At one time job search meant circling jobs in the Sunday paper, mailing in a résumé and waiting for a call. Now, with the internet, we can easily spend as much as 30 hours a week combing through job boards looking for that hidden gem of a job that is a perfect match for our skills. Filling out the online applications, adjusting our résumé to meet employer qualifications and writing up cover letters can consume another large chunk of our time. Then comes the waiting period where we see if our efforts have paid off and we get the invitation for an interview. Following this type of process is called reactive job search. We feel as though we are in the driver’s seat yet ultimately we are at the mercy of being selected. Utilizing a proactive job search lessens your hours on job boards, gets you talking to real people, and increases your chances of getting interviews and job offers.
There are three main steps in a proactive job search:
1. Create your Employer Top 10 list
2. Research companies of interest
Creating your Employer Top 10 List
Brainstorm and create a list of companies you'd like to work for. Consider companies that are geographically close or specialize in your line or work. Think about your values, interests and hobbies and write down companies that align with these. For example, if you are really passionate about health and nutrition, which companies provide these services? Create a list of at least 30 companies and rank your top 10 companies of interest.
Research Companies of Interest
Research companies on your list starting with your top 10. Read through websites to learn about the company’s focus, vision, and mission. Reach out to people you already know who work at these companies and request an informational interview to learn more about the environment and culture. You might ask questions such as “Why did you decide to work for this company?”, “What do you like most about your company?”, or “How does your company differ from your competitors?” If you don’t have any current connections with anyone at a company of interest then use the advanced search tool on LinkedIn or the company locator tab to research employees and request informational interviews. You can also meet possible connections at association and networking events. Your companies of interest list will be revolving and as you learn about companies; some will come off the list and new ones will be added based on information you learned from conversations.
We have likely all heard the statistic that 80% of all jobs are gotten through networking. That simply means a conversation took place. It may have been in the early stages such as an informational interview or in a direct conversation with a hiring manager. Any conversation you have, whether it is with your hairdresser or your auto mechanic, has the potential to lead to useful information and more connections with people working in your companies of interest.
Beyond your face-to-face conversations use LinkedIn to find employees who are currently working in your areas of interest and request an informational interview. This may range from staff to hiring managers. At this stage you already know about the company and now your questions will be geared more towards types of potential jobs within a company, daily work tasks, and salary ranges. You might ask things such as “What is your typical day like?”, “What type of education or training is most valuable for your role?”, or “What are some typical salary ranges for the area you work in?” Your goal in these networking conversations is not to ask for a job but to gather useful information and request whether there is anyone else the person suggest you talk with. People who enjoy their jobs enjoy talking about their jobs. So keep the focus on them. Your outcomes from these conversations will vary. Sometimes an employee will give you leads about an opening or upcoming job, sometimes there is a current opening and they will provide you with hiring manager information and other times you gather information that leads you to another call.
Performing a proactive job search requires you to structure your time and set weekly goals. You will still want to incorporate search time for posted jobs but the majority of your time will be spent in networking and following leads. Your end result will be getting the job of your choice versus only the jobs that are accessible to you in the comfort of your home at your computer.