Written By: Lianne Stephensen – Career Counsellor and Workshop Facilitator – Osborne Village Resource Centre
As a Career Counselor, I see many people in career transition at different stages of their life who need assistance with job search. As someone who has changed careers several times, I have come to know the importance of developing an effective job search plan. Many times with clients, that I see, what is often neglected, is how they are managing the difficulties of the typical process of job search itself. Being through job search and career changes numerous times, I can fully understand the frustration and fear around interviewing and not getting the job or the disappointment and the financial burden of being out of work. In all honesty, if I could tell my 20 something year old self what my 40 something year old self knows now, my career path would probably have been much different. Having said that, I gained so much perspective and knowledge that I now use when assisting clients in the same situation I was and so there was definitely a reason for the career path that I call my life.
Here are my Top 7 Tips to Developing an Effective Job Search Plan
1. Determining Your Why
Searching for a new job is almost a full-time job, as it takes hard work, time and commitment to succeed. The last thing you want to do is to send out hundreds of resumes and wait for a reply that may never come. What I often recommend to clients is how important it is to be organized right from the start. In today’s fiercely competitive market, you need to have a strategic plan for your job search before you actually begin, from where to look, to identifying the specific kind of roles you want to apply for. Are you looking for a new job because you hate your current field of work or is it because you have become so good at your job that you no longer feel challenged in the role you are currently in and need to step up and find something more stimulating?
There are a lot of really good books out there on finding your ideal career to help you figure out what you want to do. At the very least, you should know which fields or industries you are interested in, and what types of positions you are suitable for. In addition, you want to have variety in the types of job search activities you are doing such as networking, interview practice as well as different job search strategies to help you find the job you love perhaps a lot sooner and with greater success.
Some job search techniques include prioritizing tasks, creating a target network list, researching companies, applying only to relevant jobs, and ensuring you fit in adequate breaks and variety in job search activities.
2. Understand the Realities of The New Workforce
The permanent job, for the most part, is becoming harder and harder to come by. There has been a large increase in contract, temporary, and part-time work over the years with entrepreneurship on the rise. For these reasons, self-awareness, self-esteem, flexibility, and creativity are more important than ever. People must assume responsibility for their own lives and financial planning. Lifelong learning and constant retraining is essential for workers of all ages. In order to continue to be successful, workers will need to continually prepare for the next level of technology. For each individual, changing careers several times during their work lives will still be the norm, and so will the need to have a “portfolio of skills, “which can be marketed in different places.
In summary, as a job seeker you need to be open to change, be willing to retrain, and stay informed about new and emerging work trends.
3. Reframing Your Perspective by Developing a Growth Mindset
Some people get upset when they have lulls in their job search simply because they did not expect them. This is not pessimistic; it is realistic. There will always be times when someone will not get back to you, networking meetings will not go well, and you do not know what to do next. What I often tell clients is inevitably you will be rejected from jobs, you will not get the interview or it will take longer than it should. The trick is being able to make peace with all this by recognizing in advance that setbacks are normal. Strategize and plan for ways to remember this and comfort yourself when you are in a middle of a setback. You can write down your top ideas for example in a job journal to remind yourself of them or post positive affirmations in your office to help you to stay encouraged and motivated.
People often think that skills like networking, interviewing, and negotiating are innate, but this perspective could not be further from the truth.
Just learning anything in life, from how to make homemade bread, to training for a marathon, job search skills are learned – and require lots of practice to become proficient. For example, your first networking calls may be a bit awkward or you may sound overly rehearsed in your first interviews. That is okay and very normal. You will only get better with time and sufficient practice. I know as I have been there myself and have seen many of my clients improve with additional knowledge and practice.
Another tip I teach in my workshops and one-on-one appointments to individuals is that it is important to pay attention to your thoughts and that instead of having a “fixed” mindset you want to develop a “growth” mindset.
The beauty of a growth mindset is that anyone can adopt it any time; you do not have to buy anything or spend years learning the concept. It is simply a choice and change in your perspective– and something you can start doing right now to start building resilience. It takes some effort, but it is worth it as it enables you to be more positive, hopeful, and flexible in your thoughts and actions.
When you are disappointed by something, instead of getting upset (which is natural), ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” You can also experiment with challenging yourself with the question, “Why is this actually the best thing for me?”
4. Surround Yourself with Supportive People
This can be a formal or informal group of other job seekers. It should also include your family and friends. People are much more resilient when they have support from others. Family, friends, other job seekers, and our staff at OVRC can all help you be much more resilient and provide the support and the encouragement you need, particularly when times get tough like when you did not get job offer you wanted .
5. Set Up Small Wins
Are you better at research than writing cover letters? Do some research before starting your cover letter to prime your mind for success. Then do some research after spending time on the cover letter to reward yourself. Prefer networking? Schedule one to three networking meetings a week. Fill your time with valuable activities that you enjoy. Emphasize the ones you like more and use them strategically to help you feel successful. The momentum you gain from that will help you carry you forward.
6. Being Brave Means Being Vulnerable
You will never know how something will go unless you try. Even if it is small steps that make you, uncomfortable such as panel interviews or setting up an informational interview with someone. You cannot learn from that which you do not know. In my Effective Job Search Planning workshop, I teach participants how to develop SMART goals, which refer to: Specific, Meaningful, Actionable, Relevant, and Timebound. This form of goal setting method has been around for many years and is easy to learn and incorporate into your job search. By developing SMART goals, it will enable you to be more specific and allow for clearer direction. Your goals can be daily, weekly or monthly if you like that you can write down and later assess how you are doing and whether you need to make any adjustments or changes along the way. An example of a SMART goal could include, “I will network or message 3-6 people on Linked In in my industry in the next two weeks.”
Creating goals also gives you the motivation to step outside your comfort zone and write down that which you want to achieve. For those of us who are visual learners, this can also be an empowering way to move actions from thought, to written word, which will hopefully lead to a desired outcome. It does not have to be something big. The key is to remember that just taking one small step, no how matter how big, is a STEP. An action that you may have been too afraid to take before, but now you have. Check in with yourself after you have completed it and ask yourself, how did that make you feel? What went well or what are you willing to do next time? Keep challenging yourself to move forward!
7. Prioritize the Things You Love in Life During Your Search
There is one more very important thing you need to remember to do during your job search. That is to prioritize activities you love to do!
Since job searching can be extremely stressful, making time for self-care is very important! I know for me, when I was in job search mode, I would often try to go to the local Y and participate in a deep-water aqua class two or three times per week. I loved having that routine in the morning and being able to socialize with others and feel good doing something healthy for my body and mind. I would then continue with my job search afterwards feeling renewed and energized.
Incorporating in a fun activity instead of say hopping online and searching non-stop for jobs for four hours can help bring perspective, balance, and joy into your life. It will also allow you to manage your time and energy better. Other examples could include spending time with family, running, yoga, hiking, or anything else that you really like that maybe you have or have not included as part of your self-care routine!
In summary, job seekers can improve the time they spend finding work, by being more organized and more productive. The general rule is to get specific as to what are the areas of your job search that are going well and not so well. Are you scheduling breaks, self-care, time out to recharge and rejuvenate your mind and body? Looking for jobs is still hard work, however, the way we approach it in a more efficient and positive manner can make a world of difference! The key thing to remember is that we can all learn to improve our capacity to find work more effectively and creating a job search action plan that works!
Hund, Heather (2018). Art of Job Search: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding a Job You Love.
Graham, S. (2018). The Canadian Career Strategist: CCS eGuide. Toronto: Career Professionals of Canada.