask for guidance or ask for a direct connection.  It’s generally a good idea to talk to a few folks that you either know very well or know will not be potential companies to work for some practice before you dive completely in.
  • Compile a list of recruiters relevant to your industry and position level.  Start with the recruiters that have called you before.  Then ask confidents for recommendations of recruiters they have found to be particularly helpful.  At this point, it’s not necessary to reach out. Just make a list.
  • Administratively, set up a simple tracking process.  This can be as simple as an excel sheet and an email folder.  You will want to keep track of individuals you talk to, job opportunities to pursue, recruiters to follow-up with etc.   And finally, you will want to block off time each week, knowing that looking for a job and maintaining yours is a full-time effort

Start doing your homework

Each job search (or career search) will have a different trajectory.  Someone looking to simply move companies in the same field will have a different path than someone looking to change industries.  Regardless, you need a plan to identify opportunities. I always recommend people start with a vision for the role, responsibilities, and type of company you want to work for.  You can add to those individual constraints, such as geography, as necessary.

Once you have these parameters outlined, outline a set of target companies.   If you know the industry you are focused against, identify five to ten companies you would be interested in.  Begin researching these companies and actively following them in the press and on social media. You will also probably want to connect to their company job postings page to see what types of opportunities are being listed.  I also recommend looking for the name of the HR person associated with the function or position you might be interested in to keep for further reference.

If you are industry agnostic, identify the function you want to focus on.  As a first step, I would suggest networking with individuals in this function to identify the characteristics of companies that might be more likely to have roles.

Finally, you will want to reach out to an initial set of recruiters to let them know you are beginning to think about looking.  Good recruiters can be exceptionally helpful, not only because they know of specific job opportunities, but because they can provide you feedback on your resume, positioning relative to other candidates they see and thoughts on other avenues you might want to explore.  

Get networking

Networking can raise anxiety for people.  In reality, it should be the most fun and valuable part of your search.  Start with people you would consider friends or good acquaintances. Let them know you are beginning to think about conducting a job search in your selected area and set up time for a 15 to 30-minute phone conversation or coffee.  Prior to the conversation, make certain you have thoroughly researched their company and to the extent you can, the person’s role. Write down three key questions that will invoke conversation. Typically, it’s best to set up these questions with a sentence prefacing the question and highlighting you have done your homework. Something as simple as “I noticed you all (Company X) have a new partnership with Y.  Is AI a major thrust for you right now?”

During your meeting, after sharing why you are looking to move, spend two-thirds of the time on these questions.  At the end of the meeting, ask them if they know of any specific opportunities or if there are one or two other people they feel like would be good resources for you to talk to.  Generally, people want to help and at the very least it puts you top of mind if they come across any job opportunities that might be a good fit. And don’t forget about the thank you note.  It’s also good hygiene to keep in touch with everyone you speak with, in particular, if you do make a move. Let them know where you land and how much they helped you through the process.

Job changes are not for the faint of heart.  It takes a positive attitude, persistence, and discipline to land the next right opportunity.  A bit of planning and organization up-front will make the entire process less daunting and more productive.  

We would love to hear from you.  As you start your search, what additional up-front steps have you taken to get ready?  And as you begin, what networking tips do you have for others?