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How to be a Successful Job Seeker

By Tiffany A. Dedeaux

You may notice, on occasion, I have gone from saying “Job Search” to “Job Hunt.”  The reason for this is to ensure that the person I’m speaking with realizes that this is an active rather than passive process.  I find that by reframing the Search as a Hunt, expectations, and actions change, and the person in the process begins to realize that they have more control over their results.  To help you take charge of the hunt ahead, here are some answers to your key questions:

How Can I Be a Successful Job Seeker?

While in my mind I hear the phrase “seek and ye shall find,” the initial search for a job is a lot like a company’s search for a diverse candidate:  you can’t expect to keep doing the same things and get different results.  That’s why I think it’s important o know that successful Job Seekers search smarter so that the hunt, although a lot of work, is not always a full-time endeavor.  They did this by:

  • Conducting targeted job searches by matching their qualifications to job requirements and not just applying for every open position in a ‘spray and pray’ approach.
  • Creating customized application materials by using keywords and skills from the job description in addition to what could be found through research and informational interviews.
  • Organizing records with detailed notes and weekly goals using tools like Airtable, which can cut your job search activities down by 1/3.

Just to be clear, I would classify a Job Hunt as an active process of looking for work that requires an investment on average of 30-40 hours a week.  Less than that would be a passive Job Search because you’re likely focused on other things (work, family, continuing your studies) and the tendency is to ‘fit it in’ when there is time and energy.  The other thing I noticed about the Passive Searcher versus the Active Hunter is that since the Passive Searcher usually has something else going on, whatever opportunity comes their way needs to be good enough to be worth changing their routine which is why Recruiters have a different approach for Active Candidates and Passive Candidates.

For example, if your less-than-ideal job brings in $50-60K a year, you are more likely to negotiate or only go for roles that will provide you more value such as more pay, better benefits, or a better work environment.  If you’re unemployed and looking for work or and suddenly you need a job yesterday, you are more likely to accept the first offer that promises to pay you.

What Can I Expect? 

You can expect that the Job Hunt will take longer than you plan; as many as 3.5-4 months in some cases.  When I asked some of those who accepted roles shortly after graduating from a training program what their secret was, the simple answer was that they didn’t wait to graduate before they got started on the hunt.  What I also noticed is that they networked whether it was online or in-person.  On average I’ve seen an entire class, from minimal previous education to Masters in Computer Science, get jobs within four months even when they weren’t living in an ideal location because of the effort they put into the Job Hunt.

There are many factors as to why a Job Hunt can take a long time.  In some cases, it’s the time of year.  Little gets done, including hiring, between mid-November and mid-January.  The number of people who seek career advice or hire those who are seeking also drops off in the Summer – what I call a Summer Slowdown – because of family vacations and a general desire to rest or be more social after a Winter hibernation.  By the same token, there are spikes of activity in the Spring with the sense of new beginning and hope, and in the Fall when many students go back to school and the weather sends us back indoors.

Other factors in the length of a Job Hunt include the process itself.  Glassdoor has reported a longer interview process, which of course vary by location.  Seattle and San Francisco average 23-25 days, and the larger the company the longer the process.

Sacred Time Career Coaching - Job Interview Process Length

Based on some of my conversations with bootcamp grads, the average process moves from an application which can be anything from submitting a resume and cover letter to filling out an online form, into a second stage that includes either a 20-30 minute behavioral phone screen or even video upload of recorded answers.  The technical interview has included whiteboarding, live coding, side-by-side debugging, and timed tests, challenges, or assignments.  The final stage usually includes an onsite interview where, if you haven’t already, you get to meet your potential boss and the rest of the team.  The onsite interview can last anywhere from a few hours to half the day and can include job offer.

Using a sampling of job titles from students who have graduated from programs such as bootcamps, the average time-to-hire for these roles are:

What Should I be Doing?

For the most effective Job Hunt I recommend a balance of online and in-person activities.  In order to make this happen, you must create an online presence by establishing yourself on profession-related social networking sites like LinkedIn, as well as using a professional filter with regard to what you share on other social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter because they are or can be made public.  Here is an abbreviated list of sites where I recommend you create a presence and post your resume:

After you’ve set up your profiles and launched your accounts, this is the time to start creating the templates that will streamline your Job Hunt workflow.   Here is your to-do checklist:

Next, create a plan for your job search activities.  Only you will know how much structure you need so plan accordingly even if you must schedule how much time you are applying for work, networking, and practicing your skillset.  Here is an example:

The key aspect of this sample schedule is that you make a plan, practice what you need to in order to stay sharp, and notice what is working for you and what isn’t so that you can adjust your activities next week.  In fact, if you are not moving along in the hiring process in a month, then it’s time to debug your job search.  Here is a diagram of where to begin:

If you are not getting as many interviews (or even responses) as you think you should, this would be an indication that something in your resume and cover letter is not effective.   Not making it beyond the phone screen?  Then how you frame your experience and what you understand about the work that you would be doing may need some fine-tuning.  If you’re stumped at the technical interview, chances are you’re either not connecting with the team – who would be your co-workers – or you’re not clear in sharing your thought process so they know you understand what is going on even if you don’t know the correct answer – assuming there is one.

The onsite interview is a test for culture fit in addition to a behavioral and technical interview.  Your prospective team needs to know they can work with you, not just whether you can do the job.  For example, no one willingly wants to work with a know-it-all, someone who doesn’t work well under pressure, and no hiring manager is looking for an employee who is going to make their life more difficult.

In the end, the job offer comes down to your ability to do the work as well as your ability to work well with the rest of the team.  Stumble on any part of this and not adjust or connect with the person on the other side, and you could have a longer Job Hunt.

If you are someone who needs measurable goals to hold yourself accountable, here is an example of what your Job Hunt workflow could look like:

Looking for work is sales.  Just like a sales person generates leads with a flurry of activity, you must generate opportunities.  I recommend 15-20 touches – points of contact – a day which can include any mix of applications, networking or interviewing events, reach outs, and follow-ups.

As an example, you could find out about a job through an advertisement and apply (touch 1), then find the recruiter or hiring manager on LinkedIn and reach out to thSacred Time Career Coaching - How to be a Successful Job Seekerem to introduce yourself and see if you can get more information through an informational interview (touch 2), then reach out to someone from that team to get a better sense of the workload (touch 3), followed by reaching out to your network to determine the best way to prepare for this company’s interview process (touch 4), in addition to searching Facebook, Meetup, or Eventbrite and then attending any relevant community events the company is hosting or sponsoring (touch 5).

To be a Successful Job Seeker, you must work smarter and not necessarily harder because there are a lot of factors that determine whether the hunt is over in four months or four weeks, and you can’t reasonably engage in a job search a couple of weeks and think, like magic, it’s going to work.  Just like you invested at least three months in leveling up your skillset, you must be prepared to invest at least the same amount of time to reach your next goal:  career satisfaction.

"The thing about time, trust, and career is that your time will come, and with it all the appropriate accolades and responsibilities."
Photo by Oxana Melis on Unsplash

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