Mapping Out Your Job Search (Part I)

Prior to starting Hamrick & Associates, I was the Director of Human Resources for a company that will be closing their doors in September of this year. Unfortunately, this company closing is not a unique situation but is representative of our nation’s economic conditions. I have been asked by some of my former colleagues and employees what they should be doing as they face the uncertainty ahead in their job search. Over the next few blogs I will be addressing:

1) steps for those who will be with the organization until the company ceases operation in 3 months;
2) steps for those who face job elimination within the coming weeks and finally;
3) steps for individuals who have already lost their positions.
This blog addresses individuals that are currently employed and have time to plan for a work transition.

Whether you are one of the employees at my former company who has several months prior to facing the unemployment line, or work for another organization and are planning a transition in the distant future, the steps that are presented here should provide guidance or what to do now to prepare and start your search. Statistics indicate that the majority of individuals are looking to make a change in their employment situation. Typically in a good economy it was expected that nearly 20% of the workforce was looking for opportunities outside of their current employer. Surveys, which have been conducted in recent months, indicate that when the economy improves, up to 60% of the workforce will consider an employment change. There are many theories out there to discuss the spike and why so many individuals are unhappy with their current employers, but that is a topic for another day. I will only address what steps those individuals can take to prepare for your job search. The 5 steps to follow are:

1. Plan your job search strategy.
2. Create your target list of companies and positions.
3. Create your resume and supporting materials.
4. Plan your finances.
5. Build your network.

Plan your job search strategy.

Planning your job search strategy while you are still receiving a steady income gives you the ability to be more flexible. It is important to determine what your goals are in your search. Once your plan and goals are set, you can identify items, such as, how much income you require, the type of organization you wish to work for, etc., This creates your strategy for you to determine the steps you take on your path. Remember to begin thinking about what sets you apart from your competition in your upcoming search.

Create your target list of companies and positions.

Once you have your initial goals set you are ready to identify and target the companies that you would like to work for. Selecting the right company for you, is an important step. Take time to evaluate what is important to you in your search. Some questions to ask yourself are:

Is there a particular industry you want to work in?
Are you more interested in a particular job, as opposed to industry?
Is the company culture or values important to you?
Are the companies you have identified hiring and what are they looking for?
What companies or industries are experiencing growth, that may have positions you are qualified for?

Know the types of companies you are seeking. This is a good time to research these organizations. Find out where they post their positions and where they are involved in the community. This is a time to build profiles on the internet job boards and create a profile for the specific companies you are interested in. Once your profiles are in place, you can set up a job agent to email you when the positions you desire are available. If you are looking for a position within a specific industry, research the job boards that specialize in your chosen industry and set up alerts there. Should you be looking for a specific position within a certain region, you will be able to create job agents with job boards that highlight those positions. This is also a good time to hit the large job board aggregators, such as and or the job boards such as, and to name a few. Again, if there is a job board that highlights jobs for your position, industry, or jobs for your region, be sure to create the job search agent in places that you wish to target.

Create your resume and supporting materials.

Once you have your targets in sight, you are prepared for the next step of preparing the materials that you will need to present yourself to these organizations. There are many resources available for you to begin to create the materials you will need in securing your next position. There are many job coaches and resources that discuss this step as building a marketing plan, creating your brand, or other descriptions. In many ways you are preparing to market yourself to the prospective employers. All of this will begin with creating your resume. A resume should be built around the type of job you are seeking. Each discipline that you are exploring should have it’s own resume focused on highlighting the skills that are required for each separate discipline. There are many schools of thought when it comes to a resume and you can find many blogs, articles, tools, advice, etc, in preparing your resume. You are in the position that, if necessary, you can afford to have someone professionally create your resume. Once your resume is complete, it is important to begin a template for your cover letter. Give yourself time to consider the accomplishments in your current role. These areas are critical in presenting yourself to a prospective employer and will truly highlight what sets you apart from the competition. In thinking of your accomplishments, this is also a good time to begin to gather letters of recommendation from individuals who will recognize your accomplishments. This stage of the process can take the longest amount of time to build and requires a great deal of creative thinking.

Plan your finances.

While you are still employed and earning an income, is a good time to create your financial strategy. You have an opportunity to create and build additional areas of savings. The news is filled with stories of job searches and unemployment at levels we have not seen for some time. Begin to create your financial strategy to prepare in case you need a safety net. While you may be counting on unemployment insurance and some may have a severance plan, these resources are helpful, but they will not sustain you for long unless you have additional resources. Signs are pointing to an economic recovery and the creation of additional jobs and you may be optimistic about securing a position quickly, but as you already know, it is better to be safe, than sorry.

Build your network.

One of the areas that has changed greatly in recent years is the final step in this process, which is networking. Networking has always been an important part of any job search. Social media technology has exploded over recent years and is changing almost daily. The ability and sources to follow news and job opportunities are very advanced. When I was last in a job search for myself 5 years ago, print advertisements were a good source for job opportunities as were the large job boards of Monster and CareerBuilder. Today, job classifieds are minimal, to say the least, and more companies are utilizing LinkedIn and their own website to post their positions as opposed to purchasing expensive job packages from the former job board giants to draw traffic and candidates. Many individuals are finding out about positions via tweets on Twitter from Recruiters and job boards as well as the applications for job search engines on their mobile phones. I recommend that all candidates utilize these free services and take advantage of them as much as possible. It is critical to create social network accounts and become very involved on LinkedIn, not only to connect with individuals you already know, but also the individuals you wish to know at the companies you are targeting. LinkedIn has a relatively new function that will allow you to “follow” your target companies. Beyond that, use LinkedIn to join groups that you are interested in, find out about networking events for your specialty and connect with the organizations that are posting your next job. It is still important to connect with people you currently work with, and ask them for recommendations (while they are at it, ask for one on company letterhead for your next face to face interview.) Set up a Twitter account and follow recruiters in your area who specialize in your area of focus. Use Facebook to become a fan of your favorite company and follow their news and community involvement. When they are volunteering in the community, or looking for volunteers, get involved if possible. If you are feeling really adventurous, create a blog. Many job seekers are getting their name in front of companies by sharing their ideas, giving greater insight to the value they would offer and putting a different kind of resume on their websites. Networking is still the best way to find a job. As the saying goes, “It is not what you know, but who you know.”

I hope this is helpful for those beginning their search. I encourage you to share your ideas or comments below. If you have specific questions or would like further tools or consultation, please contact me at I also encourage you to follow us on facebook , LinkedIn , or Twitter, as well to keep informed of opportunities and events we are holding.

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Comment by Karen Swim on June 21, 2010 at 1:32pm
Gary, your advice is 100% on target! In fact, I have been on a mission to get candidates to take this advice even when they are not in a market. Far too many never take time to take charge of their career, and only begin planning the next move when forced into a choice. If your job is your primary income it is worth it to protect it by actively managing it rather than leaving it to chance.
Comment by Gary Hamrick on June 22, 2010 at 8:39am
Karen, Thank you for your comment. Great point about active management of a career as opposed to leaving it to chance. I wish you success in your mission of educating and assisting your candidates in building their brand and taking charge of their career.


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