Job seeking can be one of the most exhausting and stressful experiences in your professional life. When looking for a job, the anxiety of interviewing and the disappointment of rejection put a significant drain on your personal life. If you’re ever in a situation where you have to compromise and take a job you’re not happy with, it could also affect your future.
The job search involves building your resume, writing cover letters, and applying for jobs. As the saying goes, looking for a job is a full-time job. To be successful in a job hunt, you need to build out other areas that flesh out your overall strategy. This article details these areas and will instruct you on how to combine them to create your targeted job search strategy.
Find your “why”
Has anyone ever asked you what your core purpose is? What is it about your character that drives your ambitions? Is there a single force at the root of your personality that dictates who you are and what you’ll make of your life?
This core purpose is your “why.” You may be wondering what this has to do with the job search, but you’ll learn that it is a critical component of any successful career search strategy. Your why is a guiding light, or north star, that acts as a map of your life. It is the only light in the dark that always lets you know who you are and who you’ll become.
Knowing your why will help you in your job search and benefit nearly every other area of your life. However, you must know how to find your why first.
How do I find my why?
Simon Sinek first wrote about the concept of personal “whys” in his 2009 book, Start With Why. In this book, he details how great leaders inspire people by wearing their mission, values, and vision on their sleeves.
Remember, you are the leader of your life. If you don’t take control of your values and mission at the helm, you’ll never get where you want to be. This is why you must rigorously identify your why.
Identify your core interests
Is there one thing you love to do more than anything else in the world? Sit down and think hard about it - is it building cabinets? Skiing? Leading others to success? Whatever it may be, just know that living your interests will help you stay happy in your personal and professional life.
Identify what you are best at
There may be a plethora of things that you accel at, but if you could only pick one that is your best, which would it be? Maybe you’re good at writing, drawing, or even making spreadsheets. Find the one skill that has professional value, and embrace it.
What gives you the greatest sense of value?
Find the one thing that drives you to feel valuable and productive. For many people, it will be something general, such as helping others, making others happy, creating a lasting impact, or building up oneself.
Put the three together
Your why lies at the center of these three orbs, where your interests, skills, and value drivers align. Physically write down a statement that combines all three to form a concise elevator pitch that defines your ambition. For example, my why statement is:
To use my creativity to improve the lives of other people through any avenue, whether it be through art, music, or writing.
Your why is fluid; it will change over the years as you grow and mature. Don’t fret about this; it's normal and healthy. Your ambitions and interests are not static, so embrace this change as it comes.
Now that you’ve established your why, we need to explore how this translates into creating a targeted job search.
Identify companies that share your “why”
You’ve figured out what drives you, and now you need to find an employer who shares these qualities. Let’s say you’re passionate about the environment and nature and love nothing more than contributing to preservation. You would never be happy working for a company that has no regard for nature or a company that actively pollutes. Many companies, even those that aren’t directly involved with the environment, are green. Take a deep dive into who they are and how they support the natural world. The best way to do this is to explore their mission and what they do outside work.
Examine their mission
The best way to see if a company fits your why is to check out their website. Find the webpage that illuminates their values, mission, and vision. Look for keywords that align with words in your why statement and phrases that are related. Chances are if a company’s mission is similar to your why you’ll have a great time working for them.
Look at their social media, and see where they give back. If you’re passionate about outreach, look for posts showing their team members out serving the community. While you may be skeptical about specific companies and whether or not they live what they say, often, companies who have a front-facing sense of responsibility are being truthful.
Make a list
You’ve narrowed down your why; now you need to build a list of companies that fit it. Find 20-50 companies that do great work within your expertise that you are interested in, are passionate about, and would be happy doing. When a company’s product aligns with your interests and your why, you’ve got a match. Try to find at least 10 “matches” to start with; these are your first targets.
Now that we’ve discussed the soft skills and knowledge required to land your dream job let’s jump into some specific job-search advice that will help you get started.
Developing a job search strategy
Now that you have developed a list of companies you’d like to work with, you need to dive into the nitty-gritty. Here is a list of the three things you need before you start applying:
Three steps to begin your targeted job search
Update your resume to modern standards
Make sure your resume is clean, easy to read, and concise. Ensure there is no complex formatting, i.e., images, colors, or intricate text boxes. Companies often use a resume scraping tool that searches for crucial information within the document. They will throw out resumes that don’t meet specific criteria; if your document isn’t straightforward enough to be read by one of these machines, it could miss crucial information about you.
Resume formatting tips
- Use bolded font to highlight important information (i.e., I met 150% of my sales quota each quarter)
- Allow for plenty of white space
- Use clear, large section headers
- Use a clean, popular font such as Cambria or Calibri
- Include as many numbers as possible
Build your LinkedIn to complement your resume
Your LinkedIn profile should be just as clean and concise as your resume. It may be tempting to put every little project or odd job you have ever done on there, but try to stick to the big ones. Your profile should parallel your resume in terms of the information you provide. For example, don’t make a section on your LinkedIn that isn’t even mentioned in your resume.
There are many creative ways to spice up and improve your LinkedIn, so don’t be too afraid to make it unique. As long as it is clear who you are and what you do, it serves its purpose. As a bonus, put your why statement (or some variation) in your bio section; it's a massive signal of transparency.
Write practice cover letters
Writing a cover letter after cover letter can be a tedious and lengthy process, but you can remedy this. You cannot just copy and paste your letters between applications; it will be evident that you are using a cookie-cutter template. Create a set of practice letters written to any company you choose; it will help you gather your thoughts and ideas.
These letters allow you to practice writing about yourself, which is always a challenging endeavor. You can pick and choose specific phrases or sections that work between applications and use them for inspiration for your actual letters.
Link, network, and befriend
Now that you have your communications material created, you are ready to start reaching out to your list of companies. There are many ways of doing this, but we don’t recommend limiting yourself to applying on job posting websites.
It is much more effective to apply through the company website rather than through a third-party platform such as Indeed or Monster. Applying through the website portal shows that you sought out their company specifically, and it gets your name into their system. However, this is not the best way to get a foot in the door; we recommend that you do some good old-fashioned networking.
Reach out on LinkedIn
Find a company that's on your list on LinkedIn, and identify employees of the company. These may be HR people or internal recruiters. Reach out to these people, and inquire about the company. Ask some intelligent questions about the company or their experience working there.
If you want to take it a step further, reach out to employees that work in your desired job position. For example, if you are an engineer looking for a process engineer position, express that in your messages. Send a message to a process engineer, especially one who has only been at the company for a short time. They will be willing to talk with you and give you advice on how they landed the job and enjoy working there.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to higher positions as well. VPs of engineering may be busy, but you’ll be surprised how often they’ll respond to a message on LinkedIn. As a bonus, if they decide to check out your LinkedIn, they’ve effectively just taken a look at your resume. What could be better than directly communicating with your future boss?
Look at your secondary connections
LinkedIn has a fantastic feature that allows you to see your secondary connections - people who are connected with others in your network. The power of a secondary connection is enormous; people are always more willing to talk with people they may know. While it is tough to target specific companies this way, sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a connection at one of your dream companies.
Utilize your mentors’ networks
If you have a collection of mentors, reach out to them and ask if they have any industry contacts. This is a fast and straightforward way to expand your network exponentially.
If you don’t have any mentors, think back to people you have met or worked with in the past that you respect. Chances are, if you ask them to grab a quick coffee or lunch with you, they’ll oblige. There is no greater flattery than asking for advice from someone; people love to be guiding figures.
Try working with a recruiter
Another great strategy you should employ in your targeted job search is working with a recruiter. Recruiters are a great way to expand your network beyond your imagination; recruiters are deeply intertwined within their industries and have all the most critical connections. If you are unsure how to begin your search for a recruiter, read J2T’s guide, “How to Find and Partner with a Recruiter.”
If you happen to work within the finance or accounting space, J2T is the recruiter for you. J2T is a recruiting and staffing firm that solely focuses on accounting and finance roles. J2T Flex facilitates all operational accounting needs, including contract or contract-to-hire. On the direct hire side, J2T Recruiting specializes in Sr. Accountants/Analysts through CFO and touches everything in the corporate accounting and finance organizational chart. J2T is a women-owned business exclusively serving the Colorado and Montana markets with the overarching goal to help you in all areas of the hiring experience.
If J2T seems a good fit for your targeted job search, please contact us today about beginning a partnership with us!
Remember to always be thankful during your job search. When you have an interview, send personalized thank-yous to your interviewers. Thank-yous shows your appreciation for their time and that you respect their process. These can help you in leaps and bounds in your targeted job search and set you apart from the masses.
You’ve learned how to find your why, how to find companies that agree with it, and how to best get your foot in the door with them. Now that you’re equipped with these newfound skills and job-search advice, go out there and do it!
Written by Jordan Gibbs
Jordan Gibbs is a content writer for J2T. He has a Master of Innovation Management degree and a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. Jordan loves to be creative in any medium, whether it be writing, music, or art. He is also passionate about nature; he’s happiest when he’s in the mountains.