Hunting for a new job is a daunting experience for most people. Job seekers often feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start or how to prioritize numerous tasks on their to-do lists. This process can be less stressful and time consuming, however, if planned carefully beforehand.
In today's article, we will explain why developing a clear job search plan is essential and what steps you need to follow to create it.
Why Is Strategic Planning Important During a Job Search?
Although it might be tempting to start applying for open positions immediately after deciding you need a new job, taking the time to plan the process will help you in different ways:
- It reduces anxiety. With a plan in hand, you will always know what to do and when to do it. That means you don’t have to worry about forgetting or missing something important.
- It helps you stay organized, focused, and motivated. A clear schedule in your calendar and a system of tracking all your applications make the process less time consuming and prevents burnout.
- It improves your chances of finding a position you will really like. A job search plan helps you understand what you are looking for from a new job and why it is important.
- It makes you a more competitive candidate. A strategic plan allows you to be better prepared for a job market. You will never find yourself short of time to customize your resume or practice answering interview questions.
In other words, a well-thought-out job search plan helps you find a better job faster while saving you from unnecessary stress. Now, let's look at how to create such a plan.
5 Steps to Planning Your Job Search
Developing a strategic job search plan might sound like a challenging project, especially if you have never done it before. However, if you follow these five actionable steps, you will easily manage the feat.
#1 Determine your career goals.
First, take time to stop and reflect upon your professional life. What did you like about your previous roles? What made you unhappy? What are the most important things you are looking for in a new position: flexible schedule, location, salary, development opportunities, or something else? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Even if the answers to all those questions seem obvious to you, do not skip this step. Write everything down. This document will determine all your job search efforts. You will better understand what to focus on when looking for openings, what questions to ask potential employers, and how to present yourself best. Besides, a clear picture of your ideal career will help you stay motivated.
#2 Brainstorm potential roles and companies.
After you have outlined where you want to be in your professional life, it is time to dive deeper into the details and decide which roles suit you, which industries interest you, and which companies you would like to work for. Again, document everything. Your goal is to create an overview like this one:
- QA Automation Engineer
- Automation Engineer
- QA Engineer
- QA Automation Tester
- Software Development Engineer in Test
- Software Test Engineer
- Tech companies
List of Ideal Companies
Company Details and Expectations of a Job
- Organizations with over 1,000 employees
- Flexible working schedule
- Diverse and inclusive workplace
- Excellent development opportunities
- Adequate parental leave policy
#3 Block time for job search activities.
Looking for a job involves many tasks. You have to browse job boards regularly, adjust your resume and write cover letters, apply for open positions, research companies, and prepare yourself for interviews. Building a sustainable schedule with enough time for all those activities is the key to success. Block a couple of hours a day in your calendar if you are looking for a new role while still working, or treat searching as your full-time job if you are currently unemployed. Either way, your goal is not "to find time" but "to make time" for it.
Some people prefer to dedicate each weekday to specific tasks:
- Monday: Practicing answering possible interview questions.
- Tuesday: Looking for new openings on major job boards and LinkedIn.
- Wednesday: Customizing resume and cover letters, applying for suitable positions.
- Thursday: Networking, researching potential employers.
- Friday: Looking for new openings on the career pages of your ideal companies, customizing resumes, and applying for jobs.
You can try this approach, too, to see if it works for you. The most important thing, though, is to stay consistent and keep looking for jobs on a regular basis.
#4 Develop a system to stay organized.
According to one study, it takes answering between 21 and 80 openings to get one job offer. An attempt to keep details regarding all your applications in your head will likely fail. Instead, use a simple spreadsheet to track which companies you applied for, what documents you submitted, what answers you received, the contact information of hiring managers, and so on.
For example, your spreadsheet can include such columns as:
- Company name
- HR contact
- Referred by
- Date applied
- Submitted documents
- Received answer
- Interview date
- Follow-up sent
This way, you will have all the important information in one place, and it will be easy to see whom you have to follow up with today or find a recruiter's name at a particular company when needed.
#5 Get yourself ready for the job market.
And finally, take time to prepare all necessary documents so you have them at hand once the job search starts. Here is a simple checklist of what to do:
- Create a draft of your resume and a cover letter. But remember that canned resumes will hardly ever pass through applicant tracking systems and will have even fewer chances to impress recruiters. So always customize your documents for every position you apply for.
- Update your portfolio. If a role you are looking for requires submitting examples of your work, choose those that showcase your most up-to-date skills and achievements.
- Clean up your social media pages. According to one of CareerBuilder's surveys, 70 percent of hiring managers use social media to screen candidates. So check that your pages are ready for their visits. First, update your LinkedIn account, and make sure the skills listed there relate to the roles you are applying for. Then go through your public posts on other channels and adjust privacy settings on any posts that seem provocative or offensive.
Complete these five steps, and you will be ready to start looking for a new opportunity. And before we wrap up, let us add a few more tips that will help you keep a positive attitude during the job search.
Mistakes to Avoid During a Job Search
When a job search takes longer than you expected, it is easy to become frustrated and depressed. However, staying upbeat and confident is essential to making a good first impression on potential employers. And that is why it is so important to keep these three things in mind:
#1 Don’t set unrealistic expectations.
It would be perfect if you could apply for three openings, receive at least two interview invitations, and get hired immediately. The reality, however, is quite different. For most people searching for a new job is a numbers game. They must send dozens of applications and attend multiple interviews to receive a single job offer. So set realistic expectations and don’t be discouraged if you don't get the desired results quickly.
#2 Don’t take the rejection personally.
When you come across a position that seems to be a perfect fit, being rejected can hit you hard. Try not to overthink it, though. Remember that there are tons of reasons why excellent candidates don’t always get the job. And often, those reasons have nothing to do with your qualifications, experience, skills, or personality. The organization's hiring plans might change, the hiring manager might decide that another applicant would be a better fit for the team, or the company might prefer an internal candidate. Anyway, there is no point in beating yourself up. Move forward and keep looking.
#3 Don’t neglect your well-being.
It is crucial to balance job searching tasks with self-care. Make sure you block enough time for hobbies, meeting friends, working out, and rest in your calendar. Taking breaks from the job hunt prevents you from feeling exhausted and burned out.
Now you are fully equipped for successful and stress-free job searching!