The Best Way to Take Control of Your Job Hunt

Sick of applying and not hearing back? Here's how to approach your job hunt differently.

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Miriam Salpeter
Miriam Salpeter
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little more control over your job search? It’s frustrating applying over and over again for jobs and never hearing back.

When you apply online, the odds are against you unless your qualifications exactly match what the employer wants. (In other words, unless you are applying for the job you already have.) It’s not impossible to land an opportunity via an online application; many people do find jobs that way, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re not likely to get hired from a resume drop.

What should you do instead? Stop looking for a job. Start looking for a company.

You may be surprised, but it may be the best career move you never considered. Instead of spending all of your time searching for appropriate job descriptions and targeting your resume to apply for them, you should consider shifting some of your efforts to identifying organizations whose goals are in line with your interests and whose problems you know you can solve.

[See Don’t Look for a Job, Make the Job Come to You.]

Hannah Morgan of CareerSherpa.net suggests several steps to take rather than pursuing job postings:

• Create a list of potential employers who need your kind of problem-solving abilities.

• Be armed with research on these potential employers to understand their issues and how you can make a difference.

• Prepare examples of your work in both story and written form.

• Be able to present yourself as a solution. Know what makes you special and stick to it. Don’t waiver.

How should you make lists of employers? Start with companies you know about and where you might want to work. Don’t worry if they don’t have openings, this research focuses on places you’d like to work–not companies advertising for jobs.

It’s a good idea to steer your research to include companies where you already have networking connections. Where do your friends work?

• Use BranchOut (a Facebook application) to help identify where your friends (and their friends) work or have connections.

[See New Site Helps You Use Facebook for Your Job Search.]

• Use LinkedIn to research organizations. Use the top toolbar, select “company.” Then narrow your search by location, industry, and other factors (such as size, and even by companies where you have first-degree relationships).

Some great resources to research companies and keep up-to-date in your field:

Smart Brief has more than 100 industry newsletters that keep you in the know. Their tagline, “We read everything. You get what matters,” is the perfect answer for any busy professional.

• Jim Stroud publishes the Hidden Jobs Report. He highlights industry trends, movement, and possible new opportunities in a variety of fields. Subscribe to his newsletter for information you probably wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Once you identify organizations of interest, start learning all you can about them. Luckily, this is much easier today than it ever was in the past. Examine the company’s complete digital footprint. Many firms post videos, and manage Facebook pages and Twitter feeds touting their organizations and why you might want to work there.

Study each company’s website and blog if they have one, and search for their employees on Twitter. Use FollowerWonk to search Twitter bios for company names. (A lot of people list where they work in their Twitter bios.) Look in LinkedIn for groups related to any company that interests you to identify people who work there and for industry specific groups where you’ll meet people who work in organizations of interest.

Learn what you can about the organizations and their issues by keeping up-to-date with their online materials and by connecting with their employees. Move online relationships to in-person or telephone conversations to learn all you can. Share information about you with people who work in the organizations you’re targeting.  Informational meetings are key for career success.

[See Proactive Job-Search Strategy: Pitch Your Dream Company.]

Target your materials and prepare samples of your work to address those needs. First, be sure your resume focuses on the organization’s needs. It shouldn’t be a rehashing of “stuff” you’ve done in the past; make it about your future. Your LinkedIn profile should be completely filled out to indicate your expertise, especially the summary and specialties sections.

Create a social resume, or personal website to showcase your expertise and to tell your career story. You can use different pages on the site to highlight your experience in various areas and to focus the reader on the reasons you are well suited for the organization. When people you meet online Google you to learn more, or click through your profiles to find out about you, a well-written, in-depth social resume helps ensure they see exactly what you want them to learn about you.

Presenting yourself as the solution is easier once all the other pieces are in place. Try these approaches for a few weeks as part of your job hunt to see if it makes a difference for you!

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.