So you’re fresh out of college, re-entering the workforce after some time off, or finally looking for your next gig after a 10-year stint at your current company. Time to roll your sleeves up and get down to some serious job hunting.
And sure, before you actually start, it doesn’t sound very intimidating. You just go online, find a great position, apply, and land a job. People do it every day, right?
It’s only when you actually sit down to start job searching that you realize that the process is a lot more complicated that you initially thought. To help you get started, here are the first few questions you may be asking yourself—and the answers to these not-so-basic-after-all questions.
How Do I Find the Best Job Listings?
So you settle in at a coffee shop, fire up your computer, open your browser, and—wait—where do you even start? Google? Monster.com? With so many resources available, it can be tough to figure out your best option.
If you have some specific businesses in mind, it’s most helpful to target those company websites directly. Companies will list the most current open positions there—which may not always be available on major job boards. If nothing is listed, you can also try cold emailing the HR department or a hiring manager to see if any positions are available.
But if you don’t have any companies in mind yet, you have plenty of options. Job boards can be great—for example, Indeed.com compiles job listings from a ton of other job boards. And The Muse gives you a look into the company’s culture to help you see where you might fit best. You can also use social media, phone apps, and, of course, your network (more on that later).
What Exactly Do I Search For?
When you settle on a search method, the next step seems pretty simple: Type in your desired position, punch the “submit” button, and find a list of perfect positions. But type in “manager,” and you’ll find out pretty quickly that your list of results (which ranges from Grocery Store Manager to Corporate Manager of Digital Media and Design) is a little too broad.
So, make sure to narrow down your search to a couple specific desired position titles (think: “Customer Service Manager” and “Client Services Manager”). You can also use job board search parameters to whittle down your results even further, based on level of experience, location, salary range, or company size.
But sometimes, it’s a struggle to even get that far. If you’re not exactly sure what you want to with your life (or your college degree), figuring out what to put in the search bar is another challenge completely. So, before you begin, it’s helpful to outline your interests, talents, and passions to determine exactly what you want to pursue.
How Do I Use My Network to Find a Job?
You’ve probably heard that networking is the best way to find a job, but when you actually begin to type out that email asking for leads or try to find a contact at the company you’re dying to work for, things become a little less clear.
If you have your eyes set on a specific company, your best bet is to track down a contact there and genuinely connect with that person. I know, that’s easier said than done, but thankfully, social media has made this process a lot less painful. LinkedIn, for example, can show you which of your current connections have a link to your target company—which can lead to an easy introduction.
If your sights are a bit broader, letting your group of friends, family, and colleagues know that you’re job searching doesn’t have to be awkward, either. A carefully crafted email to your contacts can produce options you hadn’t thought of or lead to informational interviews to help you narrow down exactly what you’re looking for.
What Do I Need to Have to Apply?
Of course, all job applications start with a resume and cover letter. But if you’ve never job hunted before (or not for a while, at least), you may need to brush up on the basics of these documents.
Most importantly, once you narrow down exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll need to tailor each cover letter and resume to the specific role you’re applying for. Instead of listing a generic description of all of your past responsibilities, accomplishments, and experience, you’ll angle them toward the role you want, positioning yourself as the perfect fit for the job description.
Of course, specific industries or roles may require additional application materials (e.g., writing samples or a portfolio of past work), so whatever you do, read the job description carefully and make sure you follow instructions.
But Really, When Will I Get a Job?
So you’ve sent in a few resumes and haven’t gotten any bites yet—or maybe you have, but you still haven’t quite found the right position. Well, you’re not alone—job hunting can be a long and frustrating process.
The key to maintaining your momentum is to set goals, create (and stick to) a schedule, and, surprisingly, to do things unrelated to job searching, whether it’s learning a new skill or picking up a hobby. If you can stay motivated, productive, and sane, you’ll find—and land—a great new career.
What's next? If you've snagged an interview, get prepared with our 10 must-read articles.