I got an email yesterday from a client wanting to know if I had any job search tips. Unfortunately, he had been recently laid off and found himself on the job market. Talking to him got me thinking...what really makes a job search successful?


The bad news is that there isn't a magic formula. The good news is there are a number of very simple things you can do to improve your marketability.

Here are four easy steps:

1. Update Your Resume As Soon As Possible

This might sound simple, but it is by far the most important (and first) step in a job search. You need to have your resume ready to roll at a moment's notice.

The way I see it, there are two kinds of job seekers. There is the job seeker that draws confidence from being prepared and then there is the kind of job seeker that gets blindsided by the unexpected. I know which kind I'd rather be.

The best time to focus on your resume is when you don't need it.

2. Figure Out Who Your Resume Is For

Man speeds up his job search by optimizing his resume

Is your resume for you or is it for prospective employers? The resume might have your info, experience, and accomplishments on it, but ultimately, the documents that make it past the ATS not only have the right amount of keywords peppered throughout, but also show, very clearly, what the applicant can do for the potential employer.

When writing your resume, always keep potential employers at the forefront of your mind. Make sure you quantify your experience, skills, and accomplishments. Give them a preview of the kind of positive impact you could have on their organization if they were to hire you.

3. Realize It's Not About You

Woman uses strategies to speed up her job search

Really. It's not. The most successful job seekers understand that it's about what you do for others, not about what they can do for you.

This is a fundamental idea that for some I hope turns the act of "networking" completely upside down. In every interaction, the most important thing is to demonstrate, "How can I help YOU?" It's the folks that unselfishly look out for those around them that make opportunities happen. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

What connections can you help make? Ask open ended questions. You may even choose to treat the conversation like an informational interview. What professional needs does the other party have and how can you fill them?

4. Determine Your Target

Man makes a phone call while looking for a job

This is such a simple concept, but it's probably the biggest obstacle I see with many of my clients. You have to have a target. It is as easy as that. How can you expect to reach the goal of employment without aiming for a bull's-eye?

The first step is to clearly identify the job/profession/industry you are targeting. You may even have a company that you've always wanted to work at. (It's always a good idea to have an interview bucket list—a list of companies you're passionate about that you'd love to work for someday.)

Make sure that your goal aligns with your experience. Then (and only then) are you free to begin outlining a plan to achieve your goal.

Here's an example:

I have an open door policy with my resume clients and I keep tabs on them throughout their job searches. Out of all the resumes and resume clients I've ever had, only one resume didn't work. One. When I wrote the initial resume, my client was targeting retail sales positions. Then she called one day a couple of months into her job search wondering why she wasn't getting any responses. I asked her to send me an example of the jobs she was applying for and guess what? All the online job applications she had filled out were for human resources positions. No wonder her resume didn't work!
After rewriting her resume, she found work relatively quickly and it just goes to show how important it is to aim before you pull the trigger.

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Know your audience, be proactive, and remember that it's not about you. If you apply these things to your job search, you'll be employed in no time!


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This post was originally published at an earlier date.