How To Structure an Effective Job Search Strategy
If you’re looking for a new gig, developing an effective job search strategy can set you up for success and help you land a new job faster. Here’s career coach Andrea Towe’s 7 tips for structuring your job search.
This article on job search strategy is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.
You’ve made the exciting decision to embark on a job search, congratulations!
Before getting started, be sure to set yourself up for success with a job search strategy. Job seekers often become overwhelmed before they even start because they don’t know where to begin or how to stay organized. Adding structure can help make your overall job search less stressful, more efficient, and more effective – all of which can help land that job more quickly.
This post will introduce you to some helpful tips and suggestions for getting your job search off on the right foot, and how to avoid some common pitfalls new job seekers make.
But, keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to adding structure to a job search strategy. Everyone has different styles, schedules, and interests, so what works well for one job seeker may not work for another.
As long as you are keeping your momentum up and moving forward each week, then you’re on the right track. Remember – this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Designate A Job Search Area
Before you even get started networking or firing out applications, you should designate a job search area. This should be a (preferably) quiet space where you can brainstorm, reflect, concentrate, and stay on track.
If there is an area in your home or living space where you can retreat to – whether it’s a separate room, table, or even the back porch – claim it as your designated job search space. If you prefer to go outside your living space, locations such as a library, bookstore, or coffee shop can work too, as long as you can focus and avoid distractions.
Organize Your Thoughts
To target your search in the direction you’d like to go, it’s helpful to first think through what is important to you in your next job.
Are there certain companies or industries you want to initially pursue? Are you looking to join a local company, or are you open to relocation? Remote, hybrid, or in-person work?
These are some of the many considerations that can help jumpstart your search and get your search more defined and focused.
Track Your Progress
You will likely correspond with many employers via networking and applying for jobs. It’s easy to lose track of which companies you applied to or with whom you’ve communicated. It’s therefore critical to keep track of all this.
There are many ways to track job search activities. Some examples include a simple Excel spreadsheet, Google sheet, Microsoft OneNote, or online tools such as Huntr (which all Flatiron grads now use during their job search). Some people even prefer pencil and paper, flip charts, or even sticky notes. These tools, particularly online tools, help automate your job search.
Whichever method suits you best is fine. The key is to use what works for you and stick with it. Whatever tool you use, keep track of all job search related activities such as:
- Jobs you applied to
- Company name
- Date of application
- Link to the job posting
- Follow-up dates
- Interview date
- Response from company date
- Next steps
You also want to keep track of people with whom you’ve networked, so track details such as:
- Their name and title
- Date of correspondence
- Method of correspondence (email, LinkedIn, phone, in-person meeting, etc.)
- Response date
- Follow-up dates
- Next steps
Finally, don’t forget to track any upskilling or training, such as blog posts you’ve written, GitHub commits, additional training, etc.
Tracking these activities can help you identify what’s working in your job search, as well as what’s not working. Not only will it help you see what you’ve done and any progress you’ve made, but it can also help you determine if you need to make any changes or “tweaks” to your overall job search strategy.
Use Your Network
Networking is a critical part of any job search, as roughly 80% of jobs are obtained through some type of networking or referral.
Develop and implement your networking strategy by identifying which connections you can refresh in your current network, and new individuals you want to connect with in your field.
Refer back to your initial strategy about which companies or industries are of interest to you.
Research those companies to see who you can reach out to for informational interviews and make new connections. Keep your LinkedIn profile and personal branding strategy current and “eye-catching”.
Once you start reaching out and making new connections, document it on your tracker.
Apply To “Good Fit” Jobs
Apply to jobs where you meet at least 50%-60% (approximately) of the preferred qualifications and that are of interest to you. You can always expand your scope as time goes on, but starting with a focus on which jobs to apply to will get you started.
It can also help avoid feeling overwhelmed because you won’t be applying to any random job you see posted.
Submit tailored resumes and cover letters based on the job you’re applying to as opposed to using the same resume and cover letter for each job. This is a part of adding efficiencies by developing focused job search materials. You can also create job alerts so you receive notifications when a job becomes available that meets your profile and interests.
Manage Your Time
This is one of the most critical components of a job search. Carving out a certain amount of time each week to devote to a job search will help hold you accountable and leave you feeling like you’re making some progress.
Again, there is no one size fits all approach here. The amount of time you can devote will vary based on your circumstances, such as whether you’re currently employed and other family or personal obligations. The key is to set some goals for yourself based on your schedule and when you work best.
For example, are you a night owl who works better at night? If so, devote several hours per week during the nighttime. You can devote a few hours to networking outreaches, another hour or two for searching job boards, a few hours a month to attending virtual or in-person industry meetups, etc.
Another suggestion is carving out some time on a weekly or monthly basis to keep your skills updated. This could be reviewing coursework, reading new content, taking a free online course, writing a LinkedIn article or blog post, etc. A common interview question these days is “What have you been doing to keep your skills updated while looking for a job?” Just be sure you have an answer to that question. Making time for upskilling is invaluable when it comes to your job search.
Speaking of time management, finding a balance during your job search can be challenging, but it’s critical to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Again, do what works best for you, but make sure you factor in some much-needed rest breaks into your everyday job search activities.
Celebrate Small Successes
When your job search is organized, structured, and documented, you’ll be able to see what progress you’re making on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This allows you to celebrate your activity, progress, and milestones.
Job searching can be grueling and frustrating, so practice some self-care and be sure to recognize and celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small they appear to you!
Once you land your new opportunity, you can look back at your tracker and be proud of all the initiative and hard work you completed that landed you that new job.
About Andrea Towe
Andrea Towe is a Career Coach with Flatiron School. She has 20+ years of experience in career coaching and corporate human resources, including employee relations, talent acquisition, career and leadership development, training development, and facilitation.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of October 6, 2022. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.