I’ve met a lot of job seekers over the years. The successful ones – the ones who land jobs faster – approach their job search similarly. Here are the 10 job search secrets that set the best job seekers apart from average candidates. These secrets made all the difference:
- Treat their job search as a full-time job
You may feel entitled to take some time off if you’ve been laid off, but don’t delay the inevitable. Once you decide to start searching for a job, maintain momentum until you secure a written job offer. It is easy to become the family’s errand runner or caretaker, or feel the urge to start a DIY project during working hours. Job seekers who devoted 30+ hours a week, 8am–5pm to job search-related activities fell into a productive routine. Even if you are working, setting aside time every week to dedicate to your job search will ensure you stay on track.
- Aren’t afraid to ask for help
One of the hardest things for most people to do is ask for help. The reality is, almost everyone you know wants to help you if they can. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask. The more specific your request, the easier it will be for your friends to help in the right way. At a picnic, one job seeker discovered his neighbor worked for a company he was interested in working for. He asked his neighbor some questions and then asked for a referral to someone in the accounting department. It didn’t result in a job offer, but it did get him an interview for an unposted job. If you aren’t sure what you want to do next, this is exactly the type of help you can ask for. Carefully select people who know you well, and ask if they can help you brainstorm possible career options.
- Know their strengths and weaknesses
When you can specifically pinpoint what you are good at doing and can communicate that message, it serves you well. Your network can offer more help, and during interviews you’ll exude more confidence. Immediately assess your strengths and weaknesses. Be realistic about what you are qualified to do. Now begin to craft your answer to “what do you do?”
- Know what they want to do
When asked what you want to do, never say you are keeping your options open or you’ll do anything. Zero in on the specific types of roles that interest you and why you think you’d be a good fit. Once you begin communicating this, your contacts will be better able to keep an eye out for similar jobs. And don’t worry, well-meaning contacts will still let you know about other jobs that they hear about.
- Kept in touch with past colleagues and network
It might feel awkward or even embarrassing to reach out to people you used to work with, but don’t let your emotions limit your actions. I can’t tell you the number of times job seekers have told me that they got a lead on a job from someone they used to work with.
- Identified target companies
Companies won’t always share jobs on the major job boards. In order to find some jobs, you will want to identify companies that hire the types of positions you are looking for. Savvy job seekers have actually conducted informational meetings with company insiders and have learned about upcoming jobs not posted anywhere yet. This can only happen if you are strategically networking with people who work for companies you reach out to.
- Had a backup plan
Even the best laid plans can flop. Sometimes the search just takes longer than you can afford (financially or mentally). Employers can rescind offers or personal finances can change. There may come a time when you need to implement “plan B.” Plan B may be a job where you can immediately begin earning money, relocating, or taking a less-than-desirable job for the short term. Having a backup plan offers peace of mind in case the unexpected occurs and lets you focus on your job search without panicking.
- Embraced social media
Everyday I hear stories about how assertive job seekers reach out to people on social media to get on their radar and ultimately land a job. And in survey after survey, employers admit that social media is becoming one of their top resources for sourcing talent. Social media isn’t a magic wand or a quick fix, so don’t expect miracles. Instead, learn how to use it to interact with people, acquire industry news, and build an online reputation that serves as an employer magnet. This will make it easier for employers to find you and your capabilities.
- Prepared for interviews
Experienced job seekers learned how important it was to thoroughly research the company, employees they’d be interviewing with, and rehearsed answering interview questions out loud. They have learned through trial and error what it takes to really nail an interview.
- Sought accountability
Successful job seekers either held themselves accountable or identified a friend who could dole out the tough love. Most of the action items required during a job search are unfamiliar or unpleasant to job seekers. It takes discipline to follow through on the undesirable, yet, essential action items required during job search. They persistently follow up after applying for a job, reach out to people they’ve been referred to, and even thank contacts for their introductions. Sending “thank-yous,” learning about job search trends, and systematically looping back with previous contacts are just some of the daily activities job seekers will block off on their calendars. Finding a partner to hold you accountable if you need that push is also an option. Who doesn’t need a coach to keep them motivated?
BONUS: Had the right mental outlook
Job seekers who stayed motivated found outlets to balance out the rejection and uncertainty they faced. Some volunteered at community organizations, others meditated, some even signed up for classes at the YMCA. These activities rounded out the week, and gave them something to think about besides their job search. Your self-esteem and attitude are always visible, so take care of yourself!
I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.