There is more than one trail to the summit of a mountain. The same is true for job hunting. There are many strategies, many channels that you can use to find your ideal role, but like the trails to the top of a mountain, there are only a few consistent ways that result in success every time. For lawyers, accountants, and consultants looking for a new role, this article shows you how to job hunt effectively. In part 1, we cover two key lessons: always have a plan and get over rejections quickly.
How to job hunt effectively: the first two steps
Step 1: Make a plan
You wouldn’t set out on a hike without planning your trail or following a certain route, just like you wouldn’t set off without any food and water. That would be irresponsible and you’d most likely find yourself lost or in real trouble. The same goes for when you start to search for a new job. Without a plan in place, you’re navigating blind and you’re likely to get lost. While this may not get you into trouble as such, it will result in a lot of wasted time and effort.
If you’d rather take the quickest route to the summit, here is how to make a plan:
1. Know your destination
As we mentioned above, when setting out on a journey, you tend to have your destination in mind and you work backwards; you get a map and plan the most direct route to take. The same goes for finding your next role. If you want to know how to job hunt effectively, you have to know exactly what you want to achieve first.
What role/s do you want? What does success look like for you? It’s surprising how many candidates have no idea of where they’re heading or what they want to achieve when they set out on a job search, so take some time to think about it. Set yourself goals and make a very clear plan to achieve them. If you don’t, then your job search will take much longer and will be far more frustrating.
2. Be sure you know what you want (and what you don’t)
Although you might have your final destination in mind, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right one. Think about it, if you haven’t been there before, if you haven’t done that job role before, how do you know if it’s what you really want? How disappointed would you be if you made the climb to get there and it wasn’t what you thought?
To minimise any potential mistakes, take some time out and write down the finer details of what makes a perfect job for you. It may be financial expectations, the kind of firm or the office culture; maybe the location, level of seniority etc. If you think beyond just the role that you want and outline your red lines and your flex points, you can create a much clearer picture of what would suit you best.
Keep these likes and dislikes in mind as you go along your job hunting journey. They will remind you of what’s important which will help you to make the right decisions for you (rather than being tempted by some carrots). For example, you might have to take a drop in pay to get back into employment or you might have to be flexible on location to widen your catchment area and increase your opportunities. Knowing your priorities will help you identify roles that you perhaps would have overlooked previously.
3. Research and prepare for the journey
So you know your final destination and you’re clear on what that is as you’ve defined what you want, now you just need to check whether you have the most updated map. For example, if you haven’t been in the job market for a long time, you’ll need to do some research to know how best to navigate it. What applied even just a year ago is no longer applicable, so imagine how much has changed since you were last looking for the role you have now?
Although it’s tempting to dive right in and get started, it’s also really important that you calibrate your expectations. This is another major benefit of researching and preparation. Not only does it give you the right direction from the get-go, but it also gives you something to return to when you become frustrated and despondent later on; information that will help you get back on track and maintain focus. Here are a few things that you can do to research and prepare for your job hunting journey:
- Make a list of your strengths and weakness, your skills, expectations of the role, and your flex points.
- Use your lists to update your CV or CV’s if you’re looking for a career change.
- Refer to these when you’re applying to job roles.
- Research the industry and the requirements of the job role you want.
Realistically, the perfect job isn’t going to turn up quickly. If it does, great! If it doesn’t, you’ll be glad that you have these lists of ideas and plans as they will keep you focussed on your objective and maintain your realistic expectations if things don’t go the way you want them to. Preparing for a long journey will help you take more deliberate action and it will help to keep you motivated and on course.
Step 2: Get over rejections quickly
This might seem like a weird recommendation for ‘how to job hunt effectively’ but it’s one of the most essential pieces of advice I can give you. Redundancy and job rejections can make you feel hurt, insulted, devalued, and isolated. These may be paired with worry and anxiety about where your income is going to come from and how you’re going to get another job, and it may cause you to dive straight into more applications and interviews, and ultimately, more rejections. This is the worst thing that you can do.
While it’s normal to feel these emotions, you have to get over them quickly. The quicker you get over them, the quicker you can have interviews without them negatively affecting your first impression and the more likely you’ll be able to impress the interviewers. If you want to overcome obstacles that prevent you from reaching the summit, here is how to get over rejections:
1. Remind yourself that it is only business
The fact is: It’s nobody’s fault that you are without a job. (At the time of writing you can blame it on COVID-19!) Nobody owes you anything. The recruitment market operates in a commercial context. The most job offers are made because the individual will bring real value to the firm. The consultant gets paid a fee for finding the best possible skill match. Firms hire people because they have commercial problems to solve. It’s all transactional, its business.
This is why people feel abused and mistreated by the system. Your thoughts, feelings and emotions really don’t have a place in a system that is totally commoditised and value-driven. It is unfortunate but true. Unless you can find ways to work with the system, rather than expect it to work with you, you will be drained of your confidence because ultimately, recruitment is a selective process. Only one person can get THE job, and everyone else gets rejected. Not because they are bad people, but because they were not best matched to the job. It’s totally impersonal.
2. Deal with the grief and let it go
Loss, even loss of an existing job or the potential of a job, requires you to grieve. (Particularly if you lost your role due to the COVID-19 pandemic) This might take only a few days or it could be longer, but if you don’t deal with it, the emotions will become an albatross around your neck that hampers your ability to get another job. You might not think that it will affect you, but trust me, losing anything can leave a sense of bereavement. Especially when it is coupled with real anger and true desperation that tends to be born out of financial worry.
If you haven’t dealt with these negative emotions, they can surface in interviews and create a bad impression. How? Because they rob you of your true skills, values and self-projection. As well as in the interview, they will also rob of you of the ability to cope with the rigours of the job search process and the opportunity to get your next job.
This is why it’s so important to go through the whole “grieving” process so that you can let these emotions go. Progress through the normal cycle of disbelief, anger, depression, and then finally, understanding and acceptance of your situation, so that you can climb to the summit without being held back. Remember, find someone to talk to if you can’t deal with it on your own and if you expect financial turmoil, speak to your creditors, visit the Job Centre, and rely on the system you have paid into all your working life. There is no shame in it. In fact, it might be another source of support for you and you are likely to need all the help you can get.
3. Know that it’s a numbers game
Much like the economic recession in 2009, the Coronavirus is also causing a large number of redundancies. What this means is that the market will be flooded with senior and experienced people who have possibly not been in the job market for many years as well as decreased graduate opportunities which will make it more difficult for fresh graduates to get jobs within their academic areas. Add this to the normal churn of people looking for work and the volumes of job applications have increased exponentially.
While you can’t do much to change how competitive the job market is, you can change your mindset. Firstly, making a plan and knowing what you want means that you’ll be able to recognise it when it turns up and secondly, knowing that it’s a numbers game and not taking rejections personally will help you trudge on to your destination without taking a hit to your confidence and self-image.
4. Remember that you are a commodity
It is very important that you take any emotion out of the job-hunting process if you want to be successful and come through it unscathed. You will get many turn downs before you get opportunities, and then many of those are unlikely to be suitable. After all, you only need to find one job.
However, the current jobs market is totally driven by numbers. It has become entirely commoditised. Of course, many job offers are still made without ever getting on the open market and those still retain an element of humanity. But if you want to increase your opportunities, you have to get involved in the numbers game.
Regard yourself as a product. The job-hunting process is a sales cycle. Your CV is a sales or marketing document. The four P’s of marketing will apply:
- Product: The core offering, your skills and experience packaged attractively in order to access a market.
- Price: What you are likely to cost, where you can negotiate and what your bottom line would be.
- Place: The geographical positioning of your application.
- Promotion: How you are going to sell this product, where you are going to advertise it and through what means you will measure the results.
5. Find your USP’s
When you’ve lost a job or you’ve been rejected for roles again and again, it’s easy to succumb to the feeling of defeat. While it may be easy, it’s by no means effective in changing your situation so try to refocus back to your final destination. Try to think about how to job hunt effectively so that you can get to where you want to be.
One way to do this is to think about your best selling points. Just like a product, you need to differentiate yourself from your competition. What can you do that’s different or better than other candidates? What makes you stand out? What is your track record, what have you done and how will this benefit a future employer? Ask someone else, maybe a colleague; what they think is best about you.
Write your selling points down, categorise them and keep expanding them. What’s great about this exercise is that it is highly motivational – you’ll be surprised how much you have actually done when you write it down like this – but it also provides you with your next steps. Using your list, you now have some new potential search terms to apply when searching for jobs online and on job boards!
6. Anticipate your weaknesses
No-one is perfect. Once you’ve written down all your benefits, selling points and skills, take a reality check. Where are the gaps? Where do you see potential weaknesses? Firms will expect you to (a) have weaknesses (b) admit to them and (c) have a strategy to over come these weaknesses. If you don’t show this in an interview you will be marked down for your lack of self-awareness.
This anticipates objections to your job applications. If you know your limitations and potential weak spots, you can find ways to deal with them in a positive way. You now have time to shore them up if you can: get on a training course to plug education gaps, affiliate to an industry body to give yourself more credibility, and so on.
If your weaknesses are practical, then you must be aware of them so that you can overcome the inevitable questions you will be asked. In fact, you can deal with them in your CV to stop them from turning into objections at all. You may find that this is enough to progress to the next stage of interviews, but if nothing else, being proactive like this rather than reactive when you get rejected is a great way to bounce back stronger than ever.
Take the most direct route to the summit
Job hunting is difficult. It’s time-consuming, soul-crushing, and it can feel never-ending because as we said at the beginning of this article, there’s more than one trail to the summit. If you want to know how to job hunt effectively, you have to have a few key things in place to take the most direct route, starting with a clear job search plan and getting over rejections as quickly as possible. If you have these, you have a strong foundation to help you make it through the next essential steps for successful job hunting: leveraging your social network to help yourself stand out and using recruitment agencies to your advantage. Read more to find out about those in part 2.