Overview: Take Action on Your Job Search

What Is a Job Search?

A job search is the process of identifying and learning about job opportunities. A job search is conducted and organized by the individual seeking employment. Through a job search, a job seeker pinpoints which job openings fit his or her career goals, develops application materials such as a résumé and cover letter targeted to his or her desired career path, and applies for jobs. A job search ends when the job seeker accepts a position or abandons the search to pursue other opportunities.

Overview: Take Action on Your Job Search

People look for jobs for many reasons. Many job seekers are entering the workforce for the first time. Others are reentering the workforce after taking time off from employment to care for family members or to pursue educational opportunities. Some job seekers are already employed. Employed job seekers may be motivated to seek new opportunities because they are underemployed or they have the desire for new challenges, a new working environment, or a new career path. Being laid off or losing a job also may cause a person to begin a job search.

There are many ways to conduct a job search. Each job search is unique and is shaped by the needs and goals of the job seeker. A job seeker also determines the intensity and effort put into a job search. Job searches vary in difficulty and duration, depending on the type of job sought.

What Should I Consider Before Starting My Job Search?

Before starting your job search, you need to figure out the answers to some basic questions. You must consider the type of job you are seeking and whether you are willing to relocate for the right job. The answers to these questions will determine the parameters of the job search. You also

The best way to get as close as possible to the career you want is through planning. It is a very important step in taking action on your job search.

The best way to get as close as possible to the career you want is through planning. It is a very important step in taking action on your job search. TRUEFFELPIX/SHUTTERSTOCK.

need to consider how the job search will be conducted and how much time you can devote to the search.

Before searching for job openings, you should conduct preliminary research into trends in your chosen field of employment, changes occurring in that field, and where the field and the job market might go in the future. Using resources available online or through a public library, you should identify employers in the field, their potential for expansion, new products or services being offered, and key people to know and contact.

You should also consider which job search strategies are most likely to bring success. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 70 percent of jobs are obtained through networking. Employers are more likely to hire someone they already know or someone who has been recommended to them by a respected contact. You should therefore make it a priority to develop and maintain connections with people who work in your chosen field.

What Documents Will I Need for My Job Search?

You will need to prepare key documents at the beginning of your job search. Perhaps the most important is the résumé. This one- or two-page document lists professional accomplishments, provides a summary of previous work experience, and makes a connection between your experience and the targeted job or industry. A résumé also includes contact information, a summary of academic qualifications, and work-related skills and activities. These skills may include computer and language skills, volunteer involvement, and trade group and professional association memberships. Résumés are not a place to mention personal hobbies or religious affiliations. A résumé often provides an employer's first impression of a job applicant. It should be well organized and error free.

Since the recession of 2008–09, there has been an upswing in the number of available job openings.

Since the recession of 2008–09, there has been an upswing in the number of available job openings. ILLUSTRATION BY LUMINA DATAMATICS LTD. © 2015 CENGAGE LEARNING®. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and Current Employment Statistics survey, http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2014/article/job-openings-continue-to-rise-in-2013-1.htm.

Depending on the kinds of positions to which you are applying, you may need a curriculum vitae, or CV. A CV is similar to a résumé, but it is generally longer, focusing on education, teaching experience, publications, presentations, and awards. Although the CV is the standard means of applying for positions in many parts of the world, in the United States the CV is primarily used when applying for academic or research positions.

In addition to a résumé or CV, you should prepare a base cover letter. A cover letter is an important part of a job application and should be submitted with the résumé or CV regardless of whether the application is submitted online or through the mail. Although cover letters should be customized for each job application, you can prepare for your job search by developing a basic letter that can be customized to each position.

When applying for a job online, it is not always possible to use the same résumé, CV, or cover letter or to use it in the format in which it was originally created. Having a list of keywords prepared will allow you to maximize your success when entering information into online applications. Such applications are often processed using scanning software that selects suitable applicants based on keywords that appear in application materials.

Overview: Take Action on Your Job Search

Keyword: A search term that a search engine uses to select websites to display in the search results.

What Are Some Other Things I Should Do to Prepare for My Job Search?

Before applying for a job, you should choose appropriate people, called references, who would recommend you for a job. Job references are usually former employers, colleagues, and teachers or professors. You should contact potential references before listing them on any applications. You can prepare references by providing them with helpful information, such as the same résumé or CV sent as part of the application process. Some job applications require letters of reference , which can also be obtained in advance.

Letter of reference: A letter in which one person recommends another person for a position.

Overview: Take Action on Your Job Search

As part of the job search process, you should practice interview and telephone skills. You can practice these skills with family, friends, or a professional service. You should work on exuding a positive, professional attitude during these conversations and mock interviews. You may also want to practice introducing yourself and speaking about your educational and work background.

What Are the Stages of a Job Search?

Overview: Take Action on Your Job Search

Once you have identified the industry in which you want to work and considered key employers in that industry, you should research relevant job openings. There are many ways and places to look for jobs, but they tend to fall into two categories. Visible job openings are advertised to the public in places such as job boards, trade publications, job fairs, and online listings. Unadvertised jobs openings are filled via networking, internally at companies, or through other means not generally available to the public.

Once openings are identified, the application process begins. You should continue to look for additional job openings during the application process. As you move between looking for job openings and applying for jobs, you will begin to build up a network of contacts. As applications are processed, you will be in contact with potential employers, going to interviews, and considering job offers. The process ends when you accept a position or end the job search in order to pursue other opportunities, such as additional education.

Where Can I Find Information about Jobs?

There are many resources for finding information about available jobs. The Internet provides a vast number of resources, including websites hosted by companies, professional organizations, recruiters, and employment agencies, as well as online career pages for colleges and universities. Many employment-related websites are listed at the International Association of Employment Web Sites (http://www.employmentwebsites.org ). The Internet provides not only specific job listings but also information about trends in employment, the labor market, and recruitment, which can help better guide a job search. Job-search-related apps (programs for a mobile device such as a smartphone) also can be effective resources during a job search.

In addition to using the Internet, you should look at newspapers, both local and national, and business magazines, focusing on potential trends that could impact a job search as well as jobs themselves. Trade journals and directories provide similar information, as do professional organizations and associations.

Overview: Take Action on Your Job Search

Job fairs and recruiters are another way of finding out about job opportunities and cultivating job search contacts. Networking is one of the best sources of job information. It involves contacting friends, acquaintances, previous employers, and referrals to gain information about and leads related to job opportunities. Events such as conferences, social events, training courses, and promotional happenings can also provide job leads.

What Are Some Job Search Strategies?

Finding a job involves investing much time and effort on your part. While browsing the Internet and sending a résumé or CV to as many companies as possible might be an effective strategy for some, a more focused, organized effort will often lead to better results and more job offers. Whether currently employed or not, you should set aside time each week to work on the job search.

If you are unemployed or laid off, looking for a job is a job in itself. It can help to plan a daily schedule that includes set times to search for job openings, research potential jobs and employers, complete applications, and reach out to contacts and connections for further job ideas. If you are currently employed, a job search schedule will often be more limited. Nevertheless, being organized will improve job search success.

Through organizing the job search process, you will be more likely to keep track of and follow through on potential jobs or contacts. You may want to set up a spreadsheet to track tasks. A job search spreadsheet might include information such as where and when applications were submitted, notes about any follow-up calls and e-mails, and any rejection letters received. You can also use spreadsheets to organize the contacts you have made through recruiters, employment agencies, and job fairs. Contact spreadsheets may list each contact's recommendations and introductions, information about the status of the position, dates when thank you e-mails or letters were sent, and data about other follow-up actions that you have taken.

Overview: Take Action on Your Job Search

Spreadsheet: A document that stores data in a grid of horizontal rows and vertical columns.

every application, résumé, cover letter, and other communication.

Overview: Take Action on Your Job Search

Proofread: To read a document carefully, then mark and make needed corrections.

How Long Should I Expect My Job Search to Last?

The length of a job search is affected by many factors, including geographical location, education, and job experience. For example, the process for finding an entry-level position in the service industry can often be completed with more ease and in a shorter time frame than a job search for an executive management position at a large corporation. Also, if your search is motivated by economic hardship, you may find that you conduct a more intense search, sometimes resulting in quicker success.

Other factors that can affect the length of a job search include the health of the industry in which you are seeking employment and the general health of the economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person who was unemployed in 2011 took an average of 10 weeks to search before finding a job, down from an average of 10.4 weeks in 2010.

What Should I Do If I Am Not Getting Good Results from My Job Search?

You should be prepared to adjust a job search in progress if results are not satisfactory. If there are not enough job vacancies, you may need to increase job search parameters, such as widening the geographic area in which you would be willing to work or being willing to work in different types of jobs or industries. You may also need to reevaluate whether you are qualified for the positions to which you have been applying and, if necessary, consider whether to seek additional education or training.

If you are not having success in searching for a job, you may need to get help with your search. Libraries can provide you with more than just lists of available job opportunities. In addition to offering computer access if you do not have a home computer or Internet access, libraries often offer basic computing courses that can help you find new opportunities and prepare for a job market in which computer skills are often necessary for success.

What Are the Outcomes of a Job Search?

Ideally, a job search will result in a change in your employment status. The process of finding the right job, however, can be a long one, and you should not expect to hear from every employer to whom you have applied or even all those with whom you have interviewed. It is the exception for a human resources department to let a candidate know that his or her application has been rejected. In general, applicants who have had face-to-face contact with an employer are more likely to be contacted about the results of the application, regardless of whether the response is a job offer or a rejection letter. Other outcomes of a job search include learning more about the targeted industry, networking within that industry, and gaining valuable professional contacts that will be helpful even after the job search has ended.

Once you have received a job offer, you must evaluate whether it meets your professional and salary needs. It is not until you have accepted and begun work in the position, however, that you will know if it fully meets your needs and expectations. Studies have shown, however, that job seekers who find employment through networking or through others already employed at a business generally have a more positive job experience and attitude toward the organization. Such job seekers usually have more realistic perceptions of and expectations for the job and the organization.

For More Information


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Bolles, Richard N. What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2013.

Byham, William C., and Debra Pickett. Landing the Job You Want: How to Have the Best Job Interview of Your Life. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010.

Holland, R. William. Cracking the New Job Market: The 7 Rules for Getting Hired in any Economy. New York: American Management Association, 2012.

Kappesser, Lisa Caldas. The Smart New Way to Get Hired: Use Emotional Intelligence and Land the Right Job. St. Paul: JIST Publishing, 2010.

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Sims, Julie Anne. “The New Rules for Job Seekers.” HOW, March 2013: 24.


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“Résumé Workshop.” Purdue University Online Writing Lab. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/719/1/ (accessed August 1, 2014).