Intense competition among job seekers means that you need to be organized in order to be successful in landing a new position. Few IT professionals structure their search for employment, but looking for a job without a plan is like trying to find a specific building in an unknown city without the aid of directions, a map or a GPS. Eventually, you’ll probably reach your destination, but it will take longer and you will travel a more circuitous route.
Following are a few simple tips that can help make your search for employment more direct.
Make a list. Whether you’ve just started looking for a job or have been at it for a while, the first step should be to write down everything that is related to your job search. For instance, you should keep a record of answers to the following questions:
- Which job advertisements have you responded to?
- What are the key requirements and duties for each position?
- When did you respond?
- How did you hear of the opening?
- Do you know anyone who works at the firm?
- Who have you interviewed with?
- When did you last speak to the hiring manager?
- Has the position been filled yet?
How you organize this information is up to you, but make sure you can easily manipulate and update the data. An up-to-the-minute record of your job search activities can help you determine when to follow up with employers and if members of your network can lend a hand — a shared contact can lead to a referral. The list also can serve as a quick reference so you can better prepare for an employment interview, whether it’s over the phone or in person.
Have a plan in place. Treat your search for a job as a job itself. Each day, set goals for yourself. For example, you may aim to apply to three new positions or reach out to five members of your professional network. Setting realistic objectives gives you something concrete to work toward and can help prevent you from procrastinating.
As part of your daily plan, make a point to follow up about inquiries you made a week or more ago. If you interviewed for a help desk position and haven’t heard back, for instance, you might e-mail the hiring manager to let him or her know you are still available or reiterate why you are a good fit for the role.
Go online — and stay there. Web sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have become an essential part of the job search, especially for those in the IT industry. If you don’t have a presence on these sites, now is a good time to establish one. If you do leverage these venues, it’s important to remain active on them. You might, for instance, post an update about your job search on Facebook, search for new connections on LinkedIn or let your contacts know of an interesting article you found in an industry newsletter via Twitter.
Prepare your profile. A well-crafted professional profile — for use on networking sites or when communicating with prospective employers — can significantly enhance your job search prospects. Take some time to create a “master” profile — a three- or four-paragraph description of your experience and skills. You can draw from your most recent cover letters and resumes to get started. Next, remove less essential elements of your profile, creating several increasingly short versions. Some networking Web sites may call for no more than one or two sentences, so profiles of varying lengths can be handy.
Compile a reference list. Along with a professional profile, it’s also a good idea to have a reference list on hand. You’ll want to contact references well in advance to make sure they are willing to speak on your behalf; waiting until a hiring manager requests this information is too late. Your pre-prepared list should include eight to 10 names and details about your relationship to each person. Since different members of your network can speak to different aspects of your work history and qualifications, you may recommend each hiring manager get in touch with a unique set of individuals.
A well-organized job search can not only help you find a position more quickly, but also keep you focused and motivated when your energy wanes.
Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.