The Job Search Plan: The Most Important Tool Ever in Your Arsenal

Well-known fact: Job searching and being unemployed can be one of the most discouraging and ego-smashing things a person could ever experience. Rejection is common, and there is a tendency to end up in a very unhappy place.

Then, there’s the chaos. If you’ve previously been working for most of your career in a full-time position, you’re used to have the structure and routine to each day. Being out of work, you find yourself in a drifting miasma of what do I do today? And with summer around the corner, it’s very tempting to blow off the job search and spend your day lounging in the sun. Unless you are planning on landing a swimsuit model job or applying for a lifeguard position, this isn’t an approach with a high rate of guaranteed success.

Someone once told me: Looking for a job IS a full-time job. You need to adopt that mentality. And to help you create a sense of direction to your search activities, you need to develop a specific job search plan. Here are some suggestions on how to chart your course, add some structure to your day, and give yourself definable goals to give you that sense of order that you had within the workplace:

1) Appoint a Job Search ‘Buddy’
This person will be someone you report to on a weekly basis. It’s going to be a lot more compelling for you to get off the sofa when you know you need to call this person on Friday and report back on your weekly activities. This person will hold you accountable and be your ‘cheerleader’ at the same time. NOTE: Make sure that this person is someone who is a friend, mentor or colleague. Don’t rely on someone in your household… this could be a potential sticky wicket with family relationships if you somehow fall off the bandwagon and could lead to arguments!

2) Number of Articles to Be Read Weekly
When you are unemployed or out of work, it is easy to feel that you are getting left behind on industry trends and issues. It makes sense to keep yourself informed and abreast of current events – not just so you can interject a useful bit of information in an interview, but also to have something to talk about when networking. It’s amazing when you have a clear command of what’s going on in the world how easy it is to find opportunities to talk about what you’ve read or learned. Plus, the added bonus is that people will see you as a great resource!

3) Number of Networking Events to Be Attended Weekly
Shy? Get over it. The ocean is full of sharks right now, and you need to be one of them. That means getting out of the house, and getting out to networking events. But the key isn’t to think of one of these opportunities as a horrible exercise in doing something you hate. Take a completely different approach: my friend Cleon Cox, who is the founder of the Portland Job Finders Support Group has this mantra which is perfect: Meet people, learn something, and have fun. If you go into a networking or business meeting with that attitude, the pressure is off and you are just there to find out about the world. Think of yourself as an explorer… you never know what you might uncover!

4) Number of Educational Events to Go to Monthly
When you are not working, again, there is the fear that you are getting ‘off the merry-go-round’ and losing ground to competitors. But smart job searchers realize that there is a huge opportunity to be gained during this time: go take classes. This could be a great way to help catapult you into a new career, enhance your professional credentials, or hone your skills. No matter how you look at it, employers will be impressed that you didn’t let the moss grow! And, if there ever was a time while working you wish you had a certain educational training for your career, this could be a great time to make it a reality.

5) Number of Volunteer Hours Per Month
Volunteering can provide exceptional opportunities to network, learn new skills, become a known quantity within an organization and even find out about industry or company job openings before they are even posted. Plus, you’ll feel good while doing it!

6) Number of Member Organizations To Belong To
If you have a target industry, chances are that there is some kind of related trade association or membership organization that you could join. The benefit of these organizations is that it can add to your professional credentials, you can add it to your resume, and then you can take advantage of industry events to either volunteer, attend educational sessions, gain industry certifications, and network to meet other people. You never know where this might take you!

7) Number of Informational Interviews Per Week
Part of the ‘getting out of the house’ aspect of this job search plan is to meet people… one-on-one in informational interviews. Many people mistakenly believe and take the approach that informational interviews are all about finding jobs. WRONG! Informational interviews are precisely about finding INFORMATION. Tap into your network, and see if your friends and colleagues can connect you to people that they know. Ask open-ended questions, like, “What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the past five years in this position?” “What were some of the steps you’ve taken in your career?” – the goal is to learn things, not use this as a persuasive opportunity to try and get hired. The best part about informational interviews is that if you treat the person right who took the time to meet with you, they can become a great internal advocate for you. They might pick up the phone if a position comes open and they think you would be a good fit. Or, conversely, if you develop rapport with them, and a position does come open, they could be a good person to talk to about that position. Inside information is always a huge asset to your job search. ALWAYS thank interviewees for their time by mailing a hand-written note. Email is too easy and conventional – you want to show personal touch. And remember, 90% of all interviewees FAIL to send a thank you note. Don’t you want to be in the top 10% that gets noticed?

8) Number of Friends To Talk To Per Week
Who do friends know? People. Employed people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your entire network (What the heck- you have time on your hands, right?) You want to circle back to the people in the farthest reaches- maybe that close friend that dropped off a few years ago. (But be careful about contacting that guy that you played football with on the high school team twenty years ago. That’s too far!) The key is to tap into your social circle and ‘refresh’ your connections. You never know what might happen.

9) Follow Up On Sent Applications
One of the biggest failures of job seekers is that they are constantly looking forward for the next job opening to apply for that they don’t go back and follow up on the positions for which they’ve already applied. You’ll want to start a separate job search diary, where you create a spreadsheet to track the positions you applied for, when the closing date was, the company name, any contact information and when you sent in your application. Wait about one week after the closing date, then call the employer to politely follow up. Sometimes, the position opening didn’t turn out to be the right fit for your skills. But if you treat the hiring manager or the human resource representative right, you could impress them in a very good way. That could put you on the “A” list for other jobs that come open.

10) Focus Your Resume on Key Themes
You probably have several different theme areas that you could develop separate resumes for based on your background. My own background encompasses being a meeting planner, television producer, sales and marketing director, instructor and resume writer. I have separate resumes that are focused on each of these areas. During this down-time, explore how you might have different incarnations of your resume, and take the time to develop these fully. You might be pleasantly surprised at how you can reinvent yourself and create new flexibility in your employment search.

This blog seems like, wow, a whole lot of homework, but the goal is to provide structure, stability and goals to you in a time where there is a lot of chaos, unclear objectives and confusion. By structuring yourself and your time while unemployed, this will give you the sense of purpose you need and also a boost to feeling productive.

One Comment

Sheri Ann

What a fabulous, fabulous article, Dawn. And so timely, as I'm currently looking for a job. My problem: moving to a brand new city/state (Salt Lake City), in which I have ZERO contacts. But thanks for the roadmap!!

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