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Here’s How To Effectively Structure Your Job Search Efforts

Rear view of the brunette woman who is looking at the wall with colourful icons about job vacancies. A concept of recruitment process. Internship and graduate programmes. Concrete wall.

Job searching is a lot like being an entrepreneur.

There are tons of shiny objects, it’s easy to get distracted, and it’s challenging to know which activity will yield the highest ROI.

I am often asked, “What is the most effective way to structure my job search activities?”

One thing is for sure.  If 80% of jobs are landed through networking, you do not want to spend the bulk of your time applying for jobs online.

So what SHOULD you be doing?  And how often?  Let’s break it down.

HOW MANY HOURS PER WEEK SHOULD I SPEND ON MY JOB SEARCH?

The total hours you spend job searching depends on whether or not you are currently working.

You want to strike the balance between spending ENOUGH time on your job search (a couple hours a week won’t do it) and not burning yourself out (then your job search is out the window anyways.)

A general rule of thumb is:

  • Currently Working:  10+ hours/week
    • If you are in a super stressful job where you work lots of overtime, this will look different than if you are in a moderately stressful 40 hour a week job.
  • Out of job:  25+ hours
  • Out of job with a short financial runway:  30+ hours
    • The shorter your financial runway, the more time you want to spend.

Try out one of these suggestions and monitor how you feel at the end of the week.  If you are exhausted, cut back an hour or two.  If you still have some energy in the tank, add on an hour or two more.

JOB SEARCH ACTIVITY BREAKDOWN

OK, here’s the deal.

What I’d really love to tell you here is….

  • Spend 5 hours a week doing XYZ
  • Spend 10 hours a week doing ABC, etc.

But the reality is, everyone is starting from a different place.  

So where you spend the bulk of your job search time depends on where you are in the career change spectrum.  

This can’t be a one-size-fits-all because each of you reading this has a unique situation.  Some of you have your marketing material on point.  Others need to do a major overhaul.  Some of you have built up a healthy network.  Others of you haven’t been networking at all.

The one thing I can say no matter where you are in the spectrum, is RIGHT NOW you need to be spending at least 40% of your time on networking- related activities.  This is because:

  1. 80% of jobs are landed through networking
  2. Networking is a LONG game.  So you can continue to chip away at the rest of your job search while you network.

That being said, go through this checklist in the order listed below, to determine where YOU need to spend the bulk of your time.

Once a step is complete, cross it off your list and move on to the next thing.

STEP 1:  ROLE TARGET CLARITY

Do you have clarity on what job title you are targeting?

Stop.  Do not pass ‘go’ without it.

The role you are targeting will affect how you brand your resume.  Generic resumes do not work.

It will affect how you brand your LinkedIn profile, your elevator pitch, and even how you tackle your networking strategy.

Many a client has come to me after initially going to a resume writer and realizing they need role clarity first in order to move forward.  

STEP 2:  UPDATED AND TARGETED MARKETING MATERIAL 

Once you have role clarity, is your resume and LinkedIn……

  1. Up to date?  (add recent jobs, new quantifiable accomplishments, etc)
  2. Targeted in your new direction?  

Let’s talk targeting.

I advise all my clients to pull up at least 6 job descriptions for the job title they are targeting.

List out the commonalities in requirements and key words common to all six.

Now pull out commonalities common to five out of six.

Four out of six.

Your marketing material needs to reflect these elements.

Draft out examples of a time you did each thing listed (or something similar demonstrating transferable skills) in a previous role.  Now update your marketing material accordingly.

Don’t leave it up to the hiring manager to connect the dots between your marketing material and the job you are applying for.  

*Bonus Points*  Create an online portfolio of your work.  It may feel time-consuming to do so, but this is time well spent because it will allow you to stand out from the pack.

I did something similar using visualcv.com back when I was in communications.  Sharing this link with hiring managers got me in the side door more than once.

STEP 3:  NETWORKING

If your marketing material is on point, then the bulk of your job search efforts should be spent on networking-based activities.  

But even for those of you working on steps 1 and 2, you should still spend about 40% of your time networking.

TARGET COMPANY NETWORKING

But, don’t have conversations aimlessly.

Start by creating a target company list.  

Share this list with your inner circle (go through your facebook list, old colleagues, your hairdresser, etc) and ask if they know anyone who works at these companies.  

Ask if they’d be willing to make a virtual introduction so that you might learn more about the company culture.

And then have as many conversations as possible with people within the four walls of your target companies.

Track your networking activities on a spreadsheet.

Every day, go through your spreadsheet of people who work at your target companies and ask yourself, how can I be of service or add value to this human? 

Do at least one thing a day that builds a relationship.

Comment, like, and reshare their LinkedIn posts (adding your own perspective.)

Send a thoughtful article relevant to a previous conversation.

Offer to make an introduction for them.

VIRTUAL COMMUNITY NETWORKING

Research all the upcoming virtual events for people in your industry and mark your calendar.

Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups for people in your industry.  (Ask them when/where the next big event is.)

Join industry associations.

Join leadership groups.

LINKEDIN CONNECTIONS

Connect on LinkedIn to hiring managers, recruiters, and talent acquisition from each of your target companies.  (Send a message with the connection request.)

Engage in their posts.  If they are looking to hire a role that you aren’t qualified for, connect them to someone else in your network.  Look for a way to be of service at least once a day.

STEP 4:  JOB SEARCH & APPLYING

There is nothing wrong with occasionally scanning job boards.  

But when there are on average 250 applicants per corporate role (pre-COVID), statistically you do not want this to be the bulk of your time.  Don’t get sucked into this black hole.  Limit the amount of time you spend doing this.

Instead, set up daily alerts for job titles you are targeting on LinkedIn, Indeed, Google, etc.  Set aside 30 minutes to review your job alerts every morning.

If you have at least 80% of qualifications, apply online.

Spend 30 minutes or so customizing your resume and cover letter for every job you apply to.

The more times you do this, the bigger your accomplishment “vault” will become.  Keep a longer “master” resume.  You can pluck out relevant accomplishments for each job application and this will help you move faster.

Visit jobscan.co to scan your resume with your job description and this will cut down on your time as well.

If you have less than 80% of qualifications, find a side door.

Best case scenario, you’ve built up your network at your target companies and can get a referral.

Otherwise, check LinkedIn to see if you know anyone that works there that can refer you or get you an introduction.  Also check your Alma Mater LinkedIn page as this is another way to potentially get an introduction.

If you truly can find no common connections, send the hiring manager a message on LinkedIn.  Let them know you are interested in the role but had a few questions and would love to learn more.  The goal is to get into a human conversation with a decision maker.

If you don’t have an online portfolio of your work, spend time finding other ways to stand out.  Research, research, research the company pain points.  Think about how this relates to your department.  Dangle a carrot for the hiring manager, sharing a framework for how you would approach this pain point (and that you’d love to discuss more.)

Keep a job search tracking spreadsheet and track your follow ups.  Review daily to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

STEP 5:  POSITION YOURSELF AS AN EXPERT

Once again, how much time you spend here depends on how dialed in you are with the previous steps.  But you should spend at least an hour or so each week positioning yourself as the expert at your target role.

This could involve thought leadership.  Writing LinkedIn articles.  Or if you curate and share LinkedIn articles be sure to also add your unique take.

Depending on how much time you have left in your week, pro bono projects are a great way to get experience, when you don’t have any yet.  They are also a great way to get your foot in the door to potentially land a role.  Or at the very least keep your skills fresh (and be able to answer “what have you been up to?” if you haven’t been working.)

Don’t get a certification just for the sake of it.  Do get an additional certification if multiple job descriptions call for it or if others in the industry advise you that this will make you a more attractive candidate.

INTERVIEWING

This isn’t classified as a step, but obviously once you land an interview most other activities will be put on hold as you spend the bulk of your time interview prepping.

Just be sure you don’t stop networking or interviewing with other companies just for one role.  

PLANNING & TIME BLOCKING

So now, you understand what an effective job search looks like, how to prioritize, and approximately how many hours a week to spend on job searching.

Every Sunday night, map out your week.  

Transform your to do list DIRECTLY into your calendar.  If you don’t schedule it, it isn’t real.

For example:

9:30-10:00:  Check Job Alerts

10:00-11:00:  Customize resume/cover letter and apply to jobs 80% qualified for.  

11:00-11:30:  Review Networking spreadsheet for connections who work at companies I’m 80% or less qualified for to request an introduction.  

If it feels intense, use the Pomodoro technique – a time management method breaking work into intervals usually 25 minutes in length separated by short breaks.

In addition to a weekly schedule, each morning create daily goals.  Choose the 3 most important things you want to get done for the day.  

HUMAN MAINTENANCE

You aren’t a robot.

Make sure you take care of yourself so you stay out of the burnout zone.

Check out the book, “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod for ways to stay refreshed.

For example, every morning spend:

  • 5 minutes meditating
  • 5 minutes reviewing your gratitude list
  • 30 minutes exercising (even a brisk walk)

GET SOME HELP

Job seeking is not cookie-cutter.

Seek out a career coach who can help customize your job strategy by tailoring it to your specific goals and situation. 

Your coach is trained to help you troubleshoot where you aren’t getting traction and help you adjust accordingly. 

This will also help keep you accountable to what you say you are going to do, which is the name of the game.

HAVE I LIT A FIRE UNDERNEATH YOU YET?

Start the discovery process to learn the 5 steps to transition into a career you love.

CLICK HERE to download a free 4 part video training series:  “5 Steps to Transition into a Career You Love.”

Let’s do this.

Betty Kempa, CPC, ELI-MP, is an executive career coach helping mid to senior-level corporate women transition out of unfulfilling jobs and into their dream careers. 

Visit:   bettykempa.com

Contact:  coachbetty@bettykempa.com

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