Confession: I never actively searched for a job until my most recent one. Don’t get me wrong; I started working before I could drive. But I pretty much always heard about opportunities through friends and contacts—I know, I was lucky.
Then my company downsized, and I was out of a gig and out of leads. As a result, I was faced with my first, real job search. So, I started firing off resumes and handing them out to anyone I could. No one called back, and at the time, I didn’t know why.
Looking back on it now, I realize I wasn’t having any luck simply because I was out of practice and I wasn’t using the right tactics. Here’s what I learned that ended up making all the difference:
1. You Need to Tell Everyone You’re Looking
One of the first positions I ever landed came about because I mentioned to my friend’s aunt I was looking for writing positions. She told her husband, who told his brother, the owner of a small digital media company that was in need of writers. I applied, and that was the in I needed to land the gig.
When you’re out of practice, you may think the best bet is to only target people in your desired field. And while you should definitely reach out to them, don’t discount all of the other members of your network. Share the news that you’re looking far and wide.
Did you assume that your friend the architect couldn’t possibly know someone in higher education? Do you know what her college roommate does? How about every one of her family friends? One of them might know someone who’s hiring, and she could connect you.
More than three-quarters of jobs are found through networking. So, tell anyone and everyone that you’re looking.
2. You Need to Stay in the Loop
When you’re frantically looking for something new, you may think that the only thing you have time to read are position descriptions. But niche newsletters and other industry resources can move you even further ahead in your search.
So, look for popular newsletters, sites, podcasts, and the like from your field. For freelance writers, my favorite is Freedom With Writing, but you can find any newsletter for the industry you’re in. If you’re in IT, you might find Re/Code Daily useful, or check out MDLinx if you’re in the healthcare sector. For great reads on anything to do with searching in general, try The Muse—yes, the site you are reading right now—for expert guidance on career goals.
These resources should include job boards, tips and tricks for searching in your field, and at the very least, industry-related news that’ll keep you up to speed. It’s more effective to spend some time staying current than to spend all of your time just working on resumes and cover letters.
3. You Should Take on an “In Between” Gig
If it’s been a while since you sent out applications, you may be tempted to be picky. And when it comes to your next full-time gig, you should be particular and make sure it’s right for you. However, don’t make the mistake of letting this attitude carry over into the in-between times.
Here’s what I mean: When you’re on the hunt for a good job, taking on a small gig here or there will put food on the table and keep your skills sharp. They’ll add lines to your resume and grow your contact list. If they’re not exactly what you’d love to be doing, you’ll gain clarity as you search for that dream role. And if they suck, you’ll be even more driven to find something permanent.
Freelance work really is ideal for when you’re in between jobs and constantly headed out to networking meetings and interviews. Some of the best places for finding gigs include Guru, Freelancer, Fiverr, Toptal, Upwork, and yes, even Craigslist.
4. You Need to Set Aside Time Every Day
When you start searching, you might spend hours on end searching job boards, emailing friends, and perfecting your resume. But after that initial push, you might think, “Well, I’ll keep setting aside Sunday mornings to look for positions, and the rest of the week I’ll catch up on other things.”
Whether you’re employed or not, it’s easy to let the day slip away and find excuses why you don’t have time to look. (You can just recycle the reasons why you didn’t wake up at 5 AM to go running.) However, one of the most important parts of searching is staying consistent and working on it all the time.
Spend at least 30 minutes each day doing something related to it if you’re currently employed (and even more if you’re not)—tighten up your resume, glance through social media job postings, follow up on applications, and check job boards.
Don’t give up if the process doesn’t seem to be going well. Finding your next opportunity depends on many factors. However, one thing you can always do is brush up on the basics, because those are proven to get you closer to landing a job.