Even if you’re not on the hunt for a new job today, it makes sense to be prepared to job search. You may decide it’s time to say goodbye to your current job, or your employer may decide you’re no longer needed—you never know what might transpire at work. You might even spot a job posting at your dream company, and want to get your resume and application in as soon as you can.
On average, people change jobs 11 times during their career, so it’s going to happen at some point. It’s better to be proactively prepared so you don't miss out on a good opportunity than to be reactive and job hunt in panic mode, scrambling to pull together a resume at the last minute.
To kickstart your efforts and make sure you're always ready to jump on a new opportunity, here are 10 things you can do to help ensure you’re ready to get hired.
1) Make Sure Your Resume Is Current
Avoid delays once you get into job search mode. Redo your resume, add any recent experience, and tailor it to the specific job. For example, the focus might be on responsibilities rather than accomplishments and value added. Many employers focus on candidates who can generate the best results. It helps to read your prospective employer's job description and those of similar positions at other companies to get ideas on what to highlight in your own background. Review resume samples and advice on updating your resume.
2) Update Your Social Media Profiles
Maintain an up-to-date LinkedIn profile which incorporates your latest accomplishments. Make your profile even better by including a professional headshot and examples of your accomplishments. In fact, make sure all your social pages are up-to-date, along with everything else that's visible online to prospective employers. Make sure that everything you've included on your resume is also reflected on your LinkedIn page.
3) Secure Your References
Make sure you have references ready to go should you need them. A good tactic is to bolster your LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements. Write recommendations for other LinkedIn contacts and endorse their skills. Some of these individuals will reciprocate or, at the least, you will feel more comfortable asking them for a recommendation. You can also type up a letter of recommendation and have it ready to send to specific contacts upon their agreement. This makes it easier for them to make any changes, sign, and return to you with a minimum of effort on their part.
4) Assemble a Work Portfolio
It used to be portfolios were only for creative types. Employers are now eager to see work samples from professionals across the board. Put non-proprietary materials such as spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, press releases, and other written materials aside. Kee your posted portfolio relevant to the types of jobs you're looking for, and when appropriate, load them into your LinkedIn profile. Here's information on portfolios for job searching.
5) Make a Roadmap for Your Professional Development
Have a professional development plan in place. Identify skills, areas of knowledge or proficiency with technology which will give you an edge in the job market. Make sure you can always tell a prospective employer about assets which you are currently developing. It helps to review job descriptions for positions one level above yours and see the next level of skills and experience you need to acquire. These can then become talking points in your interviews with prospective employers. They can also become goals for you to accomplish at your current job before you move on.
Daily Tasks to Kickstart Your Job Search:
- Do research on target companies that you want to work for.
- Do some networking by sending a "thinking of you" email to a contact. Include a link to an interesting article that reminded you of them.
- Prepare for interviews by rehearsing your answers to various interview questions out loud or by role-playing with a friend.
- Update your LinkedIn profile to reflect any recent updates you've made to your resume.
6) Get Involved in Trade Organizations
Step up your activity with professional associations in your chosen field. Attend events and symposiums, help plan a meeting or conference, work on a committee or give a presentation. These serve as great ways to show other professionals what you can do, and it helps you to make contacts in a natural way.
7) Increase Your Networking Efforts
Offer to help out others in your network who are in transition. What goes around comes around and you never know when you will need help. The more people you help, the more people you will have who are willing to help you when it's your turn to job search. Keep a list of people you can help, and check in with them regularly; keep a second list of people you'd like to contact who might be able to help you by describing their own job, connecting you with a hiring manager, or helping you navigate the corporate jungle strategically.
8) Find a Mentor and Be a Mentor
Start or step up your mentoring activity. Find a mentor who can help you to grow. This person won't be a stranger—they'll be someone you already know who's seen your potential, knows how you think, act, and communicate, and believes in you. They also need to believe that you'll put their feedback and advice to good use. If you already have the good fortune to have a mentor, take the time to meet periodically to get their input. Mentor junior colleagues, and choose them using the same guidelines you used to find your own mentor. The help will reflect positively on you and you'll never know when they might be in a position to give back.
9) Track Your Accomplishments
Assemble and keep a file of your important career achievements and accomplishments. Make your superiors aware of your accomplishments, which is especially important if you have a hands-off boss. One way to accomplish this is to provide regular progress reports on your projects so they are aware of the value you are adding. When you stay in touch with the value you've added, it also becomes much easier to recall and discuss these items in interviews.
10) Go Above and Beyond Your Job Description
Do the extra tasks that your supervisor likes to stay in their good graces. Show that you're a team player and rack up extra job experiences by offering to help out beyond your job description during crunch times. Don't become a chronic people-pleaser, but do come in early or stay late when you know it counts. Being an exemplary employee will help you get a positive reference when you need one.
Taking some time to work on your job search each week, even if it's only a little time here and there, will help you become more marketable and prepared when it's time to move on to the next step of your career.