Ask most job seekers what their goals are, and you’ll hear a lot of, “get a job by September,” or “send out 15 resumes this week.”
Well, not so fast.
Let’s be honest for a minute: Clicking “Apply” over and over probably isn’t fun, and you already know that small, actionable goals are more effective than trying to reach one lofty one.
So, what should your job searching goals look like instead? Here are four better steps that will land not just a job—but your dream job.
1. Create a Target List of Companies
Applying wildly to anything and everything that you might be qualified for means you’re probably not putting in the time to research companies. But the truth is, for you to stand out as a job seeker, you need to be tailoring your applications. The best way to do this is to pick out out a set of companies you are especially interested in and focus your efforts there. Having a list of target companies helps guide your resume and cover letter writing (and, more importantly, your networking).
Create a target list of 10 to 12 companies. One way to create your list is to start first with your dream company, and search for it in LinkedIn. From the company page, you can scroll down to the “People Also Viewed” section and find similar companies. Go to those companies’ pages and so on. You can also browse amazing companies, get a peek inside their offices, and save your favorites in The Muse’s “Companies” section.
2. Keep Networking
You know networking is important, but heading to industry happy hours and doing informational interviews can be discouraging when it’s not clear what you’re getting from it. Well, you should definitely continue anyway. A more efficient way to do so, however, is to use your new target list of companies. Instead of just meeting with anyone in your industry, start focusing on people who are at the companies you’re interested in, which will maximize the chances for you to be exposed to relevant opportunities.
Make it a goal to meet one or two new people a week for an informational interview. (Though, naturally, this means reaching out to more than one or two people.) Try using Elliott Bell’s technique for securing informational interviews and following up with this three-step process for a flawless meeting.
3. Enlist Your Army
Of course, you also don’t want to forget to reach out to people in your existing network—the people who know you, like you, and are likely happy to help you. That said, they can only help you if they know how, so make sure you reach out, check in, and let them know what you’re looking for.
Use our “Help Me Get a Job!” template to create an email that outlines who you are, what you’re looking for, and what you have to offer. Then, send it off to anyone and everyone in your network who could potentially help you in your search (though you may want to customize it for close contacts and people who work for your dream companies).
4. Stay Busy
Aside from intentional networking through, say, informational interviews, it’s important to stay busy during your job search with activities that’ll keep boosting your resume and help you meet you people. Volunteering, for example, gives you something pertinent to talk about during interviews, lets you interact with like-minded people, and boosts your resume’s relevancy all at the same time! Similarly, getting involved in professional organizations can be incredibly valuable for your job search—opening doors to the right opportunities and helping you look like an ambitious new professional or an industry thought leader.
Make it a point to put at least one non-work professional activity each month on your calendar (or more if you’re really trying to land something soon). Offer to volunteer at an event, try helping out with organizing a nonprofit’s summer social, or even run for a position on the board of directors (that’s one more listing you can add to your experience section!).
The job search is so much more than sitting at your computer, sending off resumes. Essentially, you want to stay active and create luck for yourself. Target the right companies, be focused in your networking efforts, and keep moving forward. Pretty soon, your efforts will pay off.
Photo of target courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author