How to Start Looking for a Job

Don't know where to begin with your job search? Here's a plan that will help you gain momentum.

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When faced with a job search, you might not know where to begin, especially if you didn’t expect to become unemployed. To stay focused on the main goal—finding the right fit for you—it’s vital to be organized.

Whether you’re unemployed or still have a job and think it's time to make a change, here are a few tips on how to gain momentum in your search:

1. Talk to your friends, ex-colleagues, and previous bosses. Most job opportunities will come through your extended network of colleagues. That’s why it’s so important to nurture your networks all the time, not just when you need it.

Once you've decided to make a change, write down all the people you know and contact them. Let them know you're open to exploring new opportunities, what you would be interested in hearing about, and how they can help—without sounding like you’re begging.

[See 9 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out.]

2. Make a list of your top 10 companies. First, sit down and decide what type of opportunity you’re looking for. Then draw up a list of companies where you'd like to work. If you’re considering relocating, make two lists: one for local companies and one for companies based elsewhere.

2. Check LinkedIn for people with similar background for the types of job you want. This will give you a sense for the background and experience your target companies look for in new hires and how to position yourself.

LinkedIn's Companies feature is an interesting tool to research companies on your target list. You can check out statistics on the employees at the company such as charts that show job functions, years of work experience, degree type, and universities attended by the company employee population. You can also see which companies those employees used to work for or leave to work for, which helps you discover other companies with similar interests.

[See How to Be a Smart Job-Hopper.]

4. Subscribe to e-mail alerts or RSS feeds on both major and niche job sites. Although job opportunities are likely to come through your personal network, some people do find jobs through job boards. Don't ignore them—but don't depend on them either. An easy way to keep up with new postings is to subscribe to RSS feeds or e-mail alerts on the job boards that suit you.

5. Check your profiles online. Update all of your social network profiles. Updating your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles will show the people in your network that you actively participate online, which means you’ll be in the forefront of their minds. Make sure your LinkedIn profile in particular is complete so prospective employers can find you easily.

6. Research and contact recruiters in your field. Again, it’s most helpful to build these relationships before you need them, but now is better than never. Find out which recruiting firms work in your field and make those contacts. Even if the recruiter doesn't have an opportunity that’s an exact fit at that moment, just letting them know you’re open to hearing about new opportunities keeps you on their radar. Check in occasionally.

[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.]

7. Stay organized. Keep a spreadsheet or use a tool like JibberJobber to track of your applications. A disorganized job search can make job searching more difficult and more frustrating than necessary. Keep a log of each application, date, contact, and progress. You don't want to apply to the same position multiple times, and you'll want to refer back to it for follow up. If you get a request for an interview, the company is going to expect you know which position they’re calling about when you answer the phone.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.

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