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Ready. Get Set. Go. A job search often feels like a race against the clock. Your budget and your stamina wear thin if you don't stick to a structure that keeps you focused and produces results. What follows is an abbreviated timeline that will help you stay on track.
Week 1 - Day 1 – Dealing with the here and now
- Losing a job can release a lot of emotions and fears: the potential loss of identity, ties to colleagues, expectations from your family, etc. Although it may be hard enough to deal with your own personal feelings, a lot will fall to you to help others know what to do in response to your situation.
- With co-workers or those in your work environment: Most people don’t know what to say or do in this situation. Assure them you’re fine, that you're taking one step at a time right now but really appreciate their concern. Keep it short and simple.
- Whether it’s a spouse, a partner or children, they’ll have their own set of emotions about your situation. Again, you must assure them you’re going to have to make some changes, but things will be fine; that you understand they might be feeling concerned right now and that's OK. Invite them to ask you questions they might have, although you may not have a lot of answers right now. If you have supportive personal relationships right now, be grateful for them and allow your loved ones to support you in even the smallest ways. Chances are they really want to help, even though they have their own concerns.
- Begin revamping your resume.
Day 2 – The “Big 5” for allocating time and resources
- Create a schedule for yourself. The most successful and fastest job searches occur when the job search is treated as a job itself, with dedicated work hours and structured approach. Work when you have the most energy and include time for exercise and relaxation. Be mindful, there's a tendency for social calls and activities to creep in and fill in the void in your schedule.
- Prepare a budget. Include funds from severance payments, savings, liquidated investments, etc. Estimate how long your funds will carry you through a job search.
- Set up a separate work area dedicated to job search. Provide yourself enough space, paper and pens, phone, and a computer to help keep you focused.
- Prepare a list of contacts for networking and information interviews. Start with friends, family, close colleagues. Expand to professional contacts and ultimately consider networking groups to meet other executives looking for their next career move.
- Research networking opportunities in your area. Add events to your schedule for the following weeks.
Day 3 – Assessing Yourself
- Evaluate your professional skills and interests, work environment preferences, and management motivators.
- Better define your career goals - Where do you want to be in three years and how can this next job get you a step closer?
- Develop your "elevator pitch," a 60-second to two-minute summary of yourself that may include a request for a future meeting or discussion.
- Call your inner circle of networking contacts. Explain your situation, give them your 60-second pitch about what you're looking for, and ask for referrals.
Day 4 – Planning Your Strategy
- Build a list of companies that you want to target.
- Build your list of 6 references: 3 business and 3 personal.
Day 5 – Laying the groundwork for networking success
- Compile 24 favorite websites: 12 major and 12 niche sites.
- Identify information you need to get to do your search (e.g., companies in target market, contact information for hiring executive at target company).
- Lay out tactics for getting in touch with key contacts at target companies (e.g., networking through someone at the organization, calling through switchboard to identify contacts, using database of company contacts).
- If you have not already done so, give your family/close personal friends an update on what and how you’re doing and answer any of their questions. If you need encouragement, ask for it.
Week 2 – Following up and following through
- Finalize your resume and collateral marketing materials.
- Attend networking meetings through your professional association or a networking group. Have your 60-second pitch ready so you can clearly explain what you're looking for.
- Send your new resume to executive recruiters in your field/industry.
- Read your target companies' annual reports and press coverage to stay current on their competitive issues.
- Send targeted letters to contacts at your target companies (identified in Week 1, Day 5). Include information from your research on the company.
- Post your resume on online databases (be sure they’re confidential and appropriate for your line of work).
- Conduct a mock interview. Obtain feedback.
Week 3 – Expanding your network
- Follow up with networking contacts with whom you have not met yet.
- Follow up with company contacts who received targeted mailing in Week 2.
- Conduct informational interviews with networking contacts you have identified in your target companies. These need not be decision makers, but are people who know the culture, competitive challenges, and what can help you get in the door.
- Expand your network by contacting referrals from initial set of networking meetings.
- Continue attending networking groups to uncover "hidden" jobs.
- Get support from a friend or coach who can be impartial and help you in sticking to the job search structure.
Week 4 – Staying focused and upbeat
- Do something that makes you happy and keeps you motivated.
- Revisit your marketing strategy in light of information gained from networking contacts and your research.
- Assess how you’re doing in your search - What's easy? What's hard? What kind of help do you need? If you had that help, would it facilitate your career search? If so, how can you get the help you need?
- If you’re not already going on actual job interviews, set a realistic goal of getting at least 2 job interviews in the next 2 weeks. Don’t stop with informational interviews, but try to move towards real opportunities at this point.
- Lay out some options for the long-term: If there are no job prospects after a period of time, what are the options? For example, short-term consulting projects or a personal loan/line of credit to get you through any financial challenges.
- Keep at it. The standard rule of thumb is one month searching for every $10,000 in salary.
These steps can set your program on the right course, whether you're just beginning your job search or recommitting to the process.