How to Navigate Your Job Search
Now more than ever, things have changed dramatically with how people are expected to conduct their job search, from the resources they use to identify job leads, to how they pursue those leads, to tools they can leverage to assist, to systems that companies utilize to prioritize applicants, to the “digital background checks” companies use to screen applicants. They say "knowledge is power," but just as important is having the knowledge around job searching tools!
To help you navigate your job search effectively and confidently, we’ve created a 7-step roadmap for success!
1. Self-Assessment and Reflection.
A highly beneficial first step is to engage in self-reflection around your current/past job, to help ensure you are targeting the right future for yourself! Ask yourself some open-ended questions such as “what client initiatives I have worked on that have really challenged me?” Spending time flushing all of this out can also better help you communicate the “why” behind your interest during interviews, which can very much influence your chances of receiving an offer.
2. Professional Branding.
One of the biggest changes for job seekers 10 years ago versus now is the importance of “intentional online branding.” Platforms like LinkedIn and GitHub in particular, have changed the game. Your resume may no longer be the most important piece of your professional portfolio. The strength of your LinkedIn profile, including relevant and recent recommendations, can help land you the job over an equally qualified candidate. Consider how and where you can virtually show your expertise and your involvement in your professional community as part of your professional branding.
3. Strategy and Networking.
Brainstorming, flushing out, and executing a SMART plan is vital to a productive and minimally stress-free job search! Adopt the Agile approach to your job search and set daily or weekly goals/tasks. If you’re not working, have 3-4+ items on your daily ‘Job Hunt To Do List,’ which span multiple categories. For example, your list could include 1) Ask for three LinkedIn recommendations, 2) Customize a resume for applying for ___ skill set, 3) Sign up for job alerts via four channels, and 4) Reach out to a recruiter and local user group leader to get recommendations on companies who are hiring.
One of the areas most candidates don’t think about during their search is relevant skills development. Conduct research and talk to a recruiter who supports your skill set frequently to get a gauge of the top hiring trends and new trends that align with your skills, or give you the opportunity to enhance your knowledge in a key area. Then, go above and beyond by investing time weekly to increase your knowledge with those skills and technologies, or increase the representation of this information in your resume and across your professional branding efforts. There are free online training resources you can leverage, such as Coursera and Cybrary, and other great training providers like Pluralsight and Safari that offer free 10-day trials.
Most cities have active user group communities, and increasing your involvement at a local user group or MeetUp group is one of the best sources of knowledge and networking. Community involvement is a useful branding component to add to your resume, which is often a category missing from resumes. If you’re part of a local association, add a ‘Community Involvement’ section to your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Prospect, prospect, prospect! What is prospecting and how could it be helpful in a job search? Essentially, it’s developing a list of potentials. As you conduct your search, keep a running list of all the companies you come across that have relevant jobs that spark your interest, companies that you’ve worked at before and would like to return to for a new project, or a company that is forging ahead in innovation and you believe you could add valuable insight to their goals. Then, communicate your ‘Company Prospect List’ to the recruiter you work with, and determine which ones they have a relationship with. Even if that company doesn’t have an active opening, it’s worth mentioning to your recruiter so they can keep your resume ready to submit once a position becomes available. In some instances, they may be able to reach out to their contacts there and advocate for you directly.
4. Use Quality Resources.
As part of your strategy, identify at least 3-4 resources you should utilize for your skill set. Sign up for job alerts via multiple channels and share your status and career preferences with the most relevant people in your network. As mentioned above, attending user groups and association meetings are a valuable source of job leads and networking.
5. Apply Effectively.
Another “game changer” for both companies and job seekers is the extensive adoption of systems that scan and prioritize resumes and applications based on matching keywords in the resume against the job description. As a job seeker, whenever you’re applying “blindly” (i.e. submitting resume to job posting), use a resume optimization tool such as JobScan.
Another key strategy is to utilize referrals. When you identify a job you’d like to pursue, see if anyone in your network has a direct line of communication with the manager. You can also do this by asking the recruiter you’re working with if they have a contract with that company, or a relationship with a manager of that group.
A third strategy is applying the 80:20 rule to your job search. When evaluating a job, see if you meet at least 80% of the hard requirements (not including preferred qualifications), and are interested in learning and doing the remaining 20%. Too often candidates don’t apply if they don’t have everything on the client’s requirements wish list. Rather, per the advice in #3, start to engage in skills development for those skills you’re lacking prior to an interview.
6. Prepare for Each Interview.
In addition to overall interview preparation, such as re-reading your resume and perfecting your professional elevator pitch, you should be investing time familiarizing yourself with each individual company and the specific role. Review the company’s website and social media platforms. Re-read the project or job description the night before and write down why you’re qualified and interested in the role. Role play with your recruiter, if helpful too.
7. Send a Thank You.
The majority of candidates do not send a follow up note within 24 hours after an interview to show appreciation for the interviewers’ time or express interest in the position. Your ‘thank you’ letter is a great indicator of your interest, and also provides an opportunity for you to further differentiate yourself from other candidates by providing references and recommendations, non-proprietary examples of your work, and technical assessment scores, when applicable. Do you have strong recommendations via your LinkedIn profile? One quick and easy branding strategy you can utilize is copying and pasting those recommendations into your follow up, or referencing them by including your LinkedIn URL at the bottom. It’s also important to follow up with your recruiter right away. Their job is to help further differentiate you, so be up front with them on how you think the interview went, assuming that you are interested in the work.
The key themes throughout this roadmap to success are to engage in continuous growth, plan and prep, think strategically, take chances, and always brand and position your expertise!
If you’d like to learn more about how Oxford can help you find your next assignment, click here to connect with a recruiter.