The real truth is that there’s no one perfect way to find a job. Every option has upsides and downsides.
Apply online? You’ll be trying to stand out among hundreds — if not thousands — of candidates with similar resumes. Apply through a friend? Referrals work — but PayScale’s data show that they can also cost some candidates (read: women and people of color) when it’s time to negotiate. Cold call or email employers? The ROI is pretty low and you better have thick skin.
The best way to mitigate these limitations is not to rely on any one single source for leads. Instead, create a multi-prong approach to finding your next job.
1. Make a Strategy
The first step is to make a plan, using all the options at your disposal, not just one or two potential job sources.
You might, for example, find leads on job boards and employer sites and then look for connections to current employees on LinkedIn. Then, ask close contacts for referrals (armed with data on how much the job should pay, to offset the possibility of being low-balled during negotiations).
At the same time, you could set aside time to beef up your network by refreshing connections to old coworkers, roommates, people who volunteered with you at the same org, etc.
The point is not to put all your job-search eggs in one employment basket.
2. Commit to the Process
You’re not going to find the perfect job in a day … or a week or a month, probably. Prepare yourself to be in this for the long haul.
Commit to the process instead of the destination. Set aside time on a regular basis to dedicate to job searching. Then, be flexible about how you use that time, according to how you’re feeling that day.
Let’s say you reserve an hour during the evenings three times a week to job search. Monday evening, you might not have the mental energy to reach out to networking contacts. So, instead, update your resume or your LinkedIn profile or make a list of employers to target in your search.
By Wednesday, maybe you’ll be feeling social. Ride that wave and email some people for coffee dates or attend a networking event last-minute.
Committing to the process will mitigate the frustration that often comes with looking for a new job. It will also ensure that your head is in the game, so that you can recognize opportunities when they appear.
3. Set Your Goals
Why are you looking for work? If you’re unemployed, the answer is simple: to keep the lights on. But even if that’s the case, chances are that you want more from work than a paycheck.
Take some time to figure out what’s important to you, so that you can focus your search more effectively. Do you want more money? A brand-name employer to enhance your job prospects down the line? Better work-life balance? A less crappy commute?
Make a physical list — and be honest with yourself. No one is looking over your shoulder and judging what you put down. It’s your job search — your career — and you deserve to get from it what you want.
4. Ask for Help
Some career experts say that as many as 70 percent of jobs are found through networking. It’s a good bet that not all of those jobs were direct connections, e.g. “Hey, Uncle Joe, can you get me an interview at Megacorporation A?”
Instead, many networking successes are more roundabout. Uncle Joe might not have a lead for an opening at his company, but he might be able to set up an informational interview with someone who has your dream job — and that person might lead you to take a class that enhances your skills and gets you closer to your goals.
You might also ask for help raising your profile, whether it’s tapping your college roommate to proofread your resume or asking your design-savvy friend to help you get your personal website together.
Just remember that the best way to get help is to give it. Now’s a good time to think about what you can do for your contacts. Can you give some LinkedIn recommendations or offer to write a reference letter? Is there a job opening at your current employer that would be perfect for your best friend? Help them, and they’ll remember you the next time opportunity arises.
5. Be Persistent
You’re going to have setbacks in your job search process. Hiring managers who seemed enthused during the interview will ghost you afterward. Promising leads won’t pan out. What seems like the perfect gig will turn out to pay thousands less than it should.
It’s OK to get frustrated. Just don’t make a trend out of an isolated incident. Today’s crummy interview isn’t a sign that you’re a bad candidate (or that all hiring managers are jerks). Tomorrow’s awkward networking event doesn’t mean that you’ve forgotten how to talk to new people or that your elevator pitch is headed to the basement.
Keep showing up. In the long run, bad days don’t matter. What matters is what you do most days. Don’t give up.
6. Take Breaks
Persistence is essential, sure, but no one can keep going on all cylinders forever. Looking for work can feel like a full-time job. You need a break from it, just like you need a break from your actual job.
So, plan a non-networking social event, or get some exercise, or just take a night to catch up on your Netflix and zone out for a bit. Give yourself a chance to recharge, and you’ll be surprised at how much more energy you have to devote to your job search.
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