Why a Structured Job Search Can Land You Your Dream Job (And How to Do It)

This post was originally published on LinkedIn and has been re-posted here with permission.

Author: Emily Kapit, ReFresh Your Step

Be sure to join us on January 31, 2018 for a free webinar with Emily that will show you how and where to find your dream job this year.

Looking for a dream job in 2018? There is no need to make the search a nightmare; rather, some strategy, insight, updated documents, and well-placed connections may just very well be your solution. Gone are the days of haphazardly applying to job opening after job opening at 2am in your PJs; now your best bet will be to structure your job search, craft your documents, make inroads at select organizations, and interview like a pro. Let’s jump right to it so you can prepare before launching an effective job search strategy.

Step Away From the Computer; Take Stock of Where You Are Now and Where You Want To Be

Rather than just applying to roles left and right – as well as using the same old resume/cover letter for every opportunity ­– remove yourself from the technology for a minute. No computers, websites, or social media platforms will be as effective for getting you a job as the man/woman in the mirror: YOU!

Given that, and before initiating the Dream Job Search of 2018, think about the following points:

1)    What are your actual goals for the next phase of your career?

2)    Are you looking to stay in the same sector or make a move to a different side of it or to totally a new one?

3)    Are you hoping to stay local, open to a new location, or focusing primarily on a move?

4)    What is your timing: immediate or more long-term?

5)    What are the top 2-3 ways you have been effective in this most current role and what did you enjoy most/least about the work related to each one? We will come back to this.

6)    What obstacles could hinder your growth, if any?

Of course, don’t just think about these questions; jot down some notes. They will be handy in later steps. The point really is to start structuring a job search to ensure it’s more effective and aligned with what you actually wish to be doing. This info will play an integral role in you preparing all of the essential elements.

Pattern of Excellence: Find it, Show it, Speak to It

If there is any part to this process that I suggest you truly spend the most time on, it is this one. Reflecting on what your accomplishments and measureables have been to-date in your career will be play a role in your job search goals, creation/updating of your professional documents, better prepare you for interviews, and can even support compensation negotiations.

Take some time, even over a few days, to make notes on the following:

  • For reach role, what were your biggest wins? For each one, briefly note what you did, what the goal was, what steps you took, what the outcome was, and where it is today. These can be projects you led/played a key role in, deals you closed, money you saved/generated, processes you streamlined, people you mentored, issues you tackled, plans you conceived of/implemented, and so on. The options are endless!
  • What’s most recent is most relevant so spend more time on roles from the last 10-12 years but include really major wins from earlier in your career? Why? So you can easily show and speak to a demonstrated pattern of excellence throughout your job history.

Once you get that element down – and I am aware it can take a period of days or a week – take a step back once again. Ask yourself an essential question before moving forward:

  • Looking at your achievements from the last few years, what did you actually like to do and would like to do more of in a next role (the opposite is true here as well: what would you like to do less of)? Essentially, what from your bank of achievements and related skills do you want to capitalize on going forward?

Truly think on this and consider how the responses alter your job search goals. For example, if you’ve been in digital marketing for decades, you may assume you will continue doing the creative work; however, the process of identifying your accomplishments and measureables may very well help you identify a good amount of client management success (work you truly enjoyed and want to do more of). If so, you may then consider looking for roles with a significant focus on handling the clients in the same or related field. The same principle is applicable to almost any sector, whether you are in finance, law, IT, operations/logistics, or more.

You will also use the achievements-focused info in conversations of all kinds and can learn to leverage it for negotiation purposes. Imagine that: getting paid more money to do something you are confident you will enjoy!

Extreme Makeover: Professional Documents Version

Whether you have been using the same resume format since college – adding to it every so often – or recently updated it, take a look at the document and make sure it has the following:

·    Branding elements that point to the level and sector you’re aiming for as well as a few high-level key words/phrases that position you for said level/sector.

·    A profile speaking to your abilities and what distinguishes you; a few achievements could be here as well.

·    A Core Competencies/Key Proficiencies Section of keywords/phrases that speak directly to your skillset, including a few key soft skills, especially those pointing to management (of people or projects), collaboration, and effective communication.

·    An experience section that goes back no more than 10-12 (maybe 15) years (less if you are a younger professional) in-deoth and focuses far more achievements/impact than responsibilities. Earlier work should be abridged.

Bonus if the resume is clean, straightforward, easy-to-read, and has a few visual elements to direct a reader’s eye throughout the document. Why? Because we know most readers won’t actually read it in depth the first go-round; as such, minor visual elements like bolding, shading, and color can help a reader’s brain better organize and make sense of your great info while scanning the document. This will then increase the likelihood of someone feeling like you could be a good fit and wanting to bring you in for an interview. We do suggest aiming for visually engaging but conservative documents.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that your updated resume, no matter how amazing it is, should be only 95% done; those last few percentage points are for you to modify the content slightly – and quickly! – so it better aligns with each opportunity. Once you are in the groove of making these changes, they should take no more than 3-5 minutes. Time is money, especially in a job search

Regarding cover letters, you do still need them for now, though e-notes are quickly becoming the norm. Keep your format consistent between the resume and cover letter and make sure to tweak both documents for optimized job alignment.

LinkedIn really should get its own separate post but, for now, know this: you must be on it, the content on your profile cannot be a duplicate of your resume, and there is an entire platform beyond the profile that you will want to leverage.

Regarding that second point, it is important enough to be repeated: do not take your resume content – even if it is amazing – and paste it word-for-word directly into your profile. The content should be complementary between the two – it is still referring to the same person’s job history – but the actual content on LinkedIn should be crafted with their algorithms and expectations in mind. I do suggesting continuing to focus on achievements throughout the content, though!

Network to Make the Dream Work

Now that you have your professional documents in order and they align with what you want to do (plus, you can effectively speak to your own achievements), you are free to really begin the job search. Here’s quick quiz first, though: Should you:

A) immediately start uploading your new resume to all of the major job search websites and applying to every potential role, or

B) Stay far away from aforementioned job search sites and focus instead on building relationships with people at target companies?

If you said A, please start at the top of the article and re-read!

Think about this part of the search as quality over quantity. Sure, you want to apply to a decent number of roles, but you will also want to hone in on quality roles at companies where you can actually see yourself working and thriving. A key factor to building those relationships boils down to one thing: networking. Divide your networking into two distinct areas: online networking and offline networking.

For the former, leverage LinkedIn, alumni networks, sector-specific websites, and non-LinkedIn social media (but remain professional while targeting key people/companies over Twitter/Instagram/etc.). Join them, monitor them, use them wisely. A key tactic with online networking options is the research and relationship-building factor; as long as you are tactful, strategic, and appreciative to those with whom you connect for their time, you should be fine.

For offline networking, do what you can to take online professional relationships into the real world.

For example, did you connect directly on LinkedIn with an HR manager/recruiter for each of your few targeted companies? Great! Request time to speak with those employees to learn more about the organization and any open roles you may be interested in.

In the same vein, did you see on Facebook an alum from your alma mater employed at a target company? Great—use that as a warm introduction and start a convo that ends with asking to learn more about where he/she works and further intros to people there.

The whole goal here is to target a few sectors, companies, and people at those companies with the goal of making inroads to each place and gaining even more intros so you can move on to the next step: interviews.

Pro Tip: You have an existing network of friends and colleagues; use them! Ask for introductions to target companies and follow up to make sure those happen.

The Piece d’Resistance: Le Interview Prep (Informational or Job-Specific)

First major point of this section: keep in mind that you have essentially been preparing for these conversations since starting at step one. By taking a step back and re-aligning your job search goals with what you actually want out of your career goals and then focusing down on your achievements means you have already done about 75% of the prep work for these kinds of conversations – kudos to you!

As you finalize preparation to speak to people at a particular organization, do your research; I could not emphasize that more. Whether you are speaking with someone about a particular opening or simply to learn more about the company –with the goal of gaining more intros – learn all about the company, their structure, organizational history, current events regarding the company, and so on.

One additional tip on conversation prep: the discussion should not actually be primarily focused on you. This may sound counter-intuitive – especially if you are interviewing for a specific job – but it’s a relevant point. Why? Because asking questions of the interviewer/company employee often nets key info you can respond to, tying in your own background, thereby better positioning yourself as a strong candidate. Inquire about the person’s thoughts or opinions on the sector, new projects in the company’s pipeline, insights on industry growth, reflections on company culture, etc. Listen to the answer and respond to the points that highlight your own areas of expertise or successes to demonstrate how you would be an immediate asset at the organization.

Leveraging Job Descriptions to Get Interviews

An important side point here is that you will likely see or hear about great roles via job descriptions. If you heard about an opportunity through a person, ask that person for introductions.

If, instead, you saw a job description for a role online, leverage your network – especially LinkedIn – to build inroads at that organization. Reach out to people already in your network who may be at that company and request introductions to learn more.

If you do not know anyone there, leverage LinkedIn to research people on the HR/recruiting side as well as in that particular department, request to connect, and message them to ask more info on the role. Building relationships makes your job search productive and leads to more opportunities to interview!

Pro Tip: You may still need to apply online to be in their system; remember to quickly tweak your resume/cover letter ahead of applying so it resonates with the role.

Insight + Reflection + Strategic Preparation = Major Payoff (Your Dream Job in 2018!)

The formula above says it all. Is it a lot of work? In some ways, yes. A job search is usually challenging, though, however you slice it. That said, this level of prep work will positively impact all aspects of your search and work in conjunction to get you in front of the right people, faster.

What’s more, it is worth keeping in mind that you are not in this alone! Please do make sure you are surrounding yourself with a team of support, including helpful (emphasis on helpful!) family members and friends, colleagues, mentors, and industry professionals. Think of your career advancement as a journey—who do you want along for the ride so you can get there efficiently but also while avoiding unnecessary obstacles in the way?

Your dream job is waiting for you; start doing prep work now to open the doors and landing that next great opportunity!

About The Author

Emily Kapit Resume Writing Expert

Emily Kapit is TORI-nominated, Top-Ranked & 3X-Certified Master Resume Writer and will be the keynote speaker at our FREE Webinar: How and Where to Find Your Dream Job in 2018. Kapit is the owner, lead resume writer and head career strategist at ReFresh Your Step. She is a leading triple-certified resume writer, one of only 25 MRWs globally, and the world’s only MRW, ACRW, CPRW with a Masters of Science in Educational Psychology, a field that forms the backbone of her career advisory work.  For more information about resume writing, visit refreshyourstep.com.

  1. Elizabeth

    I am not able to to the webinar on Jan.31;2018 due to have a meeting at 1:00 pm CT.please make sure I get an up date on the webinar. Thank you Elizabeth

  2. Louise Dandridge

    How do I land the awesome accounting career. I have an B’S in Professional Accounting. Working towards CPA

  3. Barbara

    Do to a scheduling conflict I was unable to attend today’s webinar, said my question is was this a taped session, or will there be another training soon on this subject? I am in the midst of job searching and studying for my state boards as a Behavioral Therapist and addiction exam. So confidence building is very important to me right now. So it would be nice to review this webinar. Thank you
    Barbara Hawkins-Cleveland

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