Structuring Your Job Search

Developing a structured job search plan will keep you focused and motivated, helping you achieve your targeted goal of finding a new job while you are either employed or unemployed. Your search focus will guide you as you review opportunities and identify targets you want to pursue.

The key to success is to generate opportunities through networking with people you know, networking with people you don’t know, working with recruiters, and exploring posted job leads. From these opportunities, you will identify the targets (company, person or open position) you wish to pursue.

To maintain momentum in your search, a good approach is to try to carry out five job search activities a day at least five days a week (5×5).  It is also a best practice to focus on at least seven targets at all times; this will ensure you have options in today’s constantly evolving job market. These targets can be specific jobs but they can also be employers or companies you would like to work for.

How you choose to invest your time during your search will directly impact how effectively and quickly you find your next opportunity. On average, a successful job seeker will spend between 15 and 25 hours per week on job search and professional development activities. I recommend you allocate the time you spend in the following way to achieve maximum results:

  • 70%: Networking
  • 20%: Preparation, Research, and Professional Development
  • 10%: Reviewing Posted Positions

Here is a video that covers the tips to create your effective strategy and structure:

70% Networking

Outreach & Follow-up: Consistent direct outreach to contacts is one of the most important strategies in building a solid pipeline of opportunities. Reach out to existing contacts and new contacts within your target companies or industry to build and grow your relationships, participate in 20-minute networking meetings (aka informational interviews), go to networking events, build your LinkedIn network, and follow up with contacts previously made.

Networking Lunch/Dinner: Never eat alone! Find time to connect with a variety of friends, family members, former colleagues, and new business contacts on an ongoing basis- even if it has to be via Zoom.

Networking Event: Networking events could include professional association meetings, business-focused happy hours, seminars or presentations, career fairs, social gatherings, or other in-person group activities where you could meet multiple contacts. All of these events can be done virtually now as well.

Volunteering: Engage in volunteering in a meaningful way. Find something related to your career so that your volunteering is not only a networking activity, but also a valid gap-filler for your resume. Offer your services to a small business, startup, or nonprofit within your area of expertise.

20% Preparation and Planning

Plan Your Week: Spend a couple of hours a week planning the week ahead. During this time you can schedule networking events into your calendar, create to-do lists and goals for the week, and organize your search.

Marketing/Build Your Brand: Spend an hour or two each week ensuring that you’re highly visible to recruiters, hiring managers, and your network. Post or refresh your resumes on job boards and company career pages, keyword optimize your LinkedIn profile, and build your overall online presence by sharing interesting articles and information.

Research: Use this time to prepare for interviews, research your target companies, find upcoming networking events, discover key contacts for outreach, and read up on trends in your industry.

Education/Mental Challenge: While working you were experiencing mental challenges daily- when you are in a job search there may not be as many opportunities for this. It is important for you to seek out opportunities to challenge yourself mentally either through education or other means. These efforts are also great resume enhancers.

10% Reviewing Posted Positions

Posted Positions: Spend some time each week reviewing posted positions, providing feedback on job leads, tailoring your resume, and applying to posted openings, although I don’t suggest this as your main job search strategy. According to some studies, less than 20% of jobs are actually acquired through online job boards.

Also, don’t forget personal time: Give yourself an hour in the morning to clear your head, eat breakfast, run errands, check personal email, or go for a walk. Do something that sets you up for success throughout the day! Make sure to go to bed at a decent hour and maintain regular work hours during your search. Not only is it healthy for you, but you’ll be more in tune with employers when an impromptu interview comes up!

About Dr. Sheila Boysen

Sheila M. Boysen, Ph.D., PHR, BCC, MCC is Master of Organizational Leadership Program Director and ICF ACTP Director at Lewis University

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