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The 3 Keys to a Successful Job Search in 2017

Over the past 15 years I’ve worked with thousands of job seekers, and I’ve seen a common thread among them all as they set out to job search. They’re very knowledgeable in one area of their job search but lack experience in the other areas. A great resume but a weak interviewer—or really great networking, but they don’t have a solid resume to market their value. To conduct a successful, effective, and short job search you need to understand three main areas. Below I’m going to share three key areas to focus on and what each one means to your job search success.

First, I want to touch on the fact that what one job seeker may consider a successful job search is not the same as another. You may consider a successful job search to be a really short one—having offers lined up before exiting your current place of employment. Yet, for someone else a successful job search means landing the position they’ve dreamed about, labored towards, and sought after for 10 long years. Still others may consider having multiple offers to choose from, increased salary/earning potential, or being excited about going to work on Monday morning a successful job search. No matter what your ultimate goal is—where you are (your point A) or where you want to be (your point B), there are three essential areas you need to focus on to get you there.

KEY AREA #1: THE MATERIALS

The materials you use for your job search are an important tool to help open doors to opportunities. These materials include your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, value proposition letter, career biography, thank-you letters, online portfolios, professional websites or blogs, and more. These documents share more about who you are professionally. They help you to get past applicant tracking software to an actual person, they provide critical data that allow an employer to evaluate your fit for an opening. They’re a vital part of the candidate-screening process and whether HR will decide to interview you. The problem is that some job seekers believe all you need are great documents and the process of job searching will be easy and painless. This simply isn’t the case.

A resume or LinkedIn profile is only part of your job search. Don’t base the success of your job search efforts on the resume alone. It’s only a tool and it cannot job search for you, it cannot interview for you, network, tap into the hidden job market, schedule informational interviews, or conduct any other part of your search. A resume is a critical piece because it’s the initial method of evaluation, so it’s vital that it communicates clearly the value you offer the employer and how your past experience is a perfect fit for a new position. I urge you to keep a balanced mindset when it comes to these materials. They’re not your entire job search. They are tools at your disposal—so although they’re important, they aren’t everything.

If you need help creating a standout resume, here are some visually engaging resume samples to provide inspiration.

KEY AREA #2: THE METHODS

The methods you use to job search are where the rubber meets the road. You can have a perfectly written resume, but it won’t be very fruitful if you never use it. There’s wisdom in a diversified job search. Educating yourself on the different methods for job searching` is one of the wisest decisions you can make because while you can hire an expert to write your resume you can’t hire someone to job search for you. And you’d better know HOW to job search effectively and HOW to use the different techniques. Otherwise you’ll end up frustrated, defeated, and searching much longer than you should be.

I strongly advise you to educate yourself about the different methods of job searching.

The big trap job seekers fall into when it comes to searching is the wrongly held belief that job boards and online applications are the ONLY way to search for a job. They believe this is where all the jobs are and they don’t know where else to look.

I encourage you to research other methods for job searching and employ them. According to this 2017 Global Recruiting Trends survey conducted by LinkedIn, 48% of new hires come from employee referrals. This means networking is a critical component in your job search.

I love to research and read what thought leaders in my industry are saying; and if you’re a researcher like me, then you can probably dig around and find a treasure of information on job search methods that you can start utilizing right away. Find some job search coaches and follow them on LinkedIn, read their blogs, follow their articles. Incorporate the advice they share. There’s a wealth of free job searching advice from top names in the industry; you just have to take the time to look.

If research is not your thing, or you simply don’t have the time to invest in learning how to job search and employ different methods on your own, I would advise you to find a solid job search coach who knows what they’re talking about and strengthen this major area of weakness. If you believe Monster and Indeed are the only ways to find a job—GET HELP NOW. Don’t wait. It could mean the difference between a job search that takes 6 weeks and one that takes 6 months.

If you want a referral to a trusted job search coach, feel free to leave me a comment and I can pass along the name and contact information of a couple of colleagues I trust that they know what they’re talking about.

A job search is much more than a job board, job search aggregate, or professional networking site. If you don’t have the time necessary to invest in educating yourself on HOW to job search effectively in 2017’s job market, then I would urge you to find a job search coach immediately. It will be worth it to have an expert quickly teach you methods, strategies, and techniques you can use now to shorten your job search, find opportunities no one else knows about, and have a choice between offers.

KEY AREA #3: THE MEETINGS

It would be such a disappointment to go through all the work of creating a compelling resume, learning how to job search to open doors to opportunities, and then have poor interviewing skills hold you back from the offer. I see job seekers struggle every day with poor interviews, lack of knowledge in salary negotiation, or even the belief that they cannot or should not negotiate salary and benefits. Maybe even worse, I’ve seen candidates accept the first offer that comes along, even if it’s a terrible culture fit.

Meetings can include networking meetings; informational interviews; telephone interviews; in-person interviews; panel or group interviews; second, third, or last interviews. Don’t take it for granted that you intuitively know how to interview and think this is not an area where you could use advice and insight. We can all learn and grow—and interviewing is no different. Just like the time you need to invest in learning HOW to job search, you should be learning HOW to interview.

Have a friend in HR or someone who does lots of interviews? Practice with them, ask questions, gain insight—get their advice on what they look for when interviewing. If you don’t have someone in your network that you can reach out to for help, find information online. It took me 10 seconds to do a search and find this free webinar: http://careerconfidential.com/how-to-answer-interview-questions-training-webinar/.

Check YouTube, look for career experts on LinkedIn, and then check out their websites, articles, YouTube channels, and SlideShare presentations. Most experts are already publishing their advice and expertise online, and with some time invested in researching it you can find a wealth of great information to help you along the way.

As with job searching, if you don’t have the time to do the research, find a reputable career coach who can walk you through and practice interviewing with you. They can offer insights, advice, great practice, talk you through the difficult task of salary and benefits negotiation, and support and encourage you through the process.

I also want to take a minute to stop and add that you do not have to invest thousands and thousands of dollars into resume writing, job search, and interview coaching. If that’s not in your budget you can take the time to research yourself. There are also MANY career experts at all ends of the financial spectrum. You can find great resume writers and coaches who don’t charge $10,000-$20,000 for their services and who would be a great fit to help and provide their experience and expertise. My word of caution to you would be to check credentials and years of experience. Due diligence, friends! Review their website and samples, check their LinkedIn recommendations. These will give you a good indication of whether the service or coach you want to work with is the best fit for you.

A well-rounded job search is the key to your job search success in 2017. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Don’t get stuck on just the resume, only the job search, or stress about the interviews. Invest time learning and growing in each area. The benefit of investing the time to learn NOW is that you will carry that knowledge with you throughout the rest of your career and it will continue to pay dividends.

Here are a few tips for you to take with you on how to conduct a well-rounded job search:

- Networking in earnest. With those you’re connected to and those you’re not connected to.

- Seek out referrals. Employee referrals made up 48% of new hires in the past 12 months as reported by the 2017 Global Trends survey conducted by LinkedIn.

- Research Target Employers. It’s much more than figuring out who you want to work for—it’s finding out who works there, what the culture is like, and what the company’s biggest pain point is and how you can solve that problem. Then it’s reaching out to the decision maker and communicating why you’re the solution.

- Tap into the hidden job market using informational interviews, cold calling, direct mail, and other means.

- Find the right recruiters for YOU and start the conversation.

- Use social media, online presence, and job boards without spending all your time there. These are great but they aren’t always the answer. Most experts advise investing only 20% of your job search time here because the medium is so flooded. Your time is actually better invested in networking and word-of-mouth referrals, which delivers a 7 to 1 positive response rate, whereas job boards and online job searches using ATS offer only 250 to 1.

Remember, it’s important to possess knowledge and strength in all 3 key areas to ensure the success of your job search. It’s not about a strength in 1 area—it’s about being strong in all 3; the materials you use to search with, the methods you use to search, and the meetings that come from the methods.

Invest in yourself and your future career success. It pays dividends in the areas of earnings potential, financial stability, career satisfaction, long-term career growth, and in many other ways.

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Jessica Holbrook Hernandez

A nationally recognized resume expert, Jessica Holbrook Hernandez is President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast and a former human resources manager and recruiter. Leveraging more than ten years’ experience directing hiring practices for Fortune 500 companies, Jessica's innovative and brand-driven resume development strategies have secured a 99.6% interview-winning success rate for her clients. As a global resume authority and trusted media source, Jessica has been featured and quoted numerous times throughout CNN.com, The Chicago Tribune, Monster.com, Local Job Network Radio, International Business Times, and more.
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