Navigating the job market in an effective, efficient, and anxiety-free manner is difficult; it’s tricky terrain! In the last decade, things have changed dramatically with how people should conduct their job search, from the resources they use to identify job leads, to how they pursue those leads, to tools they can leverage to assist, to systems that companies utilize to prioritize applicants, to the “digital background checks” companies use to screen applicants. They say “knowledge is power,” and “effective job searching tool knowledge is power” is an incredibly true statement.

To help you navigate your job search effectively and confidently, we’ve created a 7-step Roadmap for success!

1. Self-Assessment and Reflection

A highly beneficial first step is to engage in self-reflection around your current/past job, to help ensure you are targeting the right future for yourself! Ask yourself some open-ended questions such as “What have I enjoyed about past roles, projects, Managers, teams, and companies? What have I disliked? What responsibilities do I want in my next role? What technologies/platforms do I want to work with? What projects do I want to work on? Where do I want to be in a few years and what type of responsibilities can I start to get involved with in my next role to help with that end goal?” Spending time flushing all this out can also better help you communicate the “why” behind your interest during interviews, which can very much influence your chances of receiving an offer.

2. Professional Branding

One of the biggest changes for job seekers 10 years ago vs. now is the importance of “intentional online branding.” Platforms like LinkedIn, GitHub, Twitter, Facebook, etc. have changed the game. Your resume may no longer be the most important piece of your professional portfolio! If you’re a Developer, your GitHub profile and contributions carry far more weight for most hiring Managers. Conducting a formal or informal “social media background check” on candidates prior to an interview is common practice. The strength of your LinkedIn profile, including relevant and flowing recommendations, can land you the job over an equally qualified candidate.

3. Strategy and Networking

Brainstorming, flushing out, and executing a SMART plan is vital to a productive and (minimally) stress-free job search! Adopt the Agile approach to your job search, and set daily or weekly goals/tasks. If you’re not working, have 3-4+ items on your daily ‘Job Hunt to Do List,’ which span multiple categories. For example, your list could include

  1. Ask for three LinkedIn recommendations,
  2. Customize resume for applying for ___ skill set
  3. Reach out to Recruiter and local User Group leader to get recommendations on companies who are hiring.

One of the areas most candidates don’t think about during their search is relevant skills development. Do research and/or talk to a quality Recruiter who supports your skill set frequently to get a gauge of the top hiring trends, i.e. skill sets, clients in your city are seeking in candidates. Then, go above and beyond by investing time weekly/monthly to increase your knowledge with those skills/technologies. There are lots of free online training resources you can leverage, such as Coursera and Cybrary, and other great training providers like Pluralsight and Safari offer free 10 day trials.

Most cities have active user group communities, and increasing your involvement/attendance at local user group/Meetup meetings is one of the best sources of knowledge and networking. Also, community involvement is a good branding component to add to your resume, which is often a category missing from resumes. If you’re part of a local association, like a Helpdesk Institute or Project Management Institute, add a ‘Community Involvement’ section to resume and list out any groups you’re active in.

Prospect, prospect, prospect! What’s prospecting and why could that be helpful in a job search? Essentially, it’s developing a list of potentials. As you conduct your search, keep a running list of all the companies you come across that have relevant jobs and spark your interest. Then, communicate your ‘Company Prospect List’ to the Recruiter/s you work with, and determine which ones they have a relationship with. Even if that company doesn’t have an active opening (to their knowledge), it’s worth asking to have your resume submitted proactively, and in the hopes they have a position not posted or something on the radar.

4. Use Quality Resources

As part of your strategy, identify at least 3-4 resources you should utilize for your skill set. Sign up for job alerts via multiple channels. Share your status and career preferences with the most relevant people in your network! As mentioned above, attending user group/association meetings is a great source of job leads/networking.

5. Apply Effectively

Another 'game changer' for both companies and job seekers is the extensive adoption of systems that scan and prioritize resumes/applications based on the match of the resume against the job description. As a job seeker, whenever you’re applying 'blindly' (i.e. submitting resume to job posting), use a resume optimization tool such as JobScan.

Another good strategy is to seek referrals. When you identify a job online you’d like to pursue, see if anyone in your network has a direct line of communication with the manager. You can do this by asking the recruiter you’re working with if they have a contract with that company, or a relationship with manager/s of that group. If not, you can do an ‘Advanced Search’ in LinkedIn to try and identify a common connection who currently works at that company. If you have a common connection, you can pass along your resume with the job ID/requisition number to that individual, so they can forward along to the right person internally.

A third strategy is to apply the 80:20 rule to your job search. When evaluating a job, apply if you meet at least 80% of the hard requirements (not including preferred qualifications), as long as you’re interested in learning and doing the remaining 20%. Too often candidates don’t apply if they don’t have everything on the client’s requirements list.  Rather, start to engage in skills development of the skills you’re lacking prior to an interview.

6. Prepare for Each Interview

In addition to overall interview preparation, such as re-reading your resume and perfecting your professional elevator pitch, you should be investing time preparing for each individual company and role. Review the company’s website and social media platforms. Re-read the job description the night before, and write down why you’re qualified and why you’re interested in the role. Identify why you might not get selected, such as missing a version of one of the technologies listed in the job description, and invest 30+ minutes reading/studying up on it.

7. Send a Thank You After Each Interview

The majority of candidates do not send a follow up note within 24 hours after an interview to show appreciation for the interviewers’ time and express interest. When you think about the fact that most managers interview at least five candidates for each opening, hopefully you realize the importance of taking this extra step. Your thank you letter is a great indicator of your interest, and also provides an opportunity for you to further differentiate yourself from other candidates by providing references/recommendations, non-proprietary examples of your work and technical assessment scores. Do you have strong recommendations via your LinkedIn profile? One quick and easy branding strategy you can utilize is to copy and paste those recommendations into your follow up, or reference they’re there and include your LinkedIn URL at the bottom. For example, you could communicate at the end of your thank you note that “I have four recommendations from past managers and clients endorsing me for the type of projects this role will be focused on. You can find them at the bottom of my LinkedIn profile, the URL is ______.”

The key themes throughout our road map are to engage in continuous reflection, planning and preparation, think strategically, take chances, and always be branding and positioning yourself as a top candidate!

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