You may be entering the market looking for your very first job. You could be an experienced professional reaching the point where you know it's time say good-bye to your current employer. Are you the brave soul hoping to make a complete career change? Quite possibly, you're a stay at home mom and ready to re-enter the corporate world. If you've been one of the casualties of a down-sizing or been asked to leave (sometimes a blessing in disguise) the suggestions are almost the same for everyone.
Job hunters of all levels of expertise often want to know what they can expect during their search. As a career counselor, I welcome this question. It tells me this person understands that adjustments may be required of them. Being realistic about your job search can make the difference between a successful mission and an unsuccessful one. When a client is armed with information it alleviates anxiety by simply knowing what to anticipate. That in itself is empowering.
Understand that a realistic time frame for the average job search is anywhere from three to six months. This may perhaps be the biggest surprise I encounter with clients. Six months seems like forever to someone who may be out of work.
Expect to have at least six months in savings for your minimal living costs before you consider a job search. The last thing any job hunter needs is money worries in addition to the stress of a job search. Consider paying down existing debt prior to your search if at all possible.
This requires a great deal of flexibility. Ask yourself tough questions like “What is the least amount I can afford to work for to meet my needs" and “What are my services really worth in today's job market for my skill level?" Factor your location into the equation. Be prepared with a reasonable salary range in mind and not one inflexible dollar figure.
A JOB SEARCH IS A FULL TIME JOB
It's not enough to mail a few resumes and wait for the phone to ring. Be prepared to invest at least six to eight hours each day. A successful job search requires research, networking, developing contacts, writing (and re-writing) your resume, writing cover letters and following up with every prospective employer.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR RESUME
Be prepared to customize your resume and cover letter for every position. In a job search the rule is “One size does not fit all". Few things are more annoying to an employer than to see a written presentation done carelessly. Many experienced human resources professionals can tell when their company name has been substituted onto a generic cover letter. It sends a clear message that their needs are not important.
EXPLORE ALL SOURCES
Anyone who has been out of the job market for a while may be unfamiliar with the latest job search engines and job data banks. Internet networking resources are relatively new as well. This is where educating yourself comes in to play. More and more options seem be appearing all the time.
Be prepared for the long haul and then pleasantly surprised if your search ends sooner than you expected. Realize also that it's a numbers game. Set a goal for yourself for a minimal number of calls or contacts to make daily. Take the initiative to follow up if you haven't received an expected number of responses. You may need to re-evaluate your game plan.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Realize that the endeavor you've undertaken can be stressful and it may sometimes feel demoralizing. Don't give in to negative feelings. Treat yourself regularly to small rewards for plowing through another day or week. Most importantly, remind yourself that there's an employer out there looking for you and your amazing skills. It's just a matter of time before you find each other.
Shelley Cantrelle is a freelance writer, editor, blogger and career consultant. She is the also the owner of Transitions Professional Writing, which specializes in providing web content and business writing services for corporate and private customers.