Planning your job search

Before embarking on your job search you should consider how you are going to manage and plan your search. Of course there will be the practical side to the search. You will need a good CV (or Résumé), a selection of jobs to consider and an excellent cover letter. Additionally you will need to prepare carefully for interviews. All of these topics will be dealt with in detail in later chapters of this book.

The first key step is to get a good positive attitude. You need to be determined to succeed. You have a unique set of skills, experiences and achievements that will be of real value to your next employer. Some people become disheartened when they have been made redundant (or laid off) or when they have applied for many jobs without success. By following the steps detailed in this book you have set out on the right path, your CV and job applications will be a great deal better than the vast majority of the people applying for jobs. You will be successful and you will find the job that you really want!

Managing yourself

As you will be managing your search as a professional job search campaign the most important factor in that campaign will be managing yourself. It’s important that you develop the habit of “going to work” each day. Assuming that you are not actually working then being Job Search Campaign Manager is your new full time job!

As with any job you will need to plan your week and keep a well-structured “to do” list of daily activities. If you have access to applications like Microsoft Office and Outlook then you will be able to create a task list in the calendar and of course place reminders for calls and meetings. Use a spread sheet application (like Microsoft Excel) to record all of your job applications, telephone conversations and interviews. All of this activity takes a lot of discipline and for someone who is not used to working at home it is easy to become distracted! How nice it would be to take the dog for a walk, stroll to the shops or watch some daytime television! The best way to counter the temptation to lose concentration is to set yourself some clear daily targets and deadlines.

Some people find it helpful to divide the day up into one hour sessions. You can dedicate a set period of time each day for research, searching for jobs on the Internet, making actual job applications and so on. In addition to this you will be making phone calls to your network of contacts and following up any referrals either by phone or mail. And then you will need to factor in time for face-to-face meetings or interviews with recruiters, network contacts and of course potential employers.  Try to make the best use of your time when arranging to meet recruiters and contacts. It makes senses to schedule a number of meetings on a single day so that you save valuable time and money on the cost of travel.

If you are still working then finding the time to search for a new job will be that much more difficult. If you have been made redundant and you are working out your notice then your employer should allow you some time off to attend interviews but you may still need to spend additional time to ensure a successful job search. Can you access the Internet during your commute to work? Could you agree with your family to spend at least two evenings a week at home on job search activities? Can you spend Saturday and Sunday mornings reading the appointments sections of the newspapers and applying for jobs?


Set your job search goals

Any well run campaign should have some clear goals established at the outset. At the risk of bringing up distant memories of dull management training courses, those goals should be SMART.






It makes sense to be quite specific about your ultimate goal, and it’s always worth writing it down.

Here’s a SPECIFIC goal as it relates to your job search:

I intend to find a new job as an IT Manager  

If you are currently an experienced IT Manager then that objective would seem to be specific, measurable, achievable and realistic.

That goal lacks one key element; it needs to be time limited.

Any project manager will tell you that planning a project without a clear end date is a recipe for disaster. The project will not be completed.

So let’s add that time scale to the job search goal.

I intend to find a new job as an IT Manager within 12 weeks.


That’s a lot better.


Total Job Search Tip

Use SMART goals in your job search.

But don’t set unrealistic objectives!


A number of job hunters, unfortunately, do not have realistic objectives and that is one of the key reasons why their job search campaigns fail. Current statistics indicate that job hunters typically take from 3-6 months to find a new job so being realistic about timescales is important. Another key factor is the type of job that you are applying for. When there are a significant number of applications for a particular job, employers will be able to be very selective when making their short-list.

Only apply for jobs where you have most or preferably all of the skills required.

That’s realistic.

Set short-term goals

In order to achieve your ultimate goal of finding a new job within a set time frame you will need to establish short-term goals along the way.

Set yourself some job search milestones:

For example:

  • Get your new CV completed at the end of week one of your job search campaign
  • Call at least five of your contacts in week one
  • Respond to at least five job advertisements by the end of week two
  • Attend at least three interviews by the end of week four

An essential element of the SMART objective model is that your progress towards your goal should be measurable. In the course of your job search campaign there will be many activities that you can measure.

These activities could include:

  •  The number of job applications you intend to make every day or every week
  • The number of phone calls you plan to make to recruiters and potential employers
  • The number of responses you receive from your applications
  • The number of meetings with recruiters
  • The number of networking events that you attend
  • The number of employer first interviews that you attend
  • The number of second or final interviews that you attend

Use a spread sheet application to record all your job search activities. This way you not only do you have a clear record of your job search activities but you also have the means to track and measure your progress towards your goal.

Total Job Search Tip

Use a spread sheet to keep track of your activities.

 Establish your home office

 If you have the space, set up a “home office” with everything that you need to conduct a professional job search. Even if this is the kitchen table you need to “go to the office” every day.

In your home office you will need:

A computer connected to the Internet

 This is going to be essential for your job search. You need to be able to search for jobs on the Internet and of course send out emailed or online job applications. Even if you don’t have access to the Internet or a computer at home, you should be able to use the facilities in your local library or at a local job centre or Internet café.

 A Word Processing Application

You will also need a good word processing application. Microsoft Word is the most commonly used package; beware of other packages that create files that recruiters may not be able to view or where the formatting has been affected. The best way to guarantee that your CV and application letter look as you intend is to send the file in a .PDF Format. This will guarantee the correct appearance of your CV and ensure that it is not changed in any way. If you are not sure how to do this you can find plenty of free downloads on the Internet that will convert   documents to the .PDF format. You can find further details in Chapter 11 – Resources.

A good quality printer

 Although you will be making most of your job applications either by email or on-line you may still need to send the occasional “hard copy” application.  Printers are relatively cheap these days so make sure the quality of your printed job applications is outstanding. You may also want to print out job specifications and directions for job interviews.

A “job search” email address

 It’s easy to set up a new email address and even if you already have one you should consider setting up a dedicated address for your job search. This way you know that every email coming into that address is related to your job search and there will be no chance of mixing up personal and “business” emails. Don’t use “silly” email addresses (i.e.; Keep it straight and professional.  You can set up a free email address using providers like Hotmail and Gmail.

A “job search” telephone

 Have you considered getting a dedicated phone and phone number for your job search? A cheap mobile and a “pay as you go” (prepaid) SIM card is all you need. Now you will know that any calls coming through on that phone will be related to your job search. Recruiters often call for an impromptu interview and you don’t want to be caught in the supermarket queue when they call.  Have a polite professional voice mail message (not the jokey one on your personal phone!) and have the certainty that when you answer your “job search” phone it’s going to be an important call and needs to be answered professionally.

 Business cards

Since you are going to be networking and meeting people in the course of your job search it’s a good idea to get some business cards printed. These can be simple cards that just provide your contact details. This is going to be so much more professional than having to constantly write down your contact details on scraps of paper.

Which jobs should I apply for?

At the outset start thinking about the kinds of jobs that you intend to apply for. Are you looking for a very similar job to the one you already have? Are you looking for a more senior role with greater responsibilities? Are you thinking of applying for a different kind of job, perhaps in a completely different sector?

Remember that in this very competitive job market making a complete career change will be very tough. More often than not employers will favour candidates who have previous experience in their field. Nevertheless if you are truly determined then it is certainly possible to change direction at any point in your career.

What kind of company or organization?

Are you looking to work for a large or small company? If you have been working in the public sector and are now finding that there are limited opportunities, have you got transferrable skills that would enable you to find work in the private sector? What are those transferrable skills?

What location?

 Are you willing to relocate or perhaps consider a longer commute? If you have been lucky enough to have been working close to home, don’t assume that you will be able to find a similar job near your home now. The more flexible you can be on the job location the greater number of opportunities will be open to you.

Working overseas

When markets are tough in the UK many companies consider exporting their products to more receptive markets overseas. In the same way if you can’t find a ready market for your skills in the UK have you considered working overseas? The job market may be tough in your own country but there may still be plenty of opportunities in other countries. A period spent working overseas can often be a plus factor when you return home. Some of the benefits might include a better salary (tax free in some countries) and very often the opportunity to take on greater responsibilities. If exporting your skills is an option then consider looking at the international sections of some of the Internet job sites and don’t confine your job search to your own country.      You can search for jobs in specific countries by visiting the world’s largest Internet job site at:

 What salary / package?

 Will you be looking for a similar salary package to the one you currently have? For the “right” position would you consider a slightly lower package initially? Don’t undersell yourself and remember to take into account the cost of your commute if the job on offer is further from home than your current role.  Be realistic and establish your market value by viewing roles advertised in the press and on Internet job sites. Setting salary expectations too high can be one reason why job hunters sometimes struggle to find a new job.

 Planning your job search campaign

 So you have your home office, you have business cards, a job search phone and a job search email address. You are now ready to actually plan your job search. If you think in terms of a marketing campaign and the launch of a new product (that’s you!) then there are some key marketing activities that you will need to undertake at this stage.

 The Market

 In the world of sales and marketing, companies do not launch a new product without first undertaking some market research. In the context of a job search you need to research the potential market for jobs that will be available to you. We have already established that the current job market is very tough but that there are in fact jobs available. The evidence for this is the number of jobs that are actually advertised, not to mention the thousands of jobs that are available but are not advertised. Your research at this stage should be to identify if there are in fact jobs available in your field. Start to look in the press and on-line and search for jobs that might be suitable for you and which match your skills and experience. Pay particular attention to the section of the advertisement which specifies the “essential skills and experience” for the job. Do you have the skills and experience required? Do you have the qualifications required?

Addressing market needs

It is sometimes the case that if you have been working for a particular employer for a period of time, that the market has moved on and there are jobs where a particular qualification (or training) was not a requirement previously but now seems to be essential.

There are many examples of this:

  •  Finance Professionals
  • IT Professionals
  • Business Development Specialists
  • Property Managers
  • Financial Advisors / Bankers
  • HR Professionals
  • Project Managers
  • Procurement Specialists

People may have been able to undertake these sorts of jobs without any formal qualifications previously but now many of these jobs do require some sort of professional qualification. In fact recruiters will almost certainly favour job applicants who are formally qualified over unqualified applicants. Furthermore when there are large numbers of candidates available for jobs then employers can also be more demanding and have the option to employ only well qualified staff.

So now is a very good time to review your own qualifications and training and evaluate these against the current requirements specified in job advertisements for roles that you plan to apply for. If you now have some free time then you could undertake some further training. Very often the simple fact you have enrolled on a training course at your own expense will impress an employer. If you have excellent practical experience in your field but lack a particular qualification then the fact that you have taken steps to rectify that shortfall will always count in your favour.