I’m one of those “planner” types. I’ve learned that being a planner means to be appreciated by other planners, and a bit despised by those who are not. Which is kind of funny, given that non-planners tend be benefit the most from their planner associate’s skill. After all, it’s from a planner that a non-planner will secure a tissue, a piece of gum, a scrap of paper (and a pen), a quarter, just when it’s needed most.
Planners tend to plan for events, even those that never occur. So when an employer informs a planner that the business is closing, a planner will likely have his or her résumé updated and ready, a list of potential companies to which they can apply, a network of people whom they’ll contact, and enough in their savings account to cover the next six months (no, really, seriously).
If you find yourself despising the person I just described, then chances are you’re not a planner. And that’s okay, because the rest of this article is for you. I’m going to give you 10 steps you need to take as soon as you hear the words, “I’m sorry to inform you, but…”
1. Don’t Panic
Don’t. Panic leads to all sorts of unproductive thoughts and activities, none of which will get you where you need to go. Scream if you need to, punch a pillow into oblivion, take a quick jog around the block, exhaust all the negative energy, and move forward.
Here’s a little nugget you can hold onto as you take these next few steps: Events like these often lead to great new beginnings. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, “Although it sure didn’t seem like it at the time, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” For all its mayhem, this may end up being a gift.
2. Get Your Résumé in Order
If you haven’t updated your résumé in the last six months (or if you’ve never needed a résumé, before), it’s time to get your résumé in order.
To create an effective résumé, you must have at least a basic understanding of what potential employers are hoping to secure in potential candidates for the types of jobs, at the types of companies you’re planning to target. Most of this information can be found via job ads, recruiters or by researching corporate websites.
Write down the top 5-7 qualifications employers are seeking in the positions you’re targeting, and make these qualifications evident in your resume. Since ads usually list qualifications by their order of value or priority, you’ll know which ones are the most important to your reader.
Next, write down an overall description of your role and level of responsibility within each position you’ve held. Include anything that will define the size and scope of that responsibility, such as numbers, figures, or dollar amounts. Provide a general description of what you did, including the goals and objectives of that role (what did your efforts ensure or enable?). This description should be no more than three or four sentences.
Then, in only one or two sentences for each: write down everything each position entailed on a daily, weekly, monthly, and/or project-to-project basis.
Looking at the responsibility statements you’ve listed, which ones reflect the most important aspects of the work you did? Which responsibilities did you most enjoy? In which responsibilities did you really excel? Which ones are indicative of work that would be most relevant, valuable or applicable to the positions you’re now targeting? See if you can prioritize these by their relevancy and appeal to both you and to a potential employer.
While you want to present a reverse chronological history of events, you also want to prioritize your material to that which will be viewed as most relevant and most valuable to your reader. So, for example, If your educational achievements are the most relevant qualifications you possess (for the positions you’re targeting), you’ll want to lead your document with education experience over applied experience. If you have applied experience that’s relevant or valuable to the positions you’re targeting, then lead with applied experience over education.
Education is a valuable asset, and is sometimes the deciding factor between two otherwise equally qualified candidates, but your reader will almost always be most interested in your applied experience and how that experience benefited past employers.
Showing the value and outcome of your work and contributions (your achievements) is also extremely important. By listing your achievements, you show the reader what they may enjoy via hiring you. Keep in mind that quantitative results and information (numbers, figures, dollar amounts, and percentages) really stand out and should be included wherever possible.
3. Setup a New E-Mail Address & Update Your LinkedIn
Setup an e-mail address specifically for use during your job search campaign. Not only will this prevent your regular e-mail address from being inundated with e-mails from recruiters six months after your job search has concluded, but it will also help you to organize your résumé submissions and contacts. Use this new e-mail address on your résumé and all other job related contact information.
With your résumé updated, it’s also time to update your LinkedIn account. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, it’s time to set one up. LinkedIn is being used more and more by recruiters, potential employers and HR directors as both a way to locate potential candidates and a way to further screen those who have submitted résumés.
LinkedIn offers various opportunities to network with others (particularly those in your target field and industry) and to research potential companies of interest.
Don’t put your whole résumé on LinkedIn. Just the highlights. You want to establish your level of qualification while also enticing the reader to want to learn more: request a résumé or invite you to a one-on-one meeting (an interview).
4. Create a Contacts List and Rev Up Your Network
Pull out your phone, look at your LinkedIn and go through all of your social media contacts. You want to make every person you know aware of your employment status and job search.
Create a master list of contacts. Don’t just go off your address book or Facebook list, but create a single, comprehensive list of contacts (one that includes names and contact information) that you can check off as you go. You’re going to want to keep track of who you contact, when, and any follow-up or help provided.
When you speak with your contacts, in addition to letting them know that you’re currently in the job market, provide them with a clear description of the types of positions and companies you’re targeting. Don’t expect anyone to figure this out for you, or to guess where you might fit in.
Know what you have to offer, know what types of positions you’re targeting, and have a good sense of the level of compensation you can reasonably expect to receive for your level of skill and experience. The more precise you are in what you’re hoping to secure, the more effective your contacts will be in helping you get there.
Your contacts aren’t just additional eyes and ears; they can also help you expand your network. Ask each of your contacts for the name and contact information of any friend or colleague they feel may be able to offer additional assistance or support. For example, do they know anyone currently working in your target field or industry?
With every communication, with every new referral, show your appreciation. Your network isn’t obligated to help you. So don’t take your contacts for granted, and don’t express any expectation of what you feel they are obligated to do for you. Instead, encourage their desire to help you by showing sincere gratitude and appreciation for every expression of their support.
5. Request and Gather Recommendation Letters
If you haven’t gotten in the practice of securing recommendation letters, now’s the time to start. These letters are particularly valuable when you lose a job and/or are currently unemployed, as they act as a stamp of approval from someone who can attest to what you bring to the table: your skills, abilities and work ethics.
Secure recommendation letters and referrals for every position you’ve held in the last 10 to 15 years. These letters can be from anyone who has personal experience working with you and/or can otherwise speak to your unique abilities, responsibilities, character, work contributions or achievements.
6. The Job Hunt Begins
Armed with your résumé, list of contacts, recommendation letters, and a plan of action, you’re ready to begin the job campaign in earnest.
Ideally, you’ll want to throw your job search net as wide as possible, using all the resources at your disposal and creating as may job options and opportunities, as possible.
In addition to perusing online job sites, such as CareerBuilder, Indeed, and Monster, and searching for job openings, there, consider working with a professional recruiter who specializes in your field and/or industry. Not only will this person have valuable insights regarding what potential employers are looking for in potential candidates, and connections to companies who are hiring, but they can offer you valuable guidance on how to create and manage a successful job search campaign in today’s market.
And since recruiters are paid by the companies who hire them, you can take advantage of their expertise for free.
While you’re throwing out your job search net and utilizing industry recruiters, don’t forget to do your some research of your own. Who are the major players (companies) in your field, industry and/or location? Do they have a career page with job listings? What can you learn about the company from its website? What is it best known for and what is it most proud of?
Tailor your résumé and cover letter to each position you target, using any known job criteria (information usually obtained via a recruiter, job ad, or company research) to determine what information needs to be highlighted and emphasized. Show the reader that you’re the most qualified candidate by giving them what they need and want to see in potential candidates.
7. Organize and Track Your Résumé Submissions and Follow Up
For every résumé you submit, keep a copy of the original job description (this will be helpful when you’re invited to interview), a copy of the tailored résumé, the date the résumé was submitted (and whether this was submitted through e-mail, snail mail, online application, or via recruiter), and the date and content of any reply.
If you haven’t heard anything from a résumé submission, and it’s been at least two weeks since it was submitted, you can follow up the submission – using the same method used to submit it: e-mail, snail mail, company website, or recruiter – and reiterate your interest in the position.
Even as interviews are being setup, even as interviews are going well, even when there’s a promise of ja ob offer on the horizon, don’t stop job searching. Nothing is a “done deal” until you have an offer in writing and have formally accepted that offer.
8. Prepare and Be Ready for Interviews
Interviews are stressful for almost everyone. One thing worth keeping in mind is this: If you’ve been asked to interview, chances are very high the HR person, recruiter or employer already considers you a qualified candidate for the job. Unless you’re interviewing as a favor to someone, an HR person isn’t going to waste his or her time interviewing an unqualified candidate. They just won’t.
Make sure that you have interview clothes that are clean, pressed and ready, well in advance. Even in relaxed working environments, it’s appropriate to dress in business attire for an interview. This is your opportunity to make a good first impression. You want to appear as a person who is taking the interview and job opportunity seriously.
Once you have an interview scheduled, know how you’re going to get there, know how long it will take to get there, even in bad traffic, and plan to arrive early. Practice answering interview questions. Bring along at least two printed copies of your résumé and a list of references (at least three, preferably five). Take notes. Ask questions. Make sure you have the correct spelling of your interviewer’s name. Follow up every interview with a “Thank you” note.
9. Reorganize Your Finances
If you’ve lost your job, then you need to reorganize your finances, even temporarily, ASAP. One of the biggest mistakes job hunters make when they’re between jobs is to continue living as through they have the same income as when they were gainfully employed.
If your income has dropped – even temporarily – then your outflow needs to be adjusted, as well.
Look at what you spend each month and evaluate what can be eliminated for the time being. This may mean cable television, Netflix, dinners out, daily coffee shop stops, etc. If it’s not a necessity, see if it can be put on hold until the money starts coming in again.
Not only will this help to preserve your financial stability, but it’s worth knowing that more and more companies are performing financial background checks on potential employees. A good credit rating is more important than ever. How you manage your money can be indicative of how you manage your life and work in other areas.
10. Apply the Fine Art of “Thank you”
The fine art of the “Thank you” note or letter has been lost in recent years, but needs a good revival. Every person who has helped you in this journey deserves a show of gratitude and appreciation, and nothing does that better than a heartfelt “Thank you” note. Okay, maybe a gift card is nice, too, but we’re on a budget, here.
Following up interviews with a “Thank you” is a good idea, too. Make sure you have the correct name and spelling for every person who has interviewed you. In these notes, you may reiterate your continued interest in the position (including any important touch points discussed), but overall the message should be one of gratitude for the interviewer’s time and consideration.
11. Choose to Become a Planner & Steer this Ship
Step 11 is a bonus. If you haven’t been a planner up to this point, if you haven’t been actively steering this ship, it’s time. Don’t let life happen to you, guide it where you want it to go. And be prepared when it hits a sandbar now and then. Have a bit of cash set aside for those rainy days, and always have your résumé up to date. You’ll thank me later.
Once you secure this next job, don’t settle in too comfortably. Keep notes regarding your roles and responsibilities as they change and expand, and update this, monthly. Every time you achieve a new accomplishment, make a note of it.
Then, update your résumé every six months or so. That way it will always be ready to be put into use. Keep abreast of the current job market: the jobs that are available and the companies that are hiring. Keep your network alive by remaining interested in what’s going on in their lives and communicating now and then, if for no other reason than to say “Hello, I was thinking about you, today.”
Play it forward and help someone else who’s now on this journey. Write a recommendation letter, make a connection for someone, share what you’ve learned.