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By Jolie Miller |

Treat Your Job Search Like a Job

Find a Job

One of the questions I hear most often from job hunters is “where do I start”? It doesn’t matter whether your hunt starts on CareerBuilder or LinkedIn, as long as you have discipline and focus to treat your job search itself like a job–show up prepared, communicate clearly and work well with others, spend the time to get it done, and stand out. This is the biggest single differentiator I’ve seen between people who are on a long and perpetual job hunt, and those who get snapped up right away.

Here are my three favorite tips to help you treat your search itself like a job you’re determined to do well (but hopefully not too often).

Set goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your job hunt

A disorganized job search can quickly become a black hole you pour your time and effort into for little or no return. Instead, start your search with a clear one-sentence goal that spells out in present tense the Skills, Needs, Location, and Timing you’re working toward.

For example, “Within 45 days, I’ll use my writing, editing, and project management skills to be the remote Managing Editor for an east coast publisher who pays me $80k/year.”

Here, the skills are spelled out (writing, editing, project management), as are the needs (remote work, salary range), the location (remote for an east coast company), and timing (within 45 days). Now this is specific, sure, but that’s part of the point–set a goal for yourself, because it’s going to be difficult to achieve it if you don’t know what it is.

Once your goal is set, set some KPIs for your search–indicators you’ll be able to measure to see if you’re making progress. A KPI could be number of resumes you want to send out a week or the ratio of interviews to resumes sent. For example, you might set the goal of sending out five resumes a week or having a 40% return rate on applications–for every 10 you send, you expect 4 interviews back. Set expectations for yourself based on how aggressively you’re searching for the job, when you need it to start, and how much time you have to devote.

Invest in people

This includes you, and it includes your network, the group of peers in your industry, and the like. Job hunting is the perfect excuse to invest in yourself and your relationships. Quite often, I’ve heard folks on the job hunt tell me they don’t have time to learn something new (how to use Excel, handle upset customers, or write basic HTML) because they’re busy–wait for it–job hunting. I counter with: If you can’t invest in yourself now, you’re definitely not going to have the time to learn that Excel once you’re in the whirlwind of the new job. Make the time.

And this extends beyond you too–now’s the right moment to reconnect with that colleague you admired two jobs back just to have a coffee and discover what he’s doing these days.

LinkedIn groups are calling your name, also–find your tribe and start contributing by asking thoughtful questions and answering those of others. Twitter chats, where you contribute to a global, real-time conversation on a given topic in your industry (you can find one on just about any topic) give you a chance to show thought leadership and contribute to conversation and learning.

Write a blog, publish an article. Make the time to invest in people, not just because you’re looking for something yourself, but without any expectation of return. Building relationships with other people can take you in the most serendipitous places, often at just the right moment.

Present yourself with polish

Job hunting is marketing, and your collateral and your delivery says a lot about you. A good resume gets you a long way in the world of job hunting. So do business cards. So does confident speaking that’s free of ums and ahs and awkward pauses. First, let’s consider your resume. There are three main resume types you’ll encounter (excluding the CV, which is popular for academic roles).

Chronological: chronological (or more accurately reverse-chronological) resumes start by highlighting your work experience, starting with the most recent position and working backwards. I usually suggest listing the last 2-3 jobs or most recent 10 years of work experience, depending on your situation. This is the one employees like to see most often, and it’s great if you’re staying within your industry or have steady work experience to highlight.

Functional: functional resumes start with a quick summary of who you are and then highlight skill sets, such as graphic design, project management, marketing, or sales, and list major achievements underneath those, listing work experience further down on the page and just in one line per job role. This is a great resume choice for students new to the work force and looking to transfer skills from academia to the world of work, for job changers looking to switch industries, or for those with big gaps in employment.

Combination: combination resumes, as you might imagine, combine chronological and functional, starting with a summary, and then diving into work experience with details underneath where you can highlight your skills and achievements in context of a role. This is also popular with employers and gives you a chance to show your well-roundedness.

To learn more about each type of resume and see examples and pros and cons, watch Personalizing the resumé from my course Job Hunting Online.

Outside of the resume, if you have budget for it, consider making a small batch of 50-100 business cards with your contact information, a title that sums up your experience (Online Marketing Manager, for example), and perhaps a nice quote that’s meaningful to you on the back. These cards say you’re treating your job search and your professional reputation with care and help you stand out, especially if you’re currently unemployed.

Practice, practice, practice

Finally, practice speaking with confidence to get ready for the interviews. Grab a buzzer from a board game (Taboo, for example) and sit down with a friend doing practice interviews. Have the friend buzz you whenever you throw in filler language like “um, uh” etc to become aware of how often you’re using these crutch words. Then practice rephrasing your answers with clear, confident sentences.

Before I answer any job interview question, I always ask myself, what is the interviewer looking to see/hear in my answer? It might be that they’re looking for confidence, mastery of a subject, agility, flexibility–tailor your response to their needs.

When you take the time to treat your job search as seriously as you would the job you hope to get, you build the self-discipline of a top-tier candidate and prepare yourself for the schedule and expectations the next job will have for you. Happy hunting!

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