In 1989, Dr.Stephen R. Covey wrote an excellent book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I highly recommend this book to anyone, in a job search or in a job!
These are Dr. Covey's list of recommended habits, with descriptions adapted to apply to job search.
7 Habits of Highly-Effective Job Seekers
1. Be proactive.
Passively sitting at a computer, clicking on the "Apply" button doesn't pay off often enough to spend more than an hour a day at it. That job search strategy is purely reactive because the only option is to search and to respond to what is available at the exact moment of that search.
Additionally, a job board-based job search is very highly competitive right now, because so many people are doing exactly (and only) that same thing. Rather than re-actively waiting to see what jobs are posted on a job board, pro-actively explore ways to discover where the job you want may be lurking, waiting for you to find it.
- Get back in touch with old friends, former classmates, and former neighbors. See what they are doing. Perhaps you can help them. Perhaps they can help you.
- Connect with former co-workers via a corporate alumni group (check for a LinkedIn Group or Google "[company name] alumni") to see how they are and what they have been doing since you worked together. Perhaps learn if they know of anyone - in your old gang or not - who might know who would be hiring someone doing what you want to do.
- Find a job search support group where you can exchange leads and local job market news with other job seekers.
- Go to that professional association meeting where you may learn something when you listen to a speaker, have the opportunity to talk with real live people, and perhaps discover who is hiring, what, where.
- Schedule informational interviews to learn more about a field, an industry, or an employer, particularly if you are changing careers.
Or, better, do all of those things.
2. Begin with the end in mind.
If someone asks you what you are looking for, your answer must be short, specific, believable, and memorable to be effective.
A general, vague answer ("Oh, I could do anything in retail or accounting" or "A regular paycheck!") leaves the impression that you don't know what you want or are not very knowledgeable. Being vague results in fewer opportunities, NOT in more opportunities.
Think about finding a good place to live, shopping for groceries, or fighting a war. None are easily accomplished without knowing what you want -- understanding what you goal is -- and focusing on that goal or target.
Please note: a paycheck is not a goal. A paycheck is the result of reaching the goal of finding a job. The best goal is the right job for you so you have a steady stream of paychecks.
Know the job you want and make a list of at least 10 to 20 target employers (which can change over time). Chances are very good that -- if you take that approach -- you'll end up in a job you like and will succeed in.
3. Put first things first.
Prioritize your job search tasks. Set up a spreadsheet, or use a free web app, like JibberJobber.com to keep track of your activities. Focus, and work at finding your new job.
4. Think win-win.
This is the key to successful networking. Help the people in your network as much, or more, than they help you. Share information about networking events, leads that aren't appropriate for you, great articles (like this one!), news, LinkedIn connections, and other things that make someone else's job search easier.
This is also the key to connecting with employers. While it is easy in a job search to focus on why landing a job is good for you, it is as important - if not more - to show to the employer why hiring you would be good for them. I call this the W-I-I-F-T: What's-In-It-For-Them if they hire you? How can hiring you solve problems for them? Focus on making sure that is clear to the employer.
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Before you tell an employer how great you are, find out as much as you can about them, and what they need. In sales, this is called learning the client's "pain." This will help you see - and explain - how you can help them. If you immediately jump into how great you are, you may completely miss learning what they need so you can customize your explanation of your greatness to target their needs.
You explain how well you are at "leaping tall buildings in a single bound" but they need someone who can wash the building's windows. Oops!
Better, focus on learning what they need. In order to be the answer to their problems, you must understand what problems they have. Asking about the employers needs and goals - and really listening to the answers - can be a very effective approach in a job interview. Don't be afraid to take notes, either. Note taking demonstrates that you are really listening.
Two heads are usually much better than one, that's why the saying is a cliche - because it's true. It is often true in a job search as well. Find one or more job search buddies. If you can afford to hire a job search coach, do it (after carefully checking references!). Join a job search support group. You will often find them - or postings about them - at your local public library, in local places of worship, even in city hall, and local high schools. We also have a large list of them on Job-Hunt.org.
If you went to college, perhaps the college career center can provide some help for you, even if it is only connecting you with the alumni association (which is excellent networking). If they don't provide help, ask for an alumni directory or list of alumni working for your target employers or working in your field so you can expand your network and get more help with your job search.
7. Sharpen the saw.
Continue to learn and grow in knowledge and skill even when you don't have a job. This is SO important for job seekers, particularly if the job search drags on more than a few months, which seems to be more common these days.
- Sign up for temporary work in your field (or as close as you can get to your field). Go after contract assignments if you can't get temporary work.
- Volunteer in a role related to your job search goals for a non-profit - if your target job is social media marketing, help a non-profit with their social media marketing.
- Look for internships (regardless of your age).
- Take classes - free online webinars, local adult education, workshops at local colleges or universities.
Follow me on GooglePlus and Twitter (@JobHuntOrg) for more job search tips. Join the Job-Hunt Help LinkedIn Group for more help with your job search. This article was original posted on WorkCoachCafe.com.
Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is also a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In addition to HuffingtonPost.com, Susan also contributes to AOL Jobs, LinkedIn, YouTern.com, NextAvenue.org, and BrazenCareerist.