Reactive (rē-ˈak-tiv) done in response to a situation
Proactive (prō-ˈak-tiv) controlling a situation by making things happen
In the beginning stages of a job search, you make a choice. Will you run a proactive or a reactive search? A reactive search is just that – reacting. You respond to a stimulus, in this case a job description or a job post, and wait. In this situation, you are likely competing against hundreds of candidates and that’s if you get past the applicant tracking systems that are scanning your resume for key words. While reacting to job posts is a necessary part of the job search (see my article about Tackling Job Boards) it should take up only a small portion of your time and energy. Instead, let’s focus on proactive measures.
The bulk of your efforts should be proactive. By proactive, I mean establishing yourself as an ideal candidate before the job posting is even listed. Put yourself in front of the right people and create a strategy that you control so you are not at the mercy of job boards. Being proactive can also help you achieve measurable results around the number of meetings you have or people you connect with rather than waiting for responses from online applications. A proactive job search can help you well beyond your current situation and the practices outlined below are worth keeping up even when you land your next role.
Use these six strategies to take a proactive approach to your job search.
1. Target companies Create a list of companies for which you’d like to work. Start with a brainstorm of leaders in your industry and expand from there; remember to include companies that impact your personal life, if applicable. Many of us don’t think about the companies which make the products we use every day and brands we are loyal to as places where we could work,but they are companies, too, and might need your talents. Hey – you’re already familiar with the product. Another way to expand your search is through LinkedIn. On a company page, there is a section of companies that ‘people also viewed.’ Oftentimes these are competitors in the same industry and might be great additions to your list. Once you find these companies, determine if you have any contacts there or know someone who can make an introduction for you.
2. Spread the word One of my clients who was recently laid off told me that his new job was to have coffees and lunches. I couldn’t agree more. Make sure that people know that you’re looking and please start giving your network more credit! I consistently hear from my clients that they have a small or weak network that cannot help very much in a job search. Within minutes we are able to identify new ways that their network can help and more people who are in the network. Think beyond former colleagues to friends, family members, and acquaintances at places you frequent like the gym, clubs or school. Does your softball team know you’re looking for a new job? They should! People want to help, but we need them to know that you’re looking for something new. Share that you’re looking and what you’re looking for so your network can keep an eye out for you.
3. Expand your circle In spreading the word, of course you will ask contacts to let you know of opportunities. There is also tremendous value in asking for new contacts in your industry. This is an easy way to receive introductions and expand your circle. Networking can feel intimidating for many and the idea of reaching out to strangers even more so. An introduction from someone you know is an easy way to expand your circle. Once the introduction is made, request an informational interview to learn more about that person and their role. These meetings are great ways for you to establish yourself as an eager professional and to be the one who is top of mind when an opportunity arises.
4. Study up Are you worried about your skills staying up to date or being right for a new role? Get more information! There are wonderful online resources to enhance your skills. One of my favorites is Lynda.com, which is free to many public library patrons. Another fantastic source of information is professional organizations. Head to a meeting of your local chapter. A simple Google search should turn up results if you don’t know of any right away. At these events, you’ll hear from speakers providing information on a relevant topic and you’ll definitely meet new people in the field. Network and learn at the same time!
5. Share your knowledge Want to establish yourself as an expert? We have a fantastic platform in LinkedIn. Start now by publishing articles about the work you do and industry trends. If that feels too intimidating, you can share articles that you have found helpful, or comment on a connection’s update or post. This will ensure that your name is out there as an expert and active participant in industry news and events. You could also offer to give a talk at one of those professional organizations I just mentioned.
6. Be a resource If you have extra time, start using it to showcase the work you do. Are you a grant writer? Financial analyst? Teacher? Someone could use your help. Volunteer for an organization that needs your services. It’s a wonderful way to put yourself out there as an expert and build your network. Plus, it feels really good to help.
Use these tips to establish yourself as an ideal candidate before the job is even posted. These six proactive strategies will keep reactive efforts to a minimum and help you take control of your search.