For many of us, applying for jobs that look good is as far as our strategy goes. However, job hunting requires reflection, information, and conversation. In order to land a job you’ll love, there are many small steps you have to take.
To help you craft job search strategy you’ll stick with, we have a series of steps for you to follow: define what you want, identify key search activities, and hold yourself accountable.
Define what you want
Get really specific. “I resolve to get a job” or “I’m going to start a new career” is not enough. Vague declarations like these are unlikely to produce results. Imagine driving without your glasses on; without a clear view of the road, the journey is scary and your chance of success is limited. List a goal that is clear and specific:
“I want to find a job at a fair trade organization that sources products made with sensitivity to their social and environmental impact. On the job, I will use my experience building community and organizing initiatives for grassroots organizations.”
“My goal is to support an inner city youth-empowerment organization in my state by finding a job that uses my extensive accounting and bookkeeping skills, as well as my strengths in building positive neighborhood relations.”
These work better because they target a particular type of organization and location, mention prior experience you want to draw from, and outline skills you can use in the job. To tailor your possibilities and write a specific goal, ask yourself these questions:
What strengths am I most known for in my personal and professional life?
Of those, which make me feel most dynamic and empowered when I use them?
How do I want to make a difference?
What cause area do I want to work in?
In what cause areas are my strengths a good fit?
What type of activities are most exciting/fulfilling to me?
What type of work environment do I like?
With the answers you collected, you’re better equipped to visualize your job goal and lead yourself to it.
Identify key activities
Declaring your goal is just a starting point. It won’t come to fruition without a plan (that actually gets implemented). To be hired for a job that matches your goal, ask yourself these questions:
Where will I look for job opportunities? (Hint: Idealist, for one! However, make sure to use a combination of online and offline resources.)
What do I need for an effective job search? (Updated resume, interviewing skills, etc.)
Who in my network can help me and what do I need from them?
Knowing now the tools I need for my job search, how much time will I devote to it each week? (Keep it specific and consistent.)
It’s also helpful to think in SMART terms: select goals and activities that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. “I will get a job in 2 weeks” is specific only in regards to time-frame but not in the scope of work you want to do. Also it is unlikely to be achievable. So go back to your list of plans and use it to map out the indicators of success you will reach along the course. Use these examples as models:
“I will reach out to three people in my network who work in sustainability this week and learn five tips they used to get their jobs.”
“I will create an accomplishment-based resume targeted to fair trade manufacturing careers by January 31st.”
“I will practice my interviewing skills by scheduling three mock interviews by February 15th and reviewing feedback on my performance.”
Be sure to indicate how each of these goals relate to your ultimate goal, and what impact it will have in getting you there.
For example, “After reaching out to my network and doing informational interviews with three people, I will be better equipped to market my skills towards the work I will be doing in sustainability.”
Hold yourself accountable
Holding yourself accountable is important to help you identify your progress. If you don’t have some type of tracking system-even an informal one- in place, you’re not going to know when you’ve met the mark or not. And without clear markers of your progress, you may lose motivation.
If you’re having difficulty, you can use a goal tracker such as Stickk to help you. Once you’ve set up your profile to track your goal, you can also schedule notifications. Stickk will alert you when you have not been successful at your goal. You can also hold yourself accountable by setting an agenda, marking your calendar, and sticking to specific deadline dates.
Another option is to make accountability more “social.” Consider finding a job search buddy or a full-on job search support group (or start your own). Whether one-on-one or in a group, the act of having to report back on whether you’ve completed the actions that you committed to can be quite an effective way of ensuring that things get done! Just imagine having to tell your accountability partner or group that you did not complete all your action items. Now that you’ve got that image, consider how much more likely you will be to finish your tasks.
As you reach those marks of progress, put gold stars next to those activities (you can use literal gold star stickers or your own unique indicator of a job well done). You’re likely to find yourself further along in the job search than you would be if your goal stopped at “I’m going to start a new career tomorrow.”