How to Prepare for a Job Search

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Sometimes, a job search happens by choice. Sometimes, you don't have an option. In either case, it's important to be prepared to change jobs – because you never know when a career transition might become necessary for you. If possible, it's always a good idea to stay on excellent terms with your previous employers by giving plenty of notice, offering to help find and train a replacement, and agreeing to be available for questions in the future.

Take Care of the Basics First

Whether you're about to hand in your resignation or you've just received a pink slip or been fired, it's important to prepare to leave your current role and to conduct a job search. Take care of the basics first and check on eligibility for continuation of health and life insurance benefits, accrued vacation pay, unused sick pay, and other payments terminated employees may be entitled to.

Keep in mind that there may be a lag between when your current health insurance coverage ends and a new policy starts.

If you've been terminated, ask your employer about eligibility for continuing coverage through COBRA and file for unemployment immediately. You may be able to file over the phone or online. Also, check into the government's Marketplace Insurance (Obamacare) plans.

If your work situation is unstable and you're not sure if you'll still have a job tomorrow, get ready to start a job search now. Remember, you don't have an obligation to accept a new position if you get an offer. Plus, it never hurts to see what's available. You never know – you just might get an offer you can't refuse!

How to Prepare for a Job Search

  • Research the Job Market: Especially if it’s been a while since you had to search for a job, it pays to take the time to check out the job market before you start a job search. This is easy to do online; there are free salary calculators that can help you estimate your worth in the current market, and you should also use the advanced search options available on job sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Career Builder to get an idea about the demand for your professional skills in different geographic markets.
  • Create or Update your LinkedIn Profile: LinkedIn is an invaluable social media tool for job searching, since often people learn about the most exciting new job opportunities through their professional networks. Creating a profile and building a network allows prospective employers to review your resume, alerts you to new job openings, and introduces you to other professionals who might be willing to recommend you as a job candidate to their own companies. Here’s how to use LinkedIn effectively.
  • Work on Your Resume and Cover Letters: It's important to have a well-written resume and compelling cover letters (specifically tailored for each job to which you apply). Quite simply, resumes help get us interviews. A cover letter is often your earliest written contact with a potential employer, creating a critical first impression. Use our Resume and Cover Letter Guide to ensure that your job search correspondence is top-notch.
  • Get References: Plan ahead and compile a list of references and some letters of recommendation, so you're prepared when a prospective employer requests them. Get contact information for your co-workers, vendors, customers, etc. so you'll have it for future networking purposes.
  • Use Your Personal Contact Information: Use non-work contact information for all of your job search communications. That way, if your access is cut off at work, you'll still be reachable by having a home phone or a cell phone with voice mail, and potential employers will be able to reach you through a non-work email address.
  • Know What You're Going to Say About Leaving: If you've quit your job, or are even just planning on quitting, be prepared with an answer for interviewers who are going to want to know why you resigned.
  • Worried About Getting Caught? Apply confidentially for jobs online. There are ways to keep your job search confidential and protect your identity from certain employers and recruiters.
  • Don't Leave Anything Behind: Clean up your computer. Delete personal files and email, and bring home your personal belongings.

Finally, if you are resigning, always leave on the best terms you possibly can and don't burn any bridges. Let the company know in advance that you're leaving, let them know why (as diplomatically as possible), and thank them for having had the opportunity to work there.