1) Be clear about why you are searching for a new job
Do you need to get out of the job you are in right now sooner rather than later? Or is it time to go for the next logical step on your career path – and only the ‘right job’ wil do? If you know what’s driving your job search, it’s easier to keep focused and remember for the sake of what you are choosing to spend some of your freetime on the job search process.
2) Be clear about what you are looking for
Even though you might just want out, preferably yesterday, it is important that you know WHAT it is you are looking for, otherwise you’ll end up doing what’s sometimes referred to as: spraying and praying – sending your CV out to anybody and everybody, and praying that someone will get back to you with the dream job offer. I probably don’t have to tell you that it rarely, if ever actually works that way. Employers like people who are targeted and focused, who know what they want – or at least who look like they know what they want. So define what industry/industries you are interested in, and what types of roles are you interested in/suitable for. And start your search with that as your focus.
Some people may find this limiting, but it doesn’t have to be. A word of caution, whilst starting from a place of figuring what you don’t want is okay, don’t leave it there. Not wanting certain things isn’t a direction, and won’t give you a focus.
3) Know your strengths, skills – and references to the fact
In addition to knowing what you want, the next important thing is to know what it is that you can offer a potential employer. Most people leave this to the interview process, and it might be too late. You’ll also need to know this for your cover letters and any possible conversations you have with recruiters or with people who can introduce you to the right people.
Most of you could probably tell me without much thinking what you’re not good at. I strongly urge you to change mindsets here. For between now and when you get your next job (and preferably after as well) focus on what you are good at, how have you added value to your previous employers, what you enjoy doing. And as important is identifying who you could ask to speak to your strengths when someone asks you for a reference.
4) Get your “tools” sorted out
So you know what you are looking for, and you know what you have to offer. Now is the time to get your ‘tools’ for the job search process ready. Find the latest version of your CV and update it with your most recent jobs. Make sure that your CV focuses on how you have added value to your previous employers not only on what your responsibilities were. For example, instead of saying: ‘responsible for monthly meetings’, write: ‘organised the agenda and effectively ran monthly meetings for department of 14 people resulting in increased communication within the team’ or whatever better describes what you actually did and what the impact of it was to the organisation you were working in.
Some people will be tempted to write a master cover letter at this stage as well. I’d have a trial copy, but resist the temptation of having a standard one you send out. Employers want to know that you are interested in them specifically, so make sure you always always always customise your cover letters.
5) Do your initial research
One part of job searching that most people miss is actually doing the initial research to find out what’s actually out there and where to find the jobs that you are looking for in the industry you are interested in. I’ve read statistics that say 66-75% of jobs in London are not advertised! So how do you find them? By having conversations.
Informational interviews is the ‘fancy’ term for these conversations. Essentially it’s about finding people in the industry who will help answer your questions about the work itself and how most people got about looking for work in that field. It’s also a great way to present what your strengths are, so even though the person you talk to may not have jobs on offer, if (s)he likes what they hear, and a colleague of theirs says they are looking for someone, then your name may get thrown around as a possibility.