The 10-Hour Plan Guaranteed to Kick-Start Your Job Search
Do you spend the first 30 minutes of every workday scrolling through job postings and fantasizing about the day you’ll leave and finally start working at a gig you love? Maybe you read all the advice you can find online about finding your passion and landing that dream job, but you just can’t seem to find the time to follow through.
Well, consider this your wake up call. You’re going to take a full day off from work, stop daydreaming about your new position, and actually do something that’ll help you land it. Here’s your game plan.
Before the Big Day: Prepare
First, do what you need to do to ensure you’ll have an entire day to dedicate to kicking your job search into high gear—ask your boss for a personal day, set up your email auto-responder, and don’t put anything else on the schedule.
You’re also going to have to make preparations to ensure the day goes smoothly. You’ll be going on a networking lunch and conducting an informational interview, so you’ll need to do some homework prior to the big day to line up those meetings. More on who to choose below—just know that you’ll need to send out the requests and get the confirmations beforehand.
9 AM: Brainstorm Your Goals
No, you can’t sleep in and skip this first step just because it’s labeled “brainstorm.” The fact is, rarely do we have enough time for reflection in our busy lives, and a full day off is absolutely the time to do it.
And even if you already know what job you’d like to start gunning for, it’s important to also consider the reasons behind your goal. Take some time to figure out what your career values are—they’ll inform all your decisions as you start learning more about opportunities and companies.
10 AM: Update Your Resume
Job seekers will sometimes spend hours and hours refining and editing their resume, but you’ll only be getting 60 minutes. That’s a good thing! It’s easy to feel like you’re being productive by slogging away because it’s a tangible document, but in reality, you’ll do more for your job search by going out and networking. After all, your resume’s not doing you any good if it’s not getting you in front of hiring managers.
First off, remember what’s important: The goal of your resume is not to chronicle your professional career—it’s to get you an interview. So, you want to make sure you’re being thoughtful about how you’re showcasing your skills and experiences. Here are 43 tips on how to do just that.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, focus your efforts on just two things:
11 AM: Prep for Your Networking Lunch
One of the most important parts of really starting your job search is activating your network. People can’t help you unless they know you’re looking, so it’s time to start letting key players in your network know.
A good way to do this is to start seeking advice. Of course, not everyone will give you good advice, but it’s a good cue to let others know that you’re exploring new options and need their help.
So, schedule a catch-up session with an old mentor or sponsor. (Ideally, a few weeks before your day off.) Now, do your due diligence and browse LinkedIn to get a sense of what he or she has been up to since you last spoke. And before you go, make sure your elevator speech is all ready when you’re inevitably asked what your next career move is going to be. Lastly, make sure you give yourself ample time to get to your lunch spot on time.
12 Noon: Lunch
You’ve been at it all morning, so take this chance to catch up with an old acquaintance and relax a bit. The great thing about having lunch with an old mentor is knowing you’ve already won this person over. If you’re still a little worried about the impression you’re making, read up on how to handle lunch with someone you admire. Your main goals are just to update each other, get some advice for your next career move, and make sure you have someone who is keeping an eye out on your behalf.
1 PM: Do Some Social Media Maintenance
Don’t let yourself fall into an afternoon slump! Grab some coffee and take this hour after lunch to update (or scrub clean) your social media profiles so that when recruiters search for you, your profiles will be job-search ready.
You’ll want to pay particular attention to your LinkedIn profile, which is often the first place hiring managers look (and recruiters look for people like you). Check out these 31 tips for making your LinkedIn profile the best it’s ever been, using your updated resume to guide your edits. Keep an eye on the clock, though, because you can’t be late for your next appointment.
2 PM: Prepare for and Conduct an Information Interview
You could technically spend all day just reaching out to people and connecting, but that’s probably not realistic for today when you have so much else to do. Instead, you’re going to get the ball rolling by having one informational interview, either by phone or in person.
(This is another one of those things you’ll need to have arranged earlier in the week. If you’re not sure how to reach out to people you’d like to speak with, read up on Erin Greenawald’s advice on how to ask to pick someone’s brain without being annoying.)
An informational interview is a great way for you to learn about opportunities or companies that might interest you and connect with someone who might be able to help you get to those opportunities. These quick chats should only take about 20 minutes, so you’ll have the beginning of this hour to prepare. Follow this three-step process for conducting a perfect informational interview that will both get you the information you need and leave a good impression. One question you absolutely want to ask is, “Could you recommend a couple more people for me to speak to with to learn more about X?” This is how you’ll start the momentum of meeting people who can help in your job search.
3 PM: Create a Target List of Companies
The job search is such a huge process of finding, cultivating, and culling as many opportunities as possible that it’s easy to get completely overwhelmed. One way to narrow down your search is to create a list of target companies for you to do more in-depth research about and try to find strategic connections to. You want to keep the number manageable, of course, so don’t choose more than 12 to 15 companies to target. For more specifics, read up on how a spreadsheet (and figuring out target companies) helped Camilla Cho land her dream job.
4 PM: Research Companies
Once you have your list of companies ready to go, it’s time to do some digging. It’s amazing what a good impression you can make just by knowing a bit about the company when you’re interviewing. And of course, it’s not just the interview that benefits from you knowing more. Any networking conversation where you can show off a bit about your company knowledge is a plus.
So, spend this hour choosing five or so companies from your list and doing your homework on them—figure out their values, their financial health, how they interact with their customers or clients, the company culture, and where they stand compared to their competitors. You’ll want to do this for any company you interview for eventually, but this will get you started thinking about the key things that will inform the rest of your job search.
5 PM: Send an Update Email
Now, one last thing before you wrap up your day. It’s great that you reconnected with an old contact over lunch today, but now that you’ve done your company research and know which companies you’re interested in, you probably have a few more people you wish you could take out to lunch. (If not, here are at least three people you should reconnect with and how to do it.)
To warm up these older connections, send out an update email on how you’ve been doing and checking in on what they’ve been up to. If update emails aren’t really your style, consider sending a thinking-of-you email with a link to an interesting article you read recently that reminded you of them. For more ideas, here are a few good ways to stay in touch with old acquaintances and get back on their radar.
6 PM: Dinner
Whew! What a day! You’re off to a great start on your job search. You reconnected with a mentor, got the ball rolling with informational interviews, figured out which companies you want to apply to, and learned a little bit about each. Your resume and social media profiles are ready for recruiters to review, and more importantly, you’ve taken the time to think about what you really want out of this next position. Pat yourself on the back and get ready for some dinner. You deserve it.
Of course, you don’t want to let this momentum go to waste! Make plans to keep reaching out for informational interviews, and keep your eyes peeled for opportunities in your target companies (we’ve got thousands here!). You’re well on your way to finding your dream job.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. 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