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How to Make Your Job Search Productive

How to Make Your Job Search Productive

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:

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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.

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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:

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  • 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:

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  • 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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Brie Weiler Reynolds

Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Traditionally, when you have a lot of ideas in your mind, you would create a text document, or take a sheet of paper and start writing in a linear fashion like this:

  • Intro to Visual Facilitation
    • Problem, Consequences, Solution, Benefits, Examples, Call to action
  • Structure
    • Why, What, How to, What If
  • Do It Myself?
    • Audio, Images, time-consuming, less expensive
  • Specialize Offering?
    • Built to Sell (Standard Product Offering), Options (Solving problems, Online calls, Dev projects)

This type of document quickly becomes overwhelming. It obviously lacks in clarity. It also makes it hard for you to get a full picture at a glance and see what is missing.

You always have too much information to look at, and most often you only get a partial view of the information. It’s hard to zoom out, figuratively, and to see the whole hierarchy and how everything is connected.

To see a fuller picture, create a mind map.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a simple hierarchical radial diagram. In other words, you organize your thoughts around a central idea. This technique is especially useful whenever you need to “dump your brain”, or develop an idea, a project (for example, a new product or service), a problem, a solution, etc. By capturing what you have in your head, you make space for other thoughts.

In this article, we are focusing on the basics: mind mapping using pen and paper.

The objective of a mind map is to clearly visualize all your thoughts and ideas before your eyes. Don’t complicate a mind map with too many colors or distractions. Use different colors only when they serve a purpose. Always keep a mind map simple and easy to follow.

    Image Credit: English Central

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    By following the three next steps below, you will be able to create such mind maps easily and quickly.

    3 Simple Steps to Create a Mind Map

    The three steps are:

    1. Set a central topic
    2. Add branches of related ideas
    3. Add sub-branches for more relevant ideas

    Let’s take a look at an example Verbal To Visual illustrates on the benefits of mind mapping.[1]

    Step 1 : Set a Central Topic

    Take a blank sheet of paper, write down the topic you’ve been thinking about: a problem, a decision to make, an idea to develop, or a project to clarify.

    Word it in a clear and concise manner.

      What is the first idea that comes to mind when you think of the subject for your mind map? Draw a line (straight or curved) from the central topic, and write down that idea.

        Step 3 : Add Sub-Branches for More Relevant Ideas

        Then, what does that idea make you think of? What is related to it? List it out next to it in the same way, using your pen.

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          You can always add more to it later, but that’s good for now.

          In our example, we could detail the sub-branch “Benefits” by listing those benefits in sub-branches of the branch “Benefits”. Unfortunately, we already reached the side of the sheet, so we’re out of space to do so. You could always draw a line to a white space on the page and list them there, but it’s awkward.

          Since we created this mind map on a regular letter-format sheet of paper, the quantity of information that fits in there is very limited. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend that you use software rather than pen and paper for most of the mind mapping that you do.

          Repeat Step 2 and Step 3

          Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you need to flush out all of your ideas around the topic that you chose.

            I added first-level (main) branches around the central topic mostly in a clockwise fashion, from top-right to top-left. That is how, by convention, a mind map is read.

            In the next section, we are covering the three strategies to building your maps.  

            Mind Map Examples to Illustrate Mind Mapping

            You can go about creating a mind map in various ways:

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            • Branch by Branch: Adding whole branches (with all of their sub-branches), one by one.
            • Level by Level: Adding elements to the map, one level at a time. That means that firstly, you add elements around the central topic (main branches). Then, you add sub-branches to those main branches. And so on.
            • Free-Flow: Adding elements to your mind map as they come to you, in no particular order.

            Branch by Branch

            Start with the central topic, add a first branch. Focus on that branch and detail it as much as you can by adding all the sub-branches that you can think of.

              Then develop ideas branch by branch.

                A branch after another, and the mind map is complete.

                  Level by Level

                  In this “Level by Level” strategy, you first add all the elements that you can think of around the central topic, one level deep only. So here you add elements on level 1:

                    Then, go over each branch and add the immediate sub-branches (one level only). This is level 2:

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                      Idem for the next level. This is level 3. You can have as many levels as you want in a mind map. In our example, we only have 3 levels. Now the map is complete:

                        Free-Flow

                        Basically, a free flow strategy of mind mapping is to add main branches and sub-topics freely. No rules to restrict how ideas should flow in the mind map. The only thing to pay attention to is that you need to be careful about the level of the ideas you’re adding to the mind map — is it a main topic, or is it a subtopic?

                          I recommend using a combination of the “Branch by Branch” and the “Free-Flow” strategies.

                          What I normally do is I add one branch at a time, and later on review the mind map and add elements in various places to finish it. I also sometimes build level 1 (the main branches) first, then use a “Branch by Branch” approach, and later finish the map in a “Free-Flow” manner.

                          Try each strategy and combinations of strategies, and see what works best for you.

                          The Bottom Line

                          When you’re feeling stuck or when you’re just starting to think about a particular idea or project, take out a paper and start to brain dump your ideas and create a mind map. Mind mapping has the magic to clear your head and have your thoughts organized.

                          If you can’t always have access to a paper and pen, don’t worry! Creating a mind map with software is very effective and you get none of the drawbacks of pen and paper. You can also apply the above steps and strategies just the same when using a mind mapping tool on the phone and computer.

                          More Tools to Help You Organize Thoughts

                          Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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