Updated: Apr 15
The first step to landing a great position is to know how to find roles that are a good fit for you. But what does "job searching" actually mean in today's job market? Once upon a time, you'd browse the classified section of your local newspaper, and while you can still do that online, it's not the most effective method to job search these days. If you want to be successful in your job search, you need to modernize your process and use more than one job search method. Below are five steps to follow which will help you find positions that are a great fit.
1) Determine your target industry
If your approach to the job search is to apply for every job that you think you can do, then you're wasting a lot of your time (not to mention the hiring manager's time). This is the equivalent of throwing a handful of darts at a target and hoping one will stick.
It is much more effective to take a targeted approach. First determine what industry your experience, education, skills, and interests match up to. Narrowing down the job pool might seem counterintuitive, but it will actually allow you to better focus on applying to roles for which you're qualified and you will be more likely to get interviews from those applications.
Once you've determined what industry to job search:
2) Determine what keywords to use
Now that you know what your focus field/industry is, you can determine some keywords to use when job searching on job search websites. Initially you'll use terms that are specific to your industry. So when you go to a job search website, you'll start by inputting these keywords.
Start with keywords that match the job title you want. So if you want to be a theater director, you'll use "Theater Director" for your first search. Want to be a Digital Marketing Manager? Then you'll start your search with the words "Digital Marketing Manager."
Next, scroll through the jobs that pop up in your search and look at the job descriptions. If you feel like you match up to the position, then write down the job title of that position and use that job title as a keyword phrase for your next search. By using the job title as a new keyword, you’ll generate new positions that hadn’t previously popped up in your search results. Doing this will also keep you from getting stuck in the rut of running the same job search over and over and getting the same results.
Note: If you don't know the exact job title you should search for, instead use words from your resume that describe your experience along with the title of the industry you're aiming for. For example, if you're shooting for the logistics industry but don't know what titles you should focus on, use experience keywords along with the field for your search terms like "Logistics, Shipping" or "Logistics, Quality Control." This will help identify positions in the logistics field that match particular skills/experience you already have.
3) Set up a LinkedIn Profile (Optional...but VERY helpful)
Most hiring managers review applicant profiles on LinkedIn. My recommendation here is that you either take the time to set up a professional LinkedIn profile or don't have one at all. A half-completed profile suggests to employers that you aren't taking your job search that seriously or could indicate that you're not good at finishing tasks.
Once you create a LinkedIn account and fill in your profile (which you can mostly do by copying and pasting from your resume), then I recommend connecting with as many professionals in your industry as possible. Why? Because a big part of landing a new role is still based on who you know. So start by connecting with your previous co-workers, supervisors, and managers. You can also connect with your previous professors - especially if they instruct in the field that you're currently pursuing. Look up your friends from college and see if they work in the field that you're interested in. Once you connect with people you know in real life, you'll have access to their connections.
You can let people know that your job searching in your industry by mentioning it in your headline but I also recommend reaching out to your connections to let them know you're job searching in their same field. However, do not reach out by asking for a job. Instead, you're letting your connections know that you are actively seeking employment and say that it would be really helpful if they could let you know about any positions they know of that would be a good fit for you.
Once you've built a profile and started connecting with other industry professionals, you can use LinkedIn's job search function to look for positions in your field. Search by using those keywords from the above step.
Note: Though I love the LinkedIn job search function, I don't recommend applying through LinkedIn unless it's the only option for that job. Instead, go directly to the employer's website and apply through their online application process. The reason I recommend this is because it will allow you to tailor your resume to the position rather than applying with your non-tailored LinkedIn profile. You want to present yourself as the best possible candidate for the position and you can't really do that with a general LinkedIn profile as well as you can with a resume that's been modified to reflect how great a fit you are for that job.
4) Actively job search using online job search site.
Many job seekers set up a "passive" job search that matches positions to one or two keywords they've typed into the system and then the site sends them emails with positions that match up to those keywords. While this can be a useful tactic for keeping a finger on the pulse of job search sites you don't want to actively search every day, it's also the main reason I saw a lot of my clients miss out on amazing job opportunities. The issue with this passive search method is that it will only send you positions that match up to those keywords. So if a position is posted on that site that doesn't match that keyword (but might match other keywords for your job search) then you won't see that job because you're not actively searching on that site.
Instead, I recommend that you get into the habit of actively job searching on just a few job search sites (2-3) by going to those sites a few time a week and typing in the keywords that you identified in step 2 above. For those job search sites that you're not choosing to actively use, set up that passive search using your top keywords. Doing this gives you the best of both worlds by allowing you to still see positions from those sites you're not actively searching while saving you time by not requiring you to constantly monitor a ton of job search sites.
Some great job search sites to use are Indeed, Zip Recruiter, and as mentioned above, LinkedIn. I also recommend doing a general Google search for local (online) job boards since some employers will only post their positions there. Another great resource is your local American Job Center (which you can look up here). They are usually in-the-know about local open positions AND they have representatives who can check out your resume (for free) to give you suggestions for improvement.
5) Connect with recruiters in your industry
Some employers never post their open positions and instead hire external recruiting companies (or independent recruiters) to help find the right candidates for the company's open roles. I recommend connecting with at least two recruiting agencies: One that specializes in representing roles in your field and one that represents a wide-variety of fields (one of which is the field you're targeting.)
You can find these recruiters by doing a general Google search for your field plus the word "recruiter." So, your search might be "Nursing Recruiters" if you're a nurse or if you're in accounting, you might use "Accounting Recruiters."
Most recruiting agencies will have a website where you can browse through some of the positions they represent. However, one thing I learned while partnering with recruiters is that not all of the positions they represent are listed on that website. Sometimes it's because they need to fill the role too quickly to bother posting it on the site but other times it's because the position is a senior role and posting it will garner too many unqualified applicants.
So search through their open positions and apply for roles that are a good fit (aka: that you're qualified for), then email the recruiter listed for that position (if possible) to let them know that you applied for that role and that you're interested in other similar roles if they have any that aren't currently posted on their site.
Note: It's important to remember that recruiters do not work for you. You are not their client. Their client is the company that they are trying to fill the role for. This means that it is not their job to send you job leads or to give you feedback on your resume. Think of them as a contract employer for the company they are finding candidates for and remember that any interaction with them is like an interaction with that company. So always be professional in all interactions.
These 5 steps are a great place to start your job search. However, if you're still feeling stuck in your job search and would like a more in-depth breakdown of the job search process (along with step-by-step directions for the rest of the job search and application process) check out Cut the Bullsh*t, Land the Job: A Guide to Resume Writing, Networking, Interviewing, LinkedIn, Salary Negotiation, and More! The guide comes with over 30 resume templates and is available as both in both Ebook and in print formats.