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4 Parts of a Productive Job Search

Hannah P. Morgan

Job search requires you to do more than scour the job boards for job postings, but you already knew that. The old saying that finding a job is a full-time job dictates that you should have a solid strategy and implement your plan well. Job seekers who omit or shortchange one of the four parts end up frustrated, discouraged or involved in a longer job search.

Focus. Successful job seekers have focus in four areas. When you can answer as many of these questions as possible, you should see an increase in the quality of your job search materials and outcomes:

-- What is the job title/occupation you are searching for?

-- What skills/experience do you have that are a direct match and what are you lacking?

-- Who are the companies hiring for positions you are seeking?

-- Who do you need to talk to in order to gain inside information?

If you have difficulty answering some of these questions, focus your quest by arranging informational meetings with people who can advise and offer information.

It isn't enough to know the answers. You will want to communicate your goals clearly and in terms people you are talking to can understand. Have you ever heard someone say: "I am a project manager (or insert any job title here) and I am looking for a job just like the one I used to have." Do you know enough information to help them? Unless your company has a project manager job, there is little help you can offer. What if the job seeker said, "I organize the work required to launch new software used by accountants. I am interested in learning more about what XYZ and ABC companies are doing and what software they plan on developing next. Do you know anyone who works at those companies?" This question is more specific, and while the person you are talking to may not have an answer, they do know what to be on the lookout for.

You will also need to establish clear goals on how you manage your search. Daily or weekly goals might include things like:

-- Arrange a meeting with [insert name of person] at ABC company to learn about the requirements of a [specific job].

-- Establish the "right" online reputation by monitoring and creating positive and brand-consistent content.

-- Meet five new contacts who stay up to date with the industry and/or occupation.

-- Investigate additional educational opportunities to enhance skills.

-- Become active in local professional associations.

Structure. Many job seekers miss the routine of going to work. If this is the first time you've been solely in charge of managing a major project, you may not be familiar with how to manage all the moving parts. Job seekers who have created a job-search routine tend to be more productive. These are areas to pay attention to:

-- Prioritize activities

-- Create to-do lists

-- Manage time

-- Schedule follow-up

Creating a to-list generally isn't always enough structure. Try blocking off time in one-hour increments and assigning tasks to fit into those timeslots if you struggle to accomplish daily goals.

Discipline. Focus and structure are nothing without discipline. You will need to hold yourself accountable for sticking with the plan.

Following through on promises made (to yourself or others) can be challenging when you are juggling multiple balls. It is easy to let the items on your to-do list slip when you are preparing for an interview or creating a résumé and cover letter for a job you are very interested in. The demands of your personal life also have a way of side-tracking your structured job-search activities. Here are some pointers to avoid becoming overwhelmed or stressed.

-- Don't give up too soon. It takes about 30 days to start a new habit or break an old one.

-- Keep applying for jobs and following up until you receive a job offer.

-- Be realistic about what you can achieve and how long it will take.

-- Use positive self-talk. Don't beat yourself up. Celebrate the things you do well, and don't obsess over what you are not good at doing.

A sounding board and accountability. Attempting to run your search alone is like training for a marathon without a coach or fellow runners. You will need advice on how to approach scenarios you haven't encountered before and get feedback on your performance. You are too close to the forest to see the trees and will want an objective eye to help you make decisions. You will also need motivation. Here are some suggestions:

-- Enlist the help of a past manager or mentor to offer objective feedback.

-- Join a job seeker's networking group to learn what other job seekers have done.

-- Communicate with family and friends and ask for their support.

-- Hire a coach if you can.

The longer your job search lasts, the more difficult it becomes to land a job. Make the necessary fixes before it is too late. By the way, finding focus, creating structure, implementing discipline and seeking mentors will not only help you in your job search; developing these skills will also assist you in your new job.

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.

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