So you’ve decided it’s finally time to start looking for a new job. Before you start scrolling through job boards and hitting up your network, you’ll need to create a job search toolkit. You need an updated resume. And a cover letter. And a LinkedIn profile. And references.
You forgot about the references, didn’t you?
Every year, some pundit makes a grand, sweeping statement like “Resumes Are Dead” or “Why The Cover Letter is Extinct.”These sorts of headlines are great as cynical clickbait, but they’re dangerously misleading and just plain wrong.
The hard truth is that you need all four of the aforementioned tools in order to run an effective job search campaign, and it’s best to get them all squared away before you start applying in earnest.
A top-Notch Resume
This is the core of all of your job search materials. Getting this piece locked down will make assembling the rest of your materials much, much easier. We’ll take you through developing a master version,as well as how to tweak it slightly for each job you apply to.
How much time will you need to budget for this? At least two hours.
A Strong LinkedIn Profile
This is the public face of your job search. At this point, nearly every professional of any consequence is on LinkedIn, and you need to be findable and look amazing. If your profile’s weak, we’ll help you strengthen it. If you don’t have a profile at all, get one immediately. We’ll help you make it look great.
How much time will you need to budget for this? Roughly one hour.
Reliable, Knowledgeable References
So many job seekers wait until the last minute to secure great references. As a result, they end up with rushed, ill-prepared references that don’t benefit them. The smarter bet is to select your references in advance, ask for their permission, and then keep them apprised of what you’re applying for so they can relate your skills to the job in question. We’ll help you write a great reference request email, as well as helping you know who to select.
How much time will you need to budget for this? About 30 minutes.
A Basic Cover Letter Template
Here at The Hired Guns, we often hear job candidates say that cover letters are outdated and unnecessary. They couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, you don’t need to print one out on fancy paper these days, but you do need a way to introduce yourself in an intelligent and compelling way. Nine times out of ten, you’re going to be inserting your cover letter into the body of an email. And like the resume, you’ll need to tweak it for each job you’re applying for.
How much time will you need to budget for this? About an hour for the master version, plus 20 to 30 minutes for each job-specific change.
Track Your Progress
At The Hired Guns, we believe that in order to get laser-focused on your job search, you’ll need to create a spreadsheet to track your progress. Here’s how to get started.
Create a spreadsheet called “Target Companies” in Excel or Google Docs
- Column A = Target Company
- Column B = Target Title
- Column C = Date Applied
- Column D = Priority
List the last 20 jobs you’ve applied to or have your eye on. Only fill in columns A, B and C. This shouldn’t take more than about 30 minutes.
Go to the Priority column (“D”) and assign a rank to each job from 1 to 5, with #1 being the one you believe you have the best chance of landing based on how much your professional chops match the company’s needs. If you find any jobs on the list that you can’t legitimately see yourself landing, assign them a zero.
Sort by priority
What jobs made it to the top of your list? Are you excited about them? Do you believe that you have a better than average chance of making it onto a hiring manager’s short list based on the qualifications assigned to the role? If so, you’re in a good place to continue on. If not, you should be honest with yourself and try this exercise again with more realistic jobs. This isn’t to say that you can’t have an occasional stretch position on your list. You certainly can and should, but every job can’t be a long shot.
Over the next month, challenge yourself to re-prioritize each time you apply to a new job. Spend 80% of your time focusing on the 20% of the jobs you can land and excel at. Soon you’ll naturally begin to narrow down that enormous list of jobs from long shots to sure shots.
All told, you’re going to have to invest a little time if you’re serious about your job search. However, spending the time and doing the work will pay big dividends in short order. If you get your act together early on, you’ll be able to
respond to opportunities much more quickly and with greater relevance than you would by simply firing off hastily compiled application materials.
Look at your calendar for the coming four days and try to block out some time each day to devote to preparing your materials. Your competition will wait until the last minute, but you don’t have to.
Creating a standout resume is a daunting task — and the most difficult part of your job search. We’ll show you how to nail a top-notch resume in a flash.
28 Days to a New Job is a month-long Hired Guns course designed to help you maximize your competitiveness in the current job market. Learn the secrets to getting a job from hiring managers, recruiters, negotiation experts and more. Read our our introductory post here. Or Subscribe Now to receive 28 Days to a New Job as a daily email.