The first in our 10-part series of posts focused on how to efficiently and effectively manage your job search in today’s job market. We have explored this topic before but realize that we need to go into much more depth, so we’ll start with a refresher and then take it from there.

You may think you already know how to conduct a job search, or perhaps you are now one of those people who either hasn’t gone through a job search before or who hasn’t had to do it in a long time. In any case, we think the suggestions we have included here (and throughout the remainder of our series) will help you navigate the job market today. We are here to help. Compiled from a variety of sources this is our advice for the steps that you need to consider and manage to find your next role.

1. Define your Goal

Without a goal you are like a rudderless ship moving in the ocean (the job market) without a particular port (role) in mind. Ideally your next role should fit into your 5-10 year plan that you have mapped out for your career. Even in these tough economic times, it’s good to keep your eyes on the prize while also keeping yourself open to new and interesting opportunities.

2. What is your Job Search Strategy?

Perhaps you know the one person that can get you the perfect job – then your strategy is clear. However, for most people, the strategy(s) are not that clear so you need to pick the most effective strategies that align with your abilities, your environment/locale and your goals. In today’s market, we advise leaning more towards establishing more personal relationships; and so exploring local offline networking events centered around your industry or competency would be worth considering. Similarly, deploying a strategy to find a contact at a prospective company before sending in a resume so that you can get a warm introduction to the hiring manager is a necessary tactic today.

3. What companies should you Target?

What are the companies you’d like to work at most? And which have the most chance of needing your skill set? Some people forget the second part – it seems obvious, but with the job market today looking outside your core skills is going to be difficult. Also, make sure you would actually enjoy working there – it would be terrible to get hired and then realize that the company’s work environment/culture does not meet your expectation. So, get to know them better from a distance – research the people, the salaries (Salary.com), what schools they attended, where did they work before, etc., to get a better understanding of who they are and what they might look for in a candidate. Once you’ve made this assessment, you are in a better position to make a decision whether or not you’d like to work there.

4. The Art of the Approach

So you know what you are looking for, you know how you’d like to go about it and you know where you’d like to work. It’s time to increase your odds of actually getting that job by trying to get a warm introduction to that company – this way at least someone will look at your resume.

Today there are so many ways to find out who you know online. LinkedIn seems to be the most useful today but you should not forget friends, or friends of friends, on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks. But please don’t forget offline contacts as well (e.g. your soccer buddies, other parents at the PTA, your school alumni association or your church). Personal introductions through long-standing relationships are better.

5. First Contact

You’ve made contact with the company and are now speaking with a hiring manager. It’s now your job to convince the prospective boss that you are the best person for this job (even if this position is only a backup – there a lots of people in fallback jobs at the moment, just waiting for the market to pick up).

6. Interview Checklist

Be prepared! There is no better advice than this one – know the company and preferably the people you are meeting. Know the area that you are interviewing in, use Hoovers, Google News to find out about the company, people, department and position that you are interviewing for. Other resources like Vault can even tell you a little about the interviewing process. When you know more about the interview process, the interviewers and the company, you can speak more to your strengths that are required for the role.

Be professional, polite and always follow-up with a thank you afterwards.

7. Offer(s)

With any luck, you’ve managed the process very well so far and now it’s time to decide. There are lots of different factors to consider, not just salary – make sure to weigh them all properly before you make a decision.

Obviously role, salary and responsibilities are significant factors but don’t forget that you are going to spend a lot of time at this company with these people, so be sure to weigh the positives and negatives of the people you are working with, the direction it puts you in for your next career move and last, but certainly not least, how well it factors into the rest of your life – your hobbies, your family, your commute, etc.

Good Luck managing your job search!

Our next posts will go into each of the areas above in sequence and explore exactly how to manage them appropriately.

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Jobspeaker is a service to help job seekers manage their job search – sign up at www.jobspeaker.com.