After defining your goals and ideal roles, the next step is to map out your strategy. Think of this as your approach to land a job that involves a blend of reaching out to people and submitting online applications. This is helpful for keeping yourself accountable.
You’ll find a lot of advice about the job search from legitimate experts that is directly contradictory.
Here are a few quotes we pulled from well-respected job search experts:
“It’s just a numbers game. Quantity leads to quality. Just keep applying.”
“Every conversation enables you to learn something, even if it’s not ultimately a fit.”
“Never apply cold on the Internet. It’s not worth it.”
“An application is pointless without a referral.”
“Never write a cover letter. If you’re thinking about cover letters, you should be networking instead.”
“I interviewed someone last week that I only interviewed because their cover letter was great.”
“Informational interviews are often a waste of time and are not the shortest path to a job.”
“If your resume is truly awesome, you can get hired cold even at a company like Apple or Airbnb” (PS this is true)
What’s up with all these contradictions? People can only tell you what worked for them or what worked for people they know. No one person can tell you exactly what will work best for you.
What we see is some people advocate hard for a numbers-first strategy and others for a people-first strategy. Meaning:
Numbers-first strategy. This implies a high volume of applications, many of them cold, for jobs currently posted and a firm fit. It’s paired with a lot of following up on applications via direct emailing, solid interview preparation, and doing everything in a condensed amount of time to maximize the likelihood of multiple simultaneous offers. It’s a fast-paced job search that’s highly focused on quantity.
People-first strategy. This implies a lot of time spent having conversations with people, many of them warm, at companies of interest, who are likely to be hiring someone like you. These conversations may or may not be associated with an actual posted job. It’s paired with a lot of informational interviewing, strong relationship skills, and lots of networking. It’s a relatively lower-volume job search that’s laser-focused on quality.
Generally, direct contradictions in job search advice exist when people recommend an approach that’s 100% aligned to one of the methods above. For most all people, we recommend a hybrid strategy.
Hybrid strategy. This strategy implies a balance of quantity and quality in the job search. We reject my-way-or-the-highway career advice and recommend a blended approach for pretty much everyone.
Think about your local coffee shop. Do they advertise by paid ad only? No. Do they only rely on word-of-mouth? No. They do both! They figure out which blend works best and keep running with it. A blended approach works best for every business to market themselves, so it’s probably going to work best for you, too.
You can think about it in terms of percentages, something like 60% people-first and 40% numbers first. It’s all about playing to your strengths and making up for things you’re not as strong in. Like this:
The more you match the things on the left, the more likely it is that a numbers-first approach is best for you. The more you compare to what’s on the right, the more likely it is that a people-first system is best for you.
And even if 100% of the things on the right are true, you should still spend 10% of your effort on a people-first approach! For the practice, if nothing else.
Alright! We’ve picked a goal, a strategy, and an approach. The final step before we really get going is to set up a way to track your progress to achieving your goal.
There are going to be a lot of moving pieces to keep track of during your job search. When you’re networking and applying, you’ll need to make sure that things don’t fall through the cracks, that you stick to a process, and that you bring in your champions to help you along the way.
Use the Placement’s Opportunity Tracker as your source of truth for everything you’ve applied to, its status, and next steps. You’ll stand out in the process for being super on top of it, and keep your volume up without getting stressed. You can also work directly with Career Coaches on the best approach to each company as opportunities come up. You’ll be thrilled for this system once you fully get into gear!
Don’t be that person who has a ton of energy in the first week of the job search and then falls off and doesn’t hit their goal. Instead, create a timeline with milestones and deadlines, and find an accountability partner to work with you along the way.
It will look something like this to start with:
The actual numbers in your plan will depend on your strategy and your situation! You can work with a Career Coach at Placement to determine whether your plan is likely to work to achieve the goals you’re hoping for.
Don’t skimp on giving yourself a little positive reinforcement. As you hit your milestones, take the time to acknowledge the effort you’re putting in and the payoff from your hard work. Treat yourself to a little something special, share your progress with your champions, and let it feel good!
If it’s not working so great, that’s OK, too. You can continuously evaluate and pivot as needed. Most people go through a few iterations of figuring out exactly the best overlap between what they want and what the market will bear for their skills.
If you’re applying the same strategy for two weeks but not getting any traction, then it’s time to adjust :)