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Job Search Strategies and Tips

Nimish Thakkar, MS, MBA, CCMC, CPRW, SaiCareers.com, New York

For some, the very word “job search” triggers nostalgic memories from a distant past. The days of freelancing, budgeting, room-sharing, and once-a-day meals paint an unpleasant picture of a "best-if-forgotten" period, a past that you would rather not re-visit. Yet, the undesirable has happened and you find yourself in a situation where you have no option but to go job searching. You suddenly find yourself glued to the desk, desperately responding to help wanted ads and frantically posting your resume on every online job board you can think of. After weeks of slogging, the job search campaign has not yielded the desired results and you -- like most job seekers -- ask yourself “what else can I do?” No, I am not trying to write a novel, nor am I trying to exaggerate. This is a real scenario that most job seekers face on a daily basis.

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“So, how can I improve my job search?” I hear you ask. Well, job searching can be likened to the development and execution of a marketing campaign -- you start with marketing materials preparation (resumes, cover letters, thank you letters, reference lists, etc.), move on to market research (industry research, company research, list of hiring companies and key executives, etc.), and finally job search campaign execution. Using multiple strategies is the key to any successfully-executed job search campaign. In other words, don’t rely on a single job search strategy. Try to use as many approaches as possible. The following job search strategies, though not comprehensive, serve as a great starting point.

1. Network, network, network
Amongst the list of job search strategies, networking is the king. The more you network, the faster you will reach your career goals. Start by contacting everyone in your address book. It doesn’t matter if they are not in your profession or your geographic area of interest; they might just know of someone who can help -- don’t assume they can’t help. Potential networking contacts and platforms can include the following: friends, colleagues, acquaintances, previous employers, industry associates, vendors, customers, mentors, professors, industry/alumni associations, college career centers, recruiters and headhunters, golf buddies, book club members, support groups, places of worship, career fairs, community and religious leaders, industry experts, etc. I would also add individuals like barbers, massage therapists, doctors, vets, nail salon owners and workers, waiters, bartenders, coaches, neighbors, subway riders (of course, the ones you speak with), bus drivers ... Now, I know that sounds like a stretch, but my stance is based on experience. I recently coached a client to contact everyone she knew; though reluctant at first, she took my advice seriously. She informed her massage therapist about her employment interests; the therapist happened to know a CEO (again, a client); the two connected and, voilà, my client found her dream job. This is not an isolated example; the employment world is a witness to many such stories everyday.

Once you speak to someone, ask them for names of individuals you can contact; when you contact these individuals, ask for more names at the end of the conversation. This continuous digging of contacts will have a “snowball effect” on your job search campaign, causing your contact list -- and your chances of getting hired -- to grow exponentially. The key here is to act as if you were asking for information or guidance (and of course a job if that is a possibility); that way more people will be receptive to speak with you. Ask your contacts to share their job search success stories with you. Remember, networking will not produce instant results; it takes patience, practice, and hard work to get there. (Visit our networking section for more information. Our online networking resources and tools page can help you with online networking tools.)

2. Contact employers directly
Targeted cold calling is another favorite in our list of job search strategies. Yes, you have to assume the role of a telemarketer. “Targeted cold calling” is an important component of any job search campaign. Start with a target list of companies that could use someone with your background. Once you have this list, the first step would be to send your resume and cover letter to each of these employers. Next, start calling them; attempt to reach the hiring manager (you will have to work your way through the gatekeeper).

Contacting employers before an advertisement is placed, virtually eliminates all the competition that would otherwise come into existence. Most companies start the advertising process by posting openings on their website, so don't forget to browse through their website as well.

The process of getting in touch with employers is often a frustrating one; don't worry if you don't see instant results. Things take time. Tip: Sometimes a personal visit to the employer's office or site wouldn't hurt either. (Do visit our company research page.)

3. Job boards
Large job boards have been found to attract millions of employers and recruiters. While you must post your resume on the larger job boards, don’t forget the niche boards that cater to your profession (most job boards feature automated job search agents that alert you every time an opening is advertised). Signing up on multiple job boards will allow you to cast your net much wider. An important tip: once you signup with a board, visit them often and make small changes to your resume; this will improve your resume's position in search results. (Visit our online job boards section.)

4. Newspapers
Almost every newspaper has an online version featuring help wanted ads. Make it a habit to browse through as many newspapers as possible. In addition to the classifieds, newspapers can help in many other ways. For instance, most companies send out press releases to announce new developments. If you happen to read an article that speaks about XYZ Company opening a new division, wouldn’t you want to send your resume to them? If they are opening a new division, they are certainly going to need more employees. Newspapers can also be an excellent resource for finding names of key executives. (Visit our newspapers section.)

5. Professional literature
Scholarly journals, trade magazines, newsletters, and specialty publications also feature help wanted ads. Professional literature can also be a great resource for finding key people, including hiring managers. I have often approached well-known authors writing for these publications (often starting with appreciation for their article or work). These are well-connected -- and very helpful -- individuals with excellent resources at their disposal.

6. Industry Associations
Almost every profession has an organized association that you could join. The membership fees would be a worthwhile investment considering the potential rewards to your network list and job search campaign -- the association may also maintain an internal job bank. Tip: Key members may know many top-level executives. (If you want to find an association, please visit our  associations page.)

7. Career Fairs
Attending career fairs gives you the opportunity to establish rapport with -- otherwise unreachable -- executives
. (Do visit our Career Fairs section.)

8. Recruiters and headhunters
These are individuals who get paid thousands of dollars to find the “right” candidate. Send your resume to as many recruiters and headhunters as possible. (Visit our finding recruiters and headhunters section for more information on finding recruiters and headhunters.)

9. Local Libraries
Local libraries feature a wealth of resources, ranging from contact information of employers to career resources and company directories. Just ask your local librarian for help.

10. Temp Agencies and Employment Agencies
At times, though not always, it makes sense to seek temporary employment to ensure your bills are paid. You will be able to execute a much better campaign knowing that your bills are taken care of. (Visit our temp jobs and agencies section.)

11. Volunteering/Internships
These can prove to be valuable “get-a-foot-in-the-door” techniques if your are changing careers. (Visit our internships section.)

12. Government
The government spends billions of dollars in an effort to improve employment numbers. Check with your local Department of Labor, Workforce Investment Programs, and libraries for information on government-sponsored programs. (Our government resources for job search section lists a few important websites.)

A well-executed job search campaign would involve a combination of several job search strategies and a disciplined approach to job hunting (setting aside fixed hours for job search; example, I will call 10 employers every day, respond to 15 online ads, 20 newspaper ads, etc.). In order to see good results, apply for at least 20
30 opportunities every day -- if you work hard enough, you will find them. Good luck with your job search!

Related Articles:
Online Job Search: Job Searching In The Digital Age
Common Job Search Mistakes


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