As August approaches and the harsh reality of no more summer Fridays sets in, many people begin to think about what's next professionally. Luckily, after the beginning of the year, the fall is the best time to get hired. Across most industries, the summer is a downtime, especially the last few weeks, before getting back to business in September. Here are five key ways to recharge your job search right now in the summer slump to set you up for success once the leaves start falling.
1. Do Your Research
Whether you are currently working or not, considering leaving your field or not, research is vital to finding the right position. Start keeping track of people you meet who have jobs that sound interesting, companies that you'd love to work for, and places you hear that are hiring. Put it on your calendar to set aside time every day for this research. Compile this information into a workable resource, such as a spreadsheet where you can add notes and follow up comments. Don't forget to also go deep with yourself during this time and conduct some self-assessments to determine your professional accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, ideal job environment, priorities, and values. The intersection of what you want and what's out there is your sweet spot.
In this initial stage, everything is research so the more you put yourself out there and the more people you meet, the more information you are gathering.
2. Create a Personal Board
Don't go at it alone! Think of yourself as a business with the primary goal of transitioning your career. Successful businesses have a board of advisors and so should you. Enlist those whose opinions you trust and respect to act as sounding boards and accountability partners, as well as provide valuable, and not always positive, feedback. The most effective members are those who can at least affect an objective stance (so maybe not your mother). A friend, a former colleague, a career consultant, whomever you feel will be able to set aside some time every few weeks to discuss this process with you.
Once you find a new job, having this board to check in with once a month or quarter can be incredibly effective at maintaining your professional development.
3. Markup Your Marketing Materials
Now is the time to ensure that your resume, cover letter, Linked In profile, writing sample, and all other professional pieces are updated, edited, revised, and edited again to speak to the job(s) you want. While these materials should not be completely redundant, you do want the branding to be consistent. Get other opinions on these documents and vet them through your board. Ask people in your industry, or the industry you want to be in, to let you know what's missing (and what should be cut). It's always best to have an informed perspective on what you are putting out there with your applications.
As much as you want to think about the information you use to market yourself, you also need to consider what others can find out about you. Before embarking on a job search, remember to manage your online reputation.
4. Get the Word Out About Your Search
Network as much as possible. This goes for traditional networking like attending events, conferences, and talks, as well as more grassroots (and often more effective) efforts such as alerting your friends, friends of friends, former colleagues, and anyone you know who may know someone you want to know. Go through your lists from number 1 above and see if you have any connections at any of the companies/industries that fascinate you. Reach out and request informational interviews, whether you have a direct contact or not. Ask all relevant contacts for introductions to other contacts and be sure to follow up to keep your network apprised of your progress.
While it may take longer than simply applying for job openings, creating an effective network is more likely to actually land you the job and help you grow professionally.
5. Stick to Your Action Plan
Once you know what your looking for, have others helping you, polished your application materials, and created a strong network, your final step is to establish an action plan. Yes, we've saved the best for last! Organize your actions into a series of goals and deadlines to keep you moving toward that new job (e.g, reach out to 10 people for an informational interview by X date, revise resume and cover letter by X date, etc.). By holding yourself accountable to specific tasks you provide structure for the process as well as little opportunities for accomplishment and reward. Creating a strategic framework for your search, and sharing it with others on your personal board as discussed above, helps to maintain this accountability.
Searching for a job often becomes a job in and of itself. A focused attitude and a strong action plan can help ensure that it's a rewarding one.
Elana Konstant, author of this article for GoGirl Finance, is a career coach and consultant focusing on professional women in career transition. You can find out more on her website, Konstantchangecoaching.com.