7 Keys to Kickstart Your Job Search!

Rear view of a woman giving resume to an African American woman in office
Rear view of a woman giving resume to an African American woman in office

I recently had the opportunity to collaborate on this blog post with career coach, Janet Andrews, M.A. Our aim is to give you a step by step guide to prepping for your job search - so let's get rolling!

Starting a job search is a bit like embarking on a road trip. You want to be sure to have GPS, a clear destination and plenty of snacks. Plus, it helps if you are excited about the trip and able to enjoy the stops along the way.

These 7 Keys will prepare you to slide into the driver's seat, press on the gas and start heading toward your final destination. And if the trip takes a bit longer than expected, so be it. These keys will give you the confidence to turn up the music, roll down the windows and enjoy the ride.

1. Visualize Your Perfect Job

While it may sound a bit "woo-woo," visualizing is a tool that is commonly used by experts in all fields including sports, business and entertainment. It works because in order to visualize, you must be crystal clear about what you want and why you want it. It takes courage and trust to declare what you want, but skipping this step could cost you days, weeks and months of extra time on the road to your perfect job.

Write out a vision and goals for your new position. Describe your ideal role and include all areas that are important to you, such as key responsibilities, company culture, team, what you want to accomplish, timeline for landing the job, location and compensation. On a separate page, write out what a typical day at your dream job will look like.

After completing this written exercise, envision yourself stepping into your future and feeling the happiness and excitement of your vision materializing. When your heart and mind are in agreement with a vision, you've created an intention point and a higher probability of success.

2. Replace Obstacles with Support Systems

Is there anything getting in the way of you landing your ideal job? Is your family behind you? If you get lost or derailed, do you have a strong circle of friends and colleagues you can call on for support?

Is there one belief or fear that could keep you from moving forward? Are you angry about a layoff or worried that you may not measure up in some way? Negative emotions may be transparent to others and can sabotage your success. Getting confidential support and a listening ear from people you know well, will provide a safe place to vent your emotions so that you can continue your journey with a strong and positive mindset.

Use a journal to identify and write out past work accomplishments, strengths and transferable skills to remind yourself what you bring to the table for a new opportunity.

3. Target Your Ideal Destination

Develop a list of 25+ specific companies in each of your target industries that are of interest to you. You can create this list by doing online research of companies through Google via keywords or doing an Advanced Search on LinkedIn.

Gather feedback from your network by asking contacts for their recommendations of other companies to consider, and if you may personally follow up with their contacts at those companies.

Your "target list" will be a work in progress. Developing this target list puts you in control of your job search by giving you focus for your job search activities, including what professional associations to attend, which LinkedIn Groups to join, where to set up informational interviews and who to request one-on-one coffee meetings with.

Having the list right by your computer as you are interacting online and setting up appointments offline will help you engage faster with individuals in your target companies and serve as a guide for scheduling events and meetings on your calendar.

4. Create a Stellar Resume

Tailor your resume toward each opportunity by aligning your information to the job description, needs of the company and industry keywords. Think of your resume as a marketing tool and "Personal Value Proposition" to sell customers (Human Resources, Hiring Managers, CEOs, Recruiters) on the product (YOU) through benefits, positive outcomes and demonstrations of success throughout your career.

Integrate keyword phrases into your resume that align with your experience and targeted industry to pass the (ATS) Applicant Tracking System scan. Begin sentences and short paragraphs with powerful action verbs to capture attention and emphasize accomplishments. Use bullet points instead of long paragraphs for easier reading.

Prioritize skills, qualifications and accomplishments that best relate to the position you are seeking, so that your resume rises to the top. Demonstrate how you contribute to problem-solving and dynamically impact a company. Create a "Summary Paragraph" tailored to the requirements of the position, instead of an "Objective." The Summary is an overview of your career history, while specifically highlighting your expertise, qualifications, brand and professional strengths that would best fit that role.

Transform responsibilities and activities into results and crowning achievements by using numbers, percentages and dollars, wherever you can, to quantify positive results, outcome and benefits to the company or customer.

5. Optimize your LinkedIn Profile

Focus your LinkedIn profile to reflect your new career goal. Create a headline under your name that includes top searchable keywords for the type of position and target industries you are seeking. Develop a strong Summary and include highlights of quantifiable accomplishments under each position with keywords throughout.

HINT: Adjust settings to "off" (no visibility) while you are making a lot of initial changes, especially if you are keeping your job search private.

Become active on LinkedIn with the intent to develop relationships and build community in your industry, taking conversations offline to set up networking meetings. Comment on and "Like" Postings that are important in your industry. Add relevant postings of your own with links to helpful articles and useful content for your target market that also reflect your subject matter expertise, brand and values.

Add connections of people that you know in your industry, especially with those in your target companies. Follow Companies you are interested in. Write recommendations, ask for recommendations and endorse others that you know. This creates a stronger presence on LinkedIn and also makes it easy to reciprocate.

6. Prepare Solid References

Develop a list of at least 5 potential references to have ready when you receive job offers. Contact references ahead of time to gain permission and confirm their preferred contact information. It is helpful to send them an updated resume in advance, an example of the kind of job you are looking for, and a heads up when you know they are going to be contacted.

To select the best people to serve as references, consider those individuals who know you well in a work setting, can speak about you in positive terms and discuss your work-related qualities. Good resources for references may be past and present employers, including former bosses, direct reports, associates, vendors or clients.

7. Identify the Best Networking Opportunities & Hone Your Pitch

Research and attend the top 4-6 professional association meetings that would attract local industry peers and individuals in your target companies. Join the corresponding Groups on LinkedIn and participate in discussions. Prior to attending an event, email the board members in advance to let them know this is your first time to attend the meeting and ask if they would help introduce you around.

Carve out time after networking meetings to invite people that you have met to join your professional network on LinkedIn. Send notes and invite the best industry contacts for one-on-one coffee meetings.

Get ready to answer the "Tell me about yourself" question by listing top accomplishments, skills, expertise and work experience that relate to the position that you are seeking. This elevator pitch or commercial introduction summarizes who you are, what you do, why you are the perfect candidate and what you are seeking. Prepare a few variations and tailor the highlights of your pitch for each audience and occasion.

A 15-30 second commercial, with less detail, is more appropriate for networking at a group professional association meeting, where there may be distractions and lots of people to network with.

I am a Ph.D. Technology executive in the Life Sciences and Diagnostics field with 15 years of experience.

What I do is develop novel technologies and products that enable the acquisition of new shares of market, provide long term planning for operational execution and build highly interdisciplinary teams.

I am currently seeking new opportunities as a Vice President or Senior Director in the genomic industry that will allow me to use my managerial, technical and operational skills and abilities.

A 60-90 second elevator pitch is recommended for a one-on-one coffee meeting, where you have an opportunity to provide more information.

I am an Internal Audit Executive with over 20 year experience leading internal audit departments for international publicly traded companies.

What I do is ensure proper controls for financial reporting procedures achieve strategic objectives, and company assets are safeguarded.

My expertise includes starting internal audit departments, SOX compliance and taking existing departments beyond SOX compliance with demonstrated success in technical accounting, project management and international business.

Most recently, I worked for a tech company, where I evaluated SOX controls in place, identified control gaps and led a project to implement controls to remediate those gaps. I also led a process improvement team to identify support for revenue recognition of an acquired $25M subsidiary.

I am currently seeking new opportunities as a VP or Executive Director of Internal Audit that will allow me to use my leadership, project management and technical accounting skills.

Once you have these 7 steps under your belt, it is time to chart your course to get to your destination quickly.

Map out your calendar up to two months in advance with professional association meetings, conferences, informational interviews and one-to-one coffee meetings. Be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile updated and active, follow up with referrals and give progress reports to referral sources in a timely manner. Set up job alerts on LinkedIn and other search sites like Indeed.com.

Show appreciation and reciprocate when the opportunity arises. Maximize the benefits of your network by keeping in touch with a quick phone call, email or LinkedIn message. Keep visualizing your success, stay positive excited about where you are going and enjoy the scenery along the way!