Winning Career Strategy: Research First, Job Search Last

Winning Career StrategyAre you super frustrated with your job search, but you’re not sure why it’s not taking you anywhere?

I might have some insight. One of my primer questions is, “What’s your job search strategy?”

And it’s nearly always answered like this:

“Well I get online every day and…”

It doesn’t matter what the rest of that sentence is, really. Because it nearly always ends the same way.

“…and nothing’s happening.”

After hearing this over and over, I realized that many grads might be lulled into some bad math. Maybe because they’re first introduced to the process through campus job fairs and interviews. To get ready for those events, you write a resume, and then practice mock interviews. That part of the job search is very “event-driven.”

As a result, grads might think, mistakenly, that the Job Search is boiled down to “Resumes + Job Interviews = Job”.

Yes, your resume and the job interview are important components of a job search. But they are not the ONLY components. Once you leave campus, you need the job search skills for getting out there and doing the heavy lifting necessary to get the job.

Take, for example, Sarah, a capable job seeker worthy of a great job…

Sarah came to me wanting to move out of a corporate communications role. She’d rather have a role where she’s working more one-on-one with people, behind the scenes, helping them look their best, prepping them with the right sound bytes, advising them on messaging, etc… Kind of like a stylist/speech writer/media coach.

Her background in PR, communications, media, and writing are really a good fit. But her resume was a complete “Look Back”. By that, I mean it was filled with the places she’d been in her previous jobs. The resume lacked focus on the places she wanted to go. This is why none of the employers where she had applied for had taken her seriously.

I gave Sarah a homework assignment. I told her to spend the next two weeks completely focused on research.

By doing the research she’ll be in a much better spot to figure out what her marketing materials should say. And she’ll have more direction, focus, and intention when she refocuses on her job search. Most importantly, she’ll better understand the needs of her future employer.

Here are some actions she’s taking (and you can too!) to get ready:

  • Add more LinkedIn connections to her network to build critical mass in her connections
  • Come up with a profile for the kind of work she is interested in (be as specific and thorough as possible; list out what all she would do in that role)
  • Make a list of the kind of people who need that work done
  • Identify 20 to 30 organizations that do that kind of work (In a niche market, she has more potential than experience, she’s focusing on small to medium sized organizations)
  • Research everything you can on those organizations: What are their biggest wins, challenges, competitors? Who are their customers? What defines success for them?
  • Find 20 or 30 individuals in those organizations doing the kind of work she’s interested in (be aggressive about searching LinkedIn and other portals to find them, especially in her geographic area.)
  • Find 20 or 30 people who are connected to the people she sees as potential clients or customers for this kind of work; find out where they go when they need help
  • Canvass her LinkedIn alumni to make connections with alumni both in her local area, and in that field
  • Set a goal for getting informational interviews
  • Use existing PR connections she already had; not to look for jobs, but to find out where the people, companies, consultants, contractors who are already doing work with people that might be offering the services she wants to work doing
  • Search for and join LinkedIn groups that talk about her content area… then follow, ask questions, discuss, and connect
  • Follow organizations on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter that play in her desired space
  • Keep lots of notes!

There’s lots more she can do, because she’ll learn along the way and it will inspire other thoughts.

This is the kind of groundwork she can come back to me with; the information she needs to win the job search battle. She’ll shift her focus off “resume + job interview” and into information gathering. Once she has a better view of her potential market, we can shape a clear strategy, develop personal marketing materials and point her job search in the right direction.

Presenting a resume and jumping into job interviews before you are truly ready is a losing proposition.

Research first. Job search last!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!



LeaAbout the Author: Lea McLeod helps recent grads and mid-careerists navigate the job search. And once you have a job, she’ll coach you to the brilliant performance of which you are capable! Her “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop has been deployed to help thousands of college hires worldwide do just that. Follow her on Twitter and her blog:


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