“Strategy is not the consequence of planning,
but the opposite: its starting point.” ~ Henry Mintzberg
Now that we’ve addressed the steps to a positive attitude and reducing stress, it’s time to plan the strategy for your job search. Sometimes change can be good, even exciting and rewarding! Whether you’re looking for an internship or your first permanent full-time position, seeking reemployment or interested in changing jobs, the process is the same: first, you must develop your overall job-search strategy.
Planning for a job search in today’s complex and competitive environment might seem to be an overwhelming task, but as a student or professional, you’ve no doubt managed assignments and projects. And, if you’ve ever played chess or studied Mintzberg in your MBA program, you certainly know about strategic planning. But you also know how to create a strategic plan if you’ve volunteered to chair a fundraiser, campaigned for a leadership position in a club, planned a wedding or run a household!
Developing a strategic plan for your job search is no different. Here are the steps:
- Establish a vision and ultimate goal: Where do you want to be in your career in three, five, and ten years down the road? How does your current job search fit in with your long-range goals?
- Consider your current position and your immediate mission: What do you need to accomplish right now? Are you just beginning your career, are you in the middle of it, or do you just need to bridge the short gap between now and your retirement or next phase of your life? Are you currently employed, between jobs or returning to the job market after a hiatus (due to military service, travel after college, rearing children or extended illness or injury)? Are you looking for an entry-level or advanced professional position?
- Target your job search: Identify your target market by defining the industry (ies) in which you want to work and the geographical territory you desire and decide if you are willing to relocate. Then, focus on positions that are the best fit for you and tailor your documents to them; sending fewer customized resumes to such targeted positions tends to be more effective than sending out many resumes haphazardly.
- Assess your industry’s job market opportunities: What is the current state of your chosen profession and industry? What are the trends that could affect your current and future job and career goals, and how will they direct your present strategy?
- Measure your skills against supply and demand: Do you have all the current hard skills necessary for the position you seek? Do you need additional training in any area? Are your soft skills in line with those that employers are seeking in a candidate? Are you a fit with today’s workplace culture, and particularly with your target companies’ corporate cultures?
- Assemble your tools: Construct a powerful and effective basic prototype resume that you will customize to fit each position to which you apply; prepare a prototype cover letter that can be customized accordingly; write a compelling and succinct positioning statement that you will use in written and oral communications; compile your list of talking points – including success stories — that you can bring into play at interviews; prepare your list of references; and put together your portfolio of work samples, accolades, certificates and other exhibits.
- List your tasks and decide on your tactics: What are the steps you need to take, what is the timing of each step, how do they synchronize with each other and how do you plan to discharge and orchestrate them?
- Coordinate all lines of communication to market yourself effectively: Email, cell phone, social media, website applications, snail mail, networking events and other face-to-face meetings are all effective means of communications that should all be orchestrated for a multi-media approach.
- Update your network and use it wisely: Update your network of contacts and record it on a spreadsheet or database for easy reference and updating. Organize in tiers and categories. For example, Tier One should be your strongest contacts: personal, social and business contacts with whom you are in regular and current contact, including new contacts that you hope to develop. Tier Two should be solid contacts with whom you are in occasional contact, and Tier Three are current but very casual acquaintances as well as those from your past you’ve known or met but with whom you’ve not been in contact for awhile. Once you’ve sorted out your contacts and brought your network up to date, you will have a good handle on those to whom you should be reaching out.
- Remove or work around obstacles: Are you aware of the competition for the position you seek? Do you have something in your past that you need to explain? Is your credit rating less than stellar? Anticipate such issues and prepare to explain or take preemptive steps to correct them.
Planning your job-search strategy is not unlike planning your career strategy. You need to develop a plan that comprises your desires, talents, skills, vision and mission, and the flexibility to make necessary changes along the way.
These steps will be addressed in depth in future entries, beginning next week.
Until next time,