Career choicesTechniques for an effective job search

Searching for a job can be time consuming and frustrating. Make it easier for yourself by creating positive job search techniques - one step at a time will turn your hard work into your dream job.

Seven steps to success

Step one: self analysis

Before you start frantically searching through your local paper and applying for any jobs going, it is a good idea to think about what you really want to do. Make a list of your interests, skills, achievements, experiences, goals and values. Ask yourself - What is important to you? What are you enthusiastic about? What do you want from an employer? It is these things that can make you stand out as the ideal candidate for a job. Knowing what you want to do gives you much more focus when applying for jobs - saving you time and energy.

Follow the self-analysis techniques as described in the 'Making career choices' section will help you to think about the type of employer that will offer you what you want. Think about:

  • what you want from work e.g. training/9am-5pm working hours
  • where you want to work
  • an appropriate and realistic salary

Realistically, no job is going to be perfect. For example, you have applied for an office job with training, leading to a recognised qualification and benefits of a pension/healthcare. However, the salary is less than you were expecting. Consider if the advantages outweigh the disadvantage of the initial lower salary.

Step two: get organised

It is best to think about job-hunting as a job in itself. Set aside time to:

  • make phone calls
  • research different jobs, companies and vacancies
  • write and send out letters, CVs and application forms,
  • prepare for and attend interviews

This is all perfectly manageable if you give yourself a daily schedule. Plan the days and times that you are going to work on your job search. Give yourself deadlines for each task.

Step three: get motivated

Do not wait around for your perfect job to fall into your lap - it is unlikely to happen! Ringing up potential employers can be intimidating, but it is a good strategy. They will be impressed that you have taken the initiative to call and it is important that you get through the door before your competition. Remember, job openings often exist long before they are advertised. If you can show that you are the perfect candidate at this early stage an employer will snap you up - you have just saved them time and money.

Job searching can be overwhelming. Take one step at a time and keep your motivation by staying focused on what you want to do and where you want to be. Keep that positive image in your mind - if you believe it will happen, you can make it happen.

Step four: networking

This can be your most effective resource:

  • ask your family and friends if they know about any opportunities
  • sign up for job search newsletters and email alerts.
  • attend job fairs.
  • contact your old teachers, professors and classmates.
  • join professional organisations.
  • talk to people who are currently doing the type of work you are interested. Ask how they got into the industry and if they have any tips.

Step five: be flexible

You may get a job very quickly. Great! However, it can take several months and it is a good idea to consider doing some temp jobs or part-time work while you are job hunting. You will learn skills, gain experience and earn money while looking for a permanent position. Plus, if you get a temporary or part-time job in your area of interest it is a good chance to prove yourself and be first in line when a full-time position opens up.

Step six: record keeping

This may sound tedious, but you will be glad you have done it in the long run. You need to keep a detailed record of all the jobs you have applied to. Use a simple spreadsheet and make a note of:

  • the company you applied to
  • the name and contact details of the person you applied to
  • the date you applied
  • any responses you got back
  • interview dates
  • follow-up actions

Keep copies of the CV and cover letters you sent to each employer, you will need them if you get an interview.

This allows you to keep going back to your records and track your progress. If you are not getting calls for interviews, ask for feedback on your CV or try changing the time you send in your applications (for example, if you are emailing an application it is better to send it late Sunday evening or first thing Monday morning so that you are at the top of the pile). If you are getting interviews but no offers, practice your interview skills - ask your careers service or a teacher or family member to do a mock interview with you. Remember that an employer will always be willing to give you feedback on your performance. This may be invaluable advice for your next interview.

Step seven: be persistent

Job searching is hard work, but do not give up. If you have not heard anything after a week, follow-up with a phone call. Employers are busy so they may not have got to your application yet. Giving them a call will help them to remember you. If the position has already been filled, it could mean they will think of you when more vacancies come up.

Do not let negative experiences get you down. Focus on what you have gained and learned from these experiences and how you can use that to your advantage. If you get an interview it is important not to talk negatively about past experiences - it reflects badly on you. Instead, think about how overcoming these experiences can make you an even stronger candidate for the job.

Tips:

  • Talk to the people who are responsible for hiring in the field of work you want to go in to. Ask if they will look over your CV and give you any suggestions.
  • Do not just focus your ultimate goal - establish smaller goals to achieve along the way. Set yourself flexible time frames and celebrate your success on achieving each goal before moving on to the next.
  • Follow up on all job interviews with a note of thanks, it can be the deciding factor between two equally qualified candidates. It can be handwritten, typed or emailed - but try to send it within 24 - 48 hours of your interview or meeting.
  • Stay on top of the latest news for information on companies to which you are applying.
  • Carry on managing your career even after you get a job. Record your achievements and update your CV regularly while the thoughts are fresh.

Useful books

  • Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search: The Proven Program Used by the World's Leading Career Services Company, O. Pierson, McGraw-Hill Education (2005)
  • The Job Search Solution, T. Beshara, Amacom (2006)
  • Super Job Search, P. Studner, Jamenair Ltd (2006)
  • 100% Job Search Success, A. Solomon, T. Taylor and L. Tyler, Cengage Learning (2006)
  • Job Searching Fast and Easy, M. Farr, Cengage Learning (2005)