Job searching is a time-consuming, stressful process. If you’re unemployed, it becomes your full-time job, and if you already have a job but are looking for a new one, it’s like taking a second job (that you can’t tell your first job about!). However, there are ways to organize your time and energy to make your job search productive — and a productive job search is one that gets you hired.

First, let’s think about all the parts of a successful job search:

  1. Networking — maintaining current and making new contacts
  2. Monitoring your online presence
  3. Searching for jobs
  4. Researching companies
  5. Updating resumes
  6. Writing cover letters
  7. Applying to jobs
  8. Following up on applications
  9. Interviewing for jobs
  10. Following up on interviews

That’s 10 basic steps for a typical job interview, and at least eight of those you’re doing over and over again. How can you make this a more productive process? Follow these tips:

1) Make a daily plan for yourself.

For example:

  • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: Follow up with one networking contact each day
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays: Research new companies to apply to, make one new networking contact
  • Every Thursday: Google your name and update your social networking sites if necessary.
  • Every Friday: Follow up on job applications you sent the previous week

2) Maintain a spreadsheet of your activities.

This should include a sheet for the jobs you’ve applied to (with which companies, on what date, to whom, and with which resume/letter, and dates of follow-up). You should have a separate sheet of the networking contacts you’ve followed up with (who, when, what transpired, leads to follow up with). Make part of your daily routine updating this sheet to stay on track.

3) Use technology to job search for you.

Most job search websites offer you free alerts, via either email or text, when a new job is posted that matches your search. Some even offer Twitter feeds that tweet new job postings as they come in. Choose whichever type of alert is most convenient for you, and choose daily or to-the-minute updates so you learn about new job openings as soon as they are posted.

4) Always rework resumes and cover letters for specific jobs.

You don’t have to rewrite your entire resume and cover letter for every job you apply to, but you should update keywords, your Summary of Qualifications, and your letter’s content for each job. It may take you longer, but your applications will be much more targeted and effective. Here are some ways to customize your resumes and cover letters:

For your cover letter:

  • Research the company’s website and mention, in one sentence, why you are interested in working for this company specifically. What’s their mission statement? Their community involvement? Their products?
  • Speak directly to the main required and preferred qualifications in the job description. This makes it easy for the recruiter to discover that you are qualified for the position.
  • Clearly explain why you are passionate and excited about the job, and give them a positive sense of who you are.

For your resume:

  • Circle the keywords in the job description’s qualifications section to pinpoint the employer’s wants in an employee.
  • Integrate some of these keywords into your resume, perhaps by rewriting a bullet or two in your work histories.
  • Use a “Summary of Qualifications” section at the top that can be easily changed depending on the job. Include three to four bullets that describe your unique qualifications for the position.

5) Hire a reputation protector.

If you’re worried that your online image could impact your job search, but you don’t have the time to monitor the web every day, consider outsourcing this to one of many companies that specialize in online reputation management. Companies like Reputation.com will constantly monitor your online reputation, alert you to new findings, and help you resolve issues. You spend less time worrying about this and more time crafting excellent job applications. Find other ways to outsource your job search.

6) Use niche job search sites.

Big box job search sites are like big box stores. They might have every type of job out there, but they’re large, not job seeker-focused, and often difficult to navigate with too many ads and scams mixed in. Smaller, niche job sites are targeted to specific industries, job types, or experience levels so you’ll find a small group of better-fitting job postings, and they’re more likely to be responsive to job seekers’ needs than a large site.

To find niche job search sites:

  • Google your industry or career keywords and “job search website” or “career website” to see what comes up.
  • Join professional associations and see what other members recommend.
  • Read industry-specific websites to see what job search sites they recommend.

These steps help you save time and become a more productive job seeker and a better applicant. As a job seeker, you need to spend your time on what’s most important — networking, finding the right opportunities, and tailoring your applications to suit each job.

Featured photo credit:  Successful business people standing over blue sky via Shutterstock

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