Are you spending your time and energy on the right tasks during your job search? Are you being intentional about networking with the right people and in the right places? Do you feel like a good chunk of your time is spent applying to online job postings and waiting to hear back? Do you feel like you have a solid, step-by-step plan for how you should be approaching your job search to yield the best results?
Planning has its challenges. Job searching is no exception, especially with all the additional hurdles presented in today's world. However, identifying and executing a well-thought-out plan around your job search can make it more manageable, fruitful, and less anxious. Yet few people develop a plan or agenda with SMART (smart, measurable, actionable, realistic, timelines) goals.
Here are our suggestions for drafting a plan that will help guide your job search and hold you accountable for executing value-add job seeker activities.
Make a list of all of the different job search tasks where you should be spending your precious time and energy. Tasks can fall into the following core job-searching areas.
- Identifying skills employers seek, such as trends assessment
- Identifying job boards to leverage
- Reviewing articles and tips on career sites like JobScan, Live Career, Dice, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc.
Candidate Marketing Materials and Branding: Set a time to work on resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and other online profiles.
Applying: A part of your tasks includes applying for jobs with customized resumes, post-application follow up, and outreach.
Recruiters: Ensure that you're finding, prospecting, reaching out to, and following up with recruiters.
Interviewing: Interview preparation and post-interview follow-up should include a thank you note and periodic outreach to individuals acting as gatekeepers or liaisons to the job. This is typically a recruiter or talent acquisition.
Networking: Action items for networking include identifying and signing up for groups, reaching out to past co-workers, managers, and clients, promoting via social media platforms, reaching out to alumni channels, etc. BONUS RESOURCE: Five Groups to Network with During Your Job Search
Skills Assessment: Take online assessments offered through Indeed, LinkedIn, eSkill, Codility, HackerRank, and many other places. Finding and completing assessments can provide many benefits. Three core benefits include:
- Identifying your strengths helps your confidence and can aid with your interview answers to questions like, "What are some of your core strengths?"
- Identify weaknesses, so you can then invest time in upskilling; reference our bonus resource included below in skills development.
- Assessments provide you with extra candidate marketing materials, and you can share the positive results in addition to your resume and application.
Skills Development: Referred to commonly as upskilling, this includes any activities you can do to build new or grow skills, such as training, working on pet projects, listening to podcasts, reading books, or other tasks to develop the skills most in-demand by employers. BONUS RESOURCE: 10 External Skills Development Strategies
Build out a specific schedule of job seeker activities. We recommend doing it weekly or monthly, depending on your availability, sense of urgency, and number of relevant opportunities. Think about how many hours each day you can devote to job search activities and your current most significant needs or action items for the week. Make sure you are thinking about all of the categories you should invest in, such as your resume, LinkedIn profile, other profiles, recruiter outreach, networking groups, and other professional networking avenues. Don't forget to include posting your resume, applying for jobs, application follow-up, interview preparation, post-interview follow-up, etc. Then build out your schedule. BONUS RESOURCE: Example Weekly Job Search To-Do List
Take time to reflect on the last week or month. Reflection is crucial to understand what might be working and what isn't potentially working. Here are some reflection questions to consider during a 10-15 minute review of your week.
- What worked for me?
- What didn't yield any results?
- What are the potential reasons a task failed to provide the outcome(s) I wanted? Is there anything I can do to influence the success of that task?
- Which of my incomplete tasks need to be moved to next week or month?
- What are my current frustrations?
- Is there anything I need feedback on that would be beneficial, i.e., resume, LinkedIn profile, GitHub profile, interviews, writing sample, code sample, etc.?
Build out the next week or month of to-do items, and then continue the process of reflecting, adjusting, and repeating until you land that next role. Thoroughly evaluate the categories in Step 1 where you're spending your time, and make sure you are diversifying your time and covering all of your bases.
In summary, keep in mind that projects go smoother when you have a plan, so view your job search as a project, where the last part is accepting an offer and then starting the job. Create daily, weekly or monthly agendas around the most critical job searching activities. We hope this approach helps you get more organized and in control of your job search and provides guidance on where you could and should be spending your time!
Use our framework and our example job search to-do list or create your own to build an agenda for your next week or month. Ensure your agenda incorporates tasks from all the different categories you should invest in, i.e., research, candidate marketing (branding), applying, recruitment, interviewing, networking, skills assessment, and skills development.
- Erica Woods, Director, Consultant Programs & Philanthropy
- Cate Murray, Apex Director of PMO Solutions