Sometimes you have the luxury of spending months and months looking for your next job: plenty of time to fine-tune your resume and your interview handshake, lots of time to pick over jobs that don’t really feel right for you. Other times, you need a job now. Maybe you’ve just lost your current job, or things are so miserable at work that the thought of staying there six more months makes you want to curl into a ball under your desk and wait until everyone else goes home. Whatever the reason, you can take steps to accelerate your job search. It doesn’t guarantee a new job tomorrow, but if you’re willing to use every tool at your disposal, you can get an edge.
According to a 2014 survey by Jobvite, 71% of Americans are either actively looking for a job, or open to switching jobs. That’s a lot of people on the market. Add that to the conventional wisdom that one should expect to spend a month for every $10,000 you earn in salary. ($60,000 = six months of sometimes-soul-sucking job search). With factors like that, the prospect of finding a new job quickly can be awfully daunting. So to help speed things along, you should be prepared to put all your energy into prepping yourself fast, and using a number of different tools to get to your outcome faster.
Use Job Boards Wisely
Online job boards can be extremely useful as a starting point. Jobs! Industry-specific jobs! At your fingertips! However, they can also complicate matters, so use them with savvy. Relying on job boards can take away from the urgency of your hunt…if you fall into a habit of waiting for the right job to pop up, you could be waiting a long time indeed. The Muse has some great tips on how to refine your job board search to keep your search active and hopping, including:
- Find industry-specific job boards, so you’re not slogging through truck driving jobs when you’re really looking for medical assistant jobs.
- Double-check the dates on job postings. Found the perfect job opening? Well, crap…it was posted and filled six months ago. Be wary of job postings older than a month, because they might be out of date.
- Use very specific keywords when searching job boards. Use filters to really drill down into what you want—and if possible experience level. You don’t want to have your heart set on a posting, only to find out that it’s out of bounds for your experience.
- Put robots to work for you. More specifically, set up saved searches and email alerts to let you know when postings come up that meet particular criteria.
- Do more than search for jobs on the sites. This applies especially if you’re using a niche job board, but general career sites also have a lot of useful content beyond the job posts. Whether that means specific company profiles or tips for your job hunt, maximize your time on the sites by pulling as much info as you can during your daily checks.
Pay Attention to Your Social Network
I can vouch for the power of your social network: for my two most recent jobs, I got notes from former colleagues/current friends who said, “Hey, there’s an opening at my company and I think you’d be great for it.” One came while I was actively looking, and the other came out of the blue. Both were great opportunities that I never would have found (or even thought to seek, really) via conventional means. So the moral of the story is this: never underestimate the connections you already have.
This is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. According to the 2014 Jobvite survey, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are some of the biggest social media drivers connecting people with job opportunities.[via Jobvite]
The advantage of using your social network for your job search is also the benefit and curse of the internet in general: you get exposure and feedback pretty instantly. A quick private message (PM) to a friend at XYZ Corp. could get you an emailed link to an internal job opening the next day. Or maybe your former boss from three jobs ago is connected to someone at your dream job company—could she introduce the two of you? The advantages are there, but before you start leveraging your virtual cocktail party into actual career opportunities, you should make sure your digital footprint is in order.
Vet your virtual self
This means you should update your LinkedIn profile with your most recent resume points, areas of experience, and skills. For your Twitter feed that you mostly use to express how terrible the umpire was in last night’s game, and OMG, how terrible is the Post Office?, well…consider setting it to private and setting up a professional-only account where you share interesting links about your field.
For Facebook, take a close look at your security settings, and make sure that anything you wouldn’t want a recruiter or HR rep to see is well hidden behind an “only you” or “friends only” barrier (though that can still be risky). No profanity, no suggestive material, no extreme political opinions (no matter how much you might hate the Bull-Moose Party, sorry).
For LinkedIn, make sure you’ve got your profile filled out, up-to-date, and looking professional. The place is crawling with recruiters and like-minded professionals, so you really want to make sure that you’re showing your most engaged, shining, professional self.
Talk up topics related to your profession
If you don’t already do this, cultivate a professional voice with your social media accounts. Link to others in the field, and try to join (or start) conversations in comments sections. If you don’t get out there an engage, how will people know to engage with you
Find your people
Look for groups and communities devoted to your industry. It’s a great way to start connecting to people if your existing social media is mostly social friends from other parts of your life.
According to U.S. News and World Report, becoming a social media “savant” is one of the most effective ways to speed up your job search, because that’s where employers are focusing their hiring energies these days.
Perform a Self-Makeover Every Few Months
If you’re looking for a job right this minute, you don’t have time to slowly curate every detail in your professional package, so you need to have everything ready to go. Make sure you’re ready to go as soon as you hear about that opportunity via online tools or your network—you don’t want the hot tip to grow cold while you futz around with your resume. So before you even think about putting yourself out there like a press release, make sure things are all set behind the scenes.
Update your resume
It would be great to rebuild it from scratch, but if you don’t have the time, a good scrub of your current one will do. Make sure all of your work experience, accomplishments, and skills are up to date. Right before you submit, do a quick tailoring to make sure that your skills and experience dovetail with the job opening.
Work interview practice into your routines
If you do find a great lead, you could move quickly through the process. If you’re asked to come in for an interview next week, don’t wait until the last second to get ready. Add a few minutes to your morning or bedtime routine by rehearsing your interview talking points (skills, anecdotes about your skills, even your interview smile) in the mirror.
Prep your interview outfit
If your interview suit hasn’t seen the light of day since Justin Bieber was that nice young man from Canada, take it out and give it some love. Run it to the dry cleaner so that it’s ready to go if you have to move fast on an interview. Or, if it’s time to retire it and you have the resources, go shopping for a new, interview-appropriate outfit.
Knowing that you’re ready to mobilize whenever you need to can help mentally as well…even if you’re in a bit of a waiting period, you still have projects to work on in the meantime.
If you’re looking for a job fast, being proactive is definitely the key. One of the drawbacks of the job search in general is that it can feel so stop-and-go, sapping your energy along the way and turning into a daily, demoralizing routine of “eh, anything available yet?” By taking control over your social media and networks, and making your online searches more targeted and effective, you’re increasing the chances that something will hit sooner than later. Good luck!
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