Develop a Strategy

How you approach your job search depends on the purpose for your search. Are you looking for an entry-level position at a company you can grow with? Advancement? Have you been laid off and timing is a factor? Are you a career changer looking for that first crossover job? Your strategy will likely combine both proactive and response-based job search approaches:

- Proactive job searches focus on identifying where you would like to work and positioning yourself as an ideal candidate. It is proactive because you identify employment targets and follow a strategy to achieve them. Advantages include the chance to target just the companies you ‘d like to work for and development of key contacts. The apparent disadvantage is that the process seems longer.

- Select industries, locations, occupations and employers that interest you. We usually recommend you start with between 4 and 7 targets.

Click here for an Job Search Organizational Tool to help manage your job targets.

- Research them to identify which have the highest probability of hiring you, based on your capabilities and preferences. Use secondary research, as well as asking for advice through your network. It is OK if your list changes as more information becomes available, and you begin to identify your ideal organizations, become clear on the skills you need and develop professional relationships with contacts in your target organizations.

When job openings are posted, you already have the qualifications and background information you need to write a powerful resume and cover letter. Many proactive job searchers even become “the person they have in mind” – which is perfectly legal.

- Response-based searchesfocus on applying to jobs that have been publically posted. This type of search is response-based in that you are reacting to a job listing that you find with an application or resume. The apparent advantage is that the openings are current; the disadvantages can include both a potentially weak resume if you lack insight information about the company or position and difficulty in standing out from the competition if you have no connections within the organization.

- If you find a job opening you’d like to apply to, use your network and background research to understand the employer’s problems and how you can solve them in the position. Use what you learn to create a targeted resume and cover letter. If possible, find someone to refer you within the organization.

- Be aware that applying to huge sites (like Monster) has the highest probability of success when you have skills that are in high demand.

Resource: The University of Virginia Alumni Association, Career Services page