10 Steps to an Effective Job Search Strategy

Career SearchAn Effective Job Search is the Result of an Effective Job Search Plan

How you approach your job search is essential to its success. A few things in life can be spontaneous and approached with a “let’s see what happens” attitude, however I feel that your job search is not one of those things.

Call me crazy, but I feel that it is better to have a solid job search plan, especially since we spend so much of our lives at work. If I am going to have to do work, I would like it to be something from which I feel rewarded.

We Need a Plan

My personal view is I don’t live to work, rather I work to live. That being said, I still feel the job search is an important enough decision to warrant some careful planning.

As a Certified Personal Branding Strategist, consultant, and talent management specialist, I see so many professionals making some big mistakes in their job search. It often is the result of a bigger issue of not having much of a career plan in general. Many simply drift to their careers. Besides the choice to go to college and study a particular major, many drift through their careers.

Kind of explains why the the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times (with an average of 11 job changes) during his or her career. A good amount of time is spent changing employment. Job searching and networking, along with staying on top of the job market, has become an integral part of everyday work life, rather than something you do once or twice during your career

To help you in your career planning, I am offering 10 Steps to an Effective Job Search. I know that your priority is currently to get a job so you can pay the bills, but once you land your job, and you will, promise me you will take a step back and actually put some serious effort into developing your career development plan. You’ll be glad you did. Promise?


10 Steps to an Effective Job Search Plan

1. Prepare: Prepare for what’s ahead. Be prepared. Save yourself some time and heart ache and spend some time preparing for what’s ahead. Don’t “wing it”! This really isn’t the kind of thing you should leave to chance and hope it just all pans out. That would be a good way to find yourself in a job you don’t want or always looking back and kicking yourself because you missed a great opportunity, because you weren’t prepared.

2. Realize: Realize how you approach searching for a job has changed. Especially if you have not been in the job market for awhile, you may not realize there are a lot more you have to do than simply updating your resume, writing a cover letter, and apply for a position. The sooner you realize your need to research what you need to do differently and some effective approaches to compensate for those differences, the more effective you will be in getting the job you want.

3. Accept: Accept your unfortunate circumstance or situation. I don’t know the reason why you are searching for a job at this point in your life, it could be due to a bad economy, company layoffs, a divorce, or just because you need something to do between 9 to 5 PM each day. Regardless, accept your situation and move forward. Notice I said, “Accept”, not “Agree”. You may be 100% the victim here and you may have every reason to be mad, hurt, or indifferent. My point is simple: it is next to impossible to make serious progress if you are constantly looking back at the past. The longer that wound is left open the harder it is to heal. Although you may not agree with your circumstances, accept that it happened and you will make it through this.

4. Brand: Brand yourself. A strong, competitive personal brand is essential to the success of today’s professional. The professional must approach their job search and career plan must differently than the past. So much has change with the bad economy, high unemployment rate, and the rise of social media. It’s not enough to have a resume and simply apply to a job. Today’s professional must have a personal brand that can position them for opportunities.

This is NOT about having a logo or a web page. This is NOT about self-promotion. Although there is a time for promoting your skills and abilities in your career, your personal brand is about you discovering, understanding, and making sense of –You. It is about understanding yourself in such a way that it helps you with making better career choices and actually ending your day feeling satisfied with the work you did.

Make no mistake about it, you need to put some effort into this process of building your own brand.

Go here to learn more about personal branding.

5. Align: Align your marketing assets with your personal brand. Now that you have done the work in discovering and defining your personal brand, you want to design some basic marketing assets that align with your brand image. You want a clear and consistent brand theme that packages each of your assets together. In other words, the assets should look like they were well thought out and that they represent the same person – YOU.


Create your basic marketing assets:

  • Cover letter that clearly “sells” you as the best match for the position to which you are applying.
  • Résumé updated with the understanding that you may need to “Re-Do” it. My experience has shown me it is more likely you need to re-do your résumé. Remember, you have already Realized things have changed. One big change is how you must craft and optimize your résumé. There are some new strategies regarding your résumé you must begin to incorporate into your search if it is going to effectively represent you and also make it past the scanning software. I have seen so many bad resumes in my time as a recruiter, which is why I recommend you update your résumé only if you are willing to understand it is more likely you need to totally re-do it so it brands you the right way.
  • 30-second Elevator Pitch that paints a vivid picture of what you are known for and what you offer your next employer. 
  • LinkedIn profile optimized so you can not only find job opportunities online, but also so you can “Be Found” by recruiters and employers with the targeted “key words” of your industry.
  • Brag Book documenting and “proving your claims of achievement and sales accomplishment.
  • Business cards that are memorable and make it easy for other to reach you when networking.
  • Thank you letter/email that is more than just a thank you for allowing me to interview letter. This is one of your big chances to impress and stand out from all the other being interviewed for the position. If you aren’t sure what you should do here, then another good reason to consider a certified personal branding coach.
  • Voice mail that is professional and doesn’t have your kids screaming in the background, or is some lengthy message. Keep it brief and professional.

Each of these marketing assets should carry a consistent theme that clearly represents who you are as a personal brand. Remember, there is a lot of power in first impressions. Make them good ones.

6. Practice: Practice answering interview questions. Practice both traditional and behavioral interview questions. Be sure to practice these out loud with a trusted family member, friend, or better yet coach. This is important because it always sounds better in your head than it does when it actually goes over your lips to be spoken out loud. Gather a list of the most common interview questions and think through your answers. Keep in mind most behavioral interview questions must be answer in a specific format called, S.T.A.R., so you’ll need to structure your answers appropriately. The bottom line is you must practice.

7. Get: Get a career or personal branding coach. A good personal branding coach can help make this whole process more effective and less stressful for you. You may not want to expense, or think you don’t need one, but it may be a tax deduction for you (job search expenses are something to talk to your tax adviser about) and you may need one more than you think.

Certified Professional Branding Strategist/Coach

How do you know if you really need a personal branding coach?

1) You think the interviewer actually wants to have you tell them about yourself, when they ask the interview question, “So, Tell Me About Yourself”.

2) Your answer to, “what are your strengths?” is: “I’m a self-starting, hardworking, people-person.” Really? Come on! Call me. We really need to talk.

3) You respond to the question, “Why should I hire you for this position?” with something like, “because you really, really, really want the job and you’ll work harder for it.” Please tell me you wouldn’t say this.

If you are NOW in need of a personal branding coach, read this.


8. Market: Market yourself by getting yourself in front of your target audience. Get a target list of the jobs you would like, the companies you’d like to work, and the people you need to connect with who make the hiring decisions. Take those lists and create a simple weekly marketing plan on how you are going to get the job. Marketing is largely about visibility, so professionally communicate your services are now available.

For example, I would recommend you spend a little time each week on Linkedin.com making connections, searching opportunities, networking with employees who work at the companies you wish to work and the hiring managers so your resume gets to those actually making the decisions. You need to put yourself in front of people and professionally inform them that you are seeking opportunities. Be ready to share your 30-second Elevator Pitch to differentiate yourself. A little time each week can pay off big dividends in your job search efforts.

Don’t spend all of your job search time online. Only about 10% of available jobs are posted online. This means many jobs may be found from connecting with those online for jobs that aren’t posted. Don’t overlook this important pool of jobs.

Check Out the, Top 10 Most Effective Job Search Websites


9. Network: Network to connect and offer a mutually beneficial resource. Networking in short is about connecting with people. People are connected to companies, other people, and valuable resources, which are all something we can all benefit from. The two points I will make about networking at this time are:

  • Networking is responsible for more people landing their job than any other strategy. Think about it.
  • Networking must be about giving first before taking. Make no mistake about it there should be both give and take, however it is much easier to receive when you know you have given to your network.

No one wants to be that person that is always asking from their network but rarely gives back. There is a balance you must figure out to create a healthy network.

10. Celebrate: Celebrate your success at finding a job that you actually enjoy and is capable of helping you reach your goals. You’ve worked hard. You deserve it.

I Said, “Effective”, not “Easy.”

Take these 10 Steps for an Effective Job Search to make sure you land the career you want. I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be effective. My thoughts were that you would want something effective over something that was just easy, since “easy” won’t pay the bills.

I’m going to let you go now. You’ve got work to do in getting yourself back to work. Best of luck.


Contact Brent Wells for some extra assistance with your job search and career planning. If interested in building your personal brand, check this out –A Personal Approach to Personal Branding.


by Brent Wells

About Brent Wells

Brent has 20 years’ experience in training and development, both with small businesses and Fortune 500 companies. His agency is focused on career development, personal branding and talent management strategies.

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