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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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Published on June 5, 2018

Is It Time for a Career Change? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps

Is It Time for a Career Change? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance . Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to make it happen for a more fulfilling life.

Signs that you need a career change

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Why a career change is good for you

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

Common mistakes of people making a career change

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. What is your situation?

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  • Desire for an increase of salary: The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time. At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.
  • Overnight decision: Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.
  • Rejected for a promotion: I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.
  • Bored at work: Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization. Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Now that you had a chance to review your work situation and none of these recommendations can help, it is time to take the next step.

How to make the change for a successful career (Step-by-step)

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a career plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh your options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job, in the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be real about the pros and cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that are impacting the current situation.

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A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

4. Find a mentor

A mentor that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

  • What is required to be successful in the role?
  • What certification or educational development is needed?
  • What are the challenges of the role?
  • Is there potential for career advancement?

A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: A Good Mentor Is Hard to Find: What to Look for in a Mentor

5. Research salary

Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

6. Be realistic

If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

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Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

7. Volunteer first

A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

8. Prepare your career tools

I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

  • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
  • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
  • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.

Final thoughts

It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will discover the role that is the best fit with your skillsets.

Master these action steps and changing careers will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1]Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
[2]MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan

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