Job searching is an undoubtedly challenging and sometimes stressful task. It can be difficult to properly juggle your time, tools, and resources to optimize your job search without proper planning.
Optimizing your job search is a lot like planning a project. This six-step framework can be applied to the process of job hunting. Here is how:
Develop a business case
Building a “business case” for your job search will set the foundation for your search. It can help you segment your search and identify “high interest” jobs–jobs that are a high match for your goals. Start by defining the rationale for your job search. Think through your reasons for embarking on the search for a new job. Do these reasons align with your career goals and lifestyle needs? It may be helpful to create a quick cost-benefit analysis as part of your business case. What are the benefits of finding a new job at this stage in your career? What are the risks?
Define the scope
Define the scope of your job search. In project planning, scope boils down to two main components, time and resources. The same components can be applied to your job search. How long do you see your job search lasting? Be realistic here; according to Simply Hired data, nearly one out of five job searches take seven months or more. What kind of resources will you need? Do you have an updated resume ready to go? If not, free online resources to update and/or draft resumes are widely available.
Another helpful method to assess resources is to draft a skills inventory. Separate skills into three columns: “Passions,” “Skills & Abilities,” and “Rather Not/Needs Improvement.” Again, be honest with yourself. This assessment is important to understand what types of jobs you qualify for and if you want to work on skills in your “Needs Improvement” column. These revelations should factor into your timeline.
Breakdown your game plan
Upon assessment of scope, you should have a sense of time and resource requirements. From here, you can break down your job search project plan. It often helps to break out your search into headers representing the main components of the search. For example, these components could be “Research,” “Revise,” “Apply” and “Follow Up.” Under each of these headers you can then list individual tasks. Each task should have a date of expected completion and list of requirements. Call out dependencies; if a task requires deliverables from a predecessor, then that should be clearly labeled.
Define your goals
Once you have your game plan, you should have a complete picture of what you must complete throughout your job search. Take a moment and channel this sense towards identifying major milestones and goals. The same brainstorm question from project planning can apply to your job search. What are the markers of completion? What is the best outcome for each task? How can this outcome be quantitatively and qualitatively measured? Don’t forget to set time goals on these major milestones. This will enable you to plan your process at a more granular level.
Document and report
Documentation and reporting are very important in an organized job search. First, document your progress in a “Planned vs. Actual” table. The planned column lists all the major milestones and the dates of their planned completion. The actual column lists the same major milestones and the dates of their actual completion. If there are long delays in actual completion, provide an explanation for the delay. This will help you identify problem areas and prevent further delays.
Another helpful tip is to create a job search log, especially for online job applications and create columns for each stage of the application process.
Review your progress at recurring intervals. Depending on your overall timeline, this review could occur every 4-6 weeks. Take a close look at your original timeline, skills inventory, Planned vs. Actual table, and job search log. Are you hitting all of your milestones in the allotted time? Why or why not? Analyze these reasons to understand what to remedy or replicate (as appropriate) over the next 4-6 weeks.