7 Tips for Navigating the Job Search

There are a lot of changes happening in the world of work right now. The pandemic has helped us reimagine so much of our lives, but particularly what it means to be successful and thriving at work. We spend a significant amount of our waking hours working, so what we do and who we do it with has a sizable impact on our overall well-being. Workers’ expectations are changing. We’ve all seen the news about the “Great Resignation”, and apparently 55% of us want to make a change. In response, many employers are recognizing the importance of supporting their employees. We’re seeing companies respond with higher wages and a more holistic approach to compensation packages. So if you’re looking for work that’s a better fit for you, now is a good time to do it. 

Even with such compelling conditions, searching for a more engaging job can be a daunting task. It’s as much about knowing yourself as it is about knowing what opportunities are out there. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are seven timeless tips, ideas to guide reflection, and reminders to help you in the first step to finding your next great job.

1. Create a personal inventory

Take stock of the skills you’ve acquired in previous jobs or roles. Use your reflections to gain clarity around the impact that you want to have and the skills you’re interested in developing further. This can and should inform the type of work you’d like to do next.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to get you started:

  • When has work not felt like work? Think of moments when you’ve been so engaged in what you’re doing that you’ve lost track of time. This could be work or a hobby. What about those moments were captivating for you?

  • What are you brilliant at? What talents come naturally to you?

  • How did you hone your abilities to help past companies succeed? (Get specific)

  • What were meaningful past work experiences?

  • How would you like to build off of those experiences in your next job?

2. Know what you’re looking for

When it comes to your next role, make a list of “must have” qualities and “prefer to have” qualities. The more specific and detailed the better. Remember, this is what you’ll be doing for most of your waking hours. It’s important to consider what is right for you because you’ll be both happier and more engaged if you choose a work environment and company culture that aligns with your needs and values.

Here are a few questions to consider when beginning to focus your search:

  • What are you excited about right now?

  • What’s compelling when you think of the next step in your career journey?

  • Is it a specific role, company, or industry?

  • Is it driven by a specific cause or mission you’d like to support?

Now take a few moments to think about your ideal work environment: 

  • Do you prefer to work on-site, or do you prefer to work remotely?

  • What type of physical work environment do you thrive in? (i.e. outdoors, open space, private office, physically active or demanding environment, quiet and calm spaces…)

  • What’s your ideal schedule?

  • What size organization is right for you?

Lastly, consider your benefit and compensation needs. If you have clarity around what you need as well as what you’d like to strive for, this will help to inform your search and prepare you to negotiate with your future employer more confidently.

3. Pitch yourself!

Your personal pitch is all about refining your messaging to succinctly share highlights of who you are and what you love to do. It should include your strongest skills, your passions, and what you’re looking for in your next career opportunity. Preparing in this way is the first step to becoming interview-ready. Recruiters and hiring managers love to start interviews with an open-ended question like “tell me about yourself”. Prepare a well-crafted pitch, and your confident answer will help you land the right opportunity.

So, where to start? Take some of the highlights from the first two exercises and let this inform your pitch. Distill your answers and focus on the key points. Include relevant parts of your story, your experience, and the qualities and traits of your ideal job. You’ll need to prepare one that is written and one that is verbal — both will come in handy for networking events, interviews, applications, and more. Keep your verbal pitch succinct and on point, it should be no more than 1-2 minutes in length. The written version should not be longer than 1-2 paragraphs. A clear and concise pitch conveys confidence and will make a memorable impression.

4. Get out there and start networking

At the end of the day, networking is all about relationships and connections - getting to know people and visa versa. Be considerate and authentic. Whetheryou’re branching into a new industry or just looking to expand your network, consider tapping into professional organizations, continuing education, or special-interest groups. Networking can be rewarding and fun when you find the right events and groups, even if you’re introverted or shy. Your network is bigger than you might imagine, and people love to help others. Push yourself and stay curious, you just might find some unexpected opportunities to explore.

5. Schedule informational interviews

Informational interviews are great when it comes to learning more about an industry, company, or role you’re interested in. The purpose of these interviews is to deepen your knowledge and build relationships. But remember, it’s important to be respectful of peoples’ time if you’re going to ask them to meet with you. Do your research beforehand to familiarize yourself with essential information about the individual, company, and industry you're interested in. This will help you to come up with thoughtful questions that will lead to a richer conversation. 

Finding the right person to interview requires a bit of work. To start the process, leverage your network and reach out directly to someone whose professional journey inspires you. You can also reach out to companies that spark your interest. You might have to make several attempts before you find someone who is able to share their time and provide the information you’re looking for. Don’t get deterred if you don’t hear back from everyone. Remember, it never hurts to reach out. You may hear some “no’s” but others will say yes. And once you get that interview scheduled, make sure your questions are respectfully tailored to the person you’re speaking to. Don’t forget to follow up with an email or note to express your gratitude and thank the person you met with for their time and generosity.

6. Visit company career pages

There’s a little spark of magic when you find a company with a culture and values that match your vibe. Follow those companies you love. Visit their career pages regularly. Keep an eye out for open positions, and sign up to be notified when they’re posted. Even if they don’t have any current listings, don’t be afraid to reach out. Contact them through their career page, your network, or their LinkedIn page. When you do, tell them what you love about what they’re doing, and have a clear ask for them to respond to.

7. Seek out niche job boards

The big job boards get lots of attention, but you might find more of what you’re looking for in a smaller forum. There are plenty of niche boards out there for specific industries, roles, regions and more. Find the job boards that align with your interest and keep an eye out for listings that are right for you. Sign up for email alerts to be notified whenever new roles are posted that meet your criteria.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” - Steve Jobs

We hope these tips have helped you get your job search started, or given you some fresh ideas if you’ve hit a rut. As you search, remember that your next job will be more engaging and satisfying if it aligns with your values and meets your personal needs and requirements. By doing a little reflection, research, and preparation, finding your next opportunity will be less stressful and more fruitful. You’ve got this!

author photo

Cecilia Lopez

Cecilia is a social entrepreneur dedicated to helping people find meaningful work that contributes to a more equitable and just world for all. She holds an MBA in Sustainable Business and Systems Thinking, and after a successful career in corporate accounting, she began to seek opportunities to augment her impact. In addition to co-founding Handprint, Cecilia has served as a volunteer board member of Blue Sky Center, a nonprofit serving rural communities in the Cuyama Valley, and Kindling.xyz, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and supporting changemakers. In her free time Cecilia enjoys hiking with her partner and their two puppies, crocheting stuffed animals for donations to Blue Sky, and connecting with friends.