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New Year, New Career: Keep Your Job Search at a Five Star Rating

February 2, 2017

It’s the start of a new year. Did you resolve to get a new job this year? If so, it is important to be well-prepared and have a stellar job search plan in order to be successful. Use these tips to create a plan that will get you noticed and make your resolution a reality:

1. Be Committed to Your Job Search

A successful job search is one that requires time, planning and preparation. This includes setting your goals, preparing your resume and cover letter, preparing for interviews and making job contacts. If you are currently employed, spend at least a minimum of 10 hours per week to look for a new job. If you are unemployed, your commitment should be spending 40 hours per week.

2. Set SMART Goals

In order for your job search to be fruitful, set goals that are SMART. A SMART goal, is one that is SpecificMeasurableAttainableRealistic and Time-Based. This eliminates the ability to be vague regarding your objectives and requires a time frame for which you plan to achieve those goals. This includes setting short-term and long-term goals.

Set SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based.

Be specific in the what, why and how of your goal. Then, is your goal measurable? Is there concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the achievement of your goal? Third, your goals needs to be attainable. Building in several short-term “steps” can go a long way to getting you to your ultimate goal. Fourth, is your goal realistic? Is it possible to accomplish when taking into account other factors such as your time, ability and finances? Lastly, it should be time-based. A goal without a deadline is called a “dream.”

To get started, you may want to ask yourself:

  • What kind of work do I want to do?
  • What are some alternatives?
  • How much do I need to earn?
  • Do I need more training?
  • Can I afford to wait for the “perfect” job?

Short-Term Goals

Now that you’ve explored your preferences, strengths, limitations and some long-term goals, you can begin to set short-term goals.

Start with creating a list of companies to target and research each of them. Remember to think SMART. For example, “I am going to make a list of five manufacturing companies and research each of them by next Wednesday.” Use various resources to research the company including the company website or LinkedIn. This research will help with tailoring your resume, cover letter and applications. It can also help you determine who to contact for networking.

Set a goal to complete your resume(s) and cover letter. Don’t forget to make it time-based and include when you plan to complete it. Determine the best methods of contact in your job search when applying to jobs and set goals on how many contacts you will make each day or week. Remember, when applying to jobs, it is quality over quantity.  An hour dedicated to customizing your resume and cover letter to a company and job posting is time better spent than sending generic resumes and cover letters to multiple companies. You are far more likely to hear back from a company when you have spent that extra time targeting the position.

3. Pay Attention to Employers

Don’t get stopped in the application process! Research the employer’s needs and wants and prepare your job search documents with those needs in mind. Be prepared! This includes being able to complete an application effortlessly and having a resume that highlights accomplishments and matches skills and goals to the needs of the employer. These “tools” are essential for a successful job search. 

First, be able to properly complete job applications. Have all the information you need including addresses and phone numbers of previous employers, as well as salary information. Do not leave any blanks. If something does not apply, respond with “not applicable” or “n/a”. Never write “see resume” when completing an application.

Next, have a resume tailored to the position and the employer. You will likely have multiple versions of your resume. A value-based resume can be effective in marketing yourself to an employer. It focuses on what you can do and the value you bring to the hiring manager based on your skills, abilities and experiences. Since a resume is a sales brochure to help you get the interview, include everything that shows why you are the right person for the job. These resumes often take time to prepare so if your resume only took a few minutes to write, it may not be selling you very well.

4. Network Your Way to the Top

The value of networking comes from building relationships, not just contacts.

It is a two-way street. When you see openings that may not be a fit for you, but someone in your network could benefit, spread the word. Everybody knows somebody so begin by making a list of your current contacts and start reaching out to them. Within your existing network there are probably jobs matching your skills and qualifications, so get out there and let it be known you are looking for a job. Identify the most influential people in your network and think of how you can strengthen your relationships with each if you haven’t spoken with them in some time.

Network: Get out there and let it be known you are looking for a job.

Attend Events

Try attending events — social and professional — and set a goal to make at least one connection. If you know who is attending the event, then be strategic as to who you may want to meet.

Use Social Media

Social media is an easy way to find and connect with people. While LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are the top three social media sites, there are hundreds that can help you find a job. Social media is opening more doors for job seekers by increasing visibility with potential employers and providing an easy way to get more information on a particular interviewer or company. To help you get started explore 45 Things Successful Job Seekers Do on Social Media.

5. Become a Skilled Interviewer

You have been contacted for an interview! This means the employer thinks you are qualified based on your resume, cover letter, application or online profile, but you still have your work cut out for you. You need to deliver a first-rate interview and make a good first impression.

To ensure you are properly prepared for the interview, you will need to start by researching the company and the position. This research will help you to determine what to emphasize during the interview. It will also help you show how your skills match the position, as well as how you fit into the organization and its culture.

Practice! Practice! Practice! Think about the questions you may be asked and research the different types of interviews. Be prepared because different organizations use various interview types, including behavioral, phone and panel. Practice answering interview questions with someone, as well as asking questions. It is important to ask questions in an interview, as this demonstrates your interest in the position. Do not ask questions about salary or benefits. It is best to wait for a job offer before discussing money. Start by reviewing a list of sample interview questions and tips on how to answer them.

6. Follow-up and Be Remembered

In your job search, there are two instances in which you would follow-up: after applying for a job and after an interview. Effective follow-up can make all the difference, especially in a highly competitive job market.

So, what exactly is follow-up? It could be a simple note or letter, thanking the employer for taking the time to review your information and to confirm that it was received. It could also be a phone call or an email; However, it is important to determine the best time to follow-up, how to do it and what to say.

Follow-up After Applying

First, let’s start with follow-up after applying to a job.

When considering following up, be sure to read the posting and mark those that state “no phone calls or emails.” By contacting employers who indicate they do not wish to be contacted, you can be eliminated from even being considered. The employer may see this as not being able to follow directions.

If there is nothing in the posting to indicate no contact, look for a close date. Then when the position has closed, wait about a week and then follow up. If there is no close date listed, experts indicate a week is ample time to wait before following up. Following-up too soon can give an impression that you are desperate, which is not the impression you want to make with the employer.

Get more advice on how to follow up after a resume submission to increase your chances of getting an interview.

Follow-up After Interviewing

Second, always follow-up after an interview.

Soon after an interview, send a letter or note. It is better to send it sooner than later; The same day is good! It is important to express your appreciation to the interviewer(s) for meeting with you and to reiterate how you can help the employer meet their needs. It is also good to mention something about the company and include facts learned in the interview that you found impressive or stood out.

There are many differences of opinions on the time frame for following up and the method of which to follow up, but just remember, it can be the one thing that makes you stand out from the crowd. No follow-up for some hiring managers can mean you are not interested. Also, be careful what you say and remember that your follow-up should be focused on the employer. The interviewers are more interested in how hiring you will benefit the company.

Get more insight on how to follow up after an interview.

Additional Resources

There are many resources on the topics discussed. Use the resources available to help you become an expert. Start with the Georgia Department of Labor’s page: Explore Career Options and Plan Your Job Search. Another helpful tool is the Resource Guide for Job Seekers. In addition, you can find job openings by going to Employ Georgia. Select the job seekers’ button to get started.

About the Author

Rhonda Waite serves as an Employment and Training Consultant for the Georgia Department of Labor’s Workforce Solutions Division. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Marketing.

She assists with the planning, development and implementation of statewide employment and training programs. She develops policies and procedures for use by staff in the career centers and provides technical assistance, training and consultation to staff. She is also a Certified Professional Résumé writer and a Career Development Facilitator.

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