To carry out a job search effectively, you need to create a workspace that will help you manage information, contacts and research efficiently. If you are still employed you may have access to phones, faxes, the Internet and so on, but you may not be able to use them freely to look for a job. If you are unemployed, you will need to be in contact with the world from home.
Your job search will be more effective if you can separate your personal life from your time searching for a job. If you are at home, there will be endless distractions to deal with, and they will drain your energy and disrupt your focus. You would be wise to establish boundaries with your friends and family in terms of having uninterrupted time to pursue your current task - finding a job.
If at all possible, set up an area of your home exclusively for your job search activities. Ideally it should be a quite place, away from the noise of TV or radio, and with a closed door to maintain your privacy. This will be your office for the next while, so arrange it according to your needs and available space.
A phone - and if possible an answering machine (or answering service from your phone provider) is the most essential tool you will require. This will be needed to make calls and do research, and to receive calls from possible employers or agents. Ideally this should be a land line - as it is cheaper to run and the quality of the signal will be better. If you intend to use a mobile, there are a number of things you need to be aware of:
An incoming call from an employer or agent may turn into a phone interview - which could take time. Ensure your battery is topped up at all times.
If you receive a call in a busy or noisy environment, you need to be ready to ask to be able to ring back in a few moments when you find a quite spot. You may need to compose yourself to ensure you give the best impression to a possible employer.
You need to ensure you answer the call professionally, or that your 'unavailable' message is appropriate if you are on a call. Record a new professional message for the duration of your job search.
If making a call from your mobile, try to ensure you are in a quiet private place, that the signal is good, and that you have enough credit to complete the call.
You will also need to use the internet - if you don't have it at home, you may be able to access it from a friend's house, your local library, or from an internet cafe. The internet is required for many aspects of a job search - using job boards to find vacancies, researching companies, and most importantly, using email. To maximise your use of the internet, follow this link and get a 6 minute video on how to best use the internet for job searching.
Social network sites are (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn) are becoming popular websites for networking and finding leads for jobs. Follow this link for an introduction to using these sites as part of your job search.
Email is used by almost all employers as the primary means of communication. Also, as part of your job search you will most likely register with several jobsites and set up automatic alerts for jobs that match your job search criteria (see Where to Find Jobs). These alerts are sent to you by email, and should be followed up immediately. If you don't have access to email on a computer at home, consider using a mobile phone alternative that has the ability to view and send emails.
Note: When using email, your email represents you. Apart from whatever you say, the format and style of the email will create an impression of you immediatly. Here are some pointers to watch out for:
- Mind Your Manners: Think of the basic rules you learned growing up, like saying please and thank you. Address people you don't know as Mr., Mrs., or Dr. You should only address someone by first name if they imply it's okay to do so.
- Watch Your Tone: It is very difficult to express tone in writing. You want to come across as respectful, friendly, and approachable. You don't want to sound curt or demanding.
- Be Concise: Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible, but don't leave out important details that will help your recipient answer your query.
- Be Professional: This means, stay away from abbreviations and don't use emoticons (those little smiley faces). Don't use a cute or suggestive email address for business communications. (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
- Use Correct Spelling and Proper Grammar: Use a dictionary or a spell checker — whichever works better for you. While you can write in a conversational tone (contractions are okay), pay attention to basic rules of grammar.
- Ask Before You Send an Attachment: Because of computer viruses, many people won't open attachments unless they know the sender. Even that can be a mistake because many viruses come disguised in email messages from someone you know. Before sending an attachment, ask the recipient if you may do so.
- Wait to Fill in the "TO" Email Address: Never fill in the 'TO' email address until you are completely through proofing your email and sure that it is exactly the way that you want it. This will keep you from accidentally sending an email prematurely.
Whether you use an ordinary diary, a filofax, your computer or your mobile phone, you will need an efficient, accessible, reliable way of keeping track of your appointments. Use whichever you are comfortable with. Using a portable diary (or mobile phone) has the advantage that you always have it with you, and so can access names and numbers quickly when out and about. You can also add new contacts easily, and setup meetings with confidence.
Its a good idea to keep a list of all contacts you make along the way - you never know when you may need them. This list should be continually growing as you apply for new positions, meet new people, and research companies. Collect phone numbers and remember to add relevant information to your list to remind you who they are and how you heard about them.
No matter how much you rely on email and phone calls, you are likely to have to use the post system at some stage in the process. As with other forms of communication, the format and style of your letters and other correspondence will give clues to the recruiter about you.
Someone who has invested some time in presenting their correspondence (cover letters, CV's, Application forms etc.) is more likely to be considered more favourably than someone who has not. All information should be on good quality paper (90gms or more) and should be neat and easily read.
If you have a particular profession / occupation / skillset you might consider getting some business cards printed. These can add an additional sense of commitment to your search and can be given out easily in social situations. Note that is not always appropriate to hand someone your CV, but it is never inappropriate to hand out a business card.
In addition to your name and contact details, your card should provide some indication of your profession, area of expertise or industry sector. People need a way to remember what work you do, or want to do.
Include all contact details - telephone, fax, mobile, and email as appropriate.
Spend some thought on design and quality of paper - first impressions last!
Part of conducting an effective job search is keeping your correspondence (or copies of them) in an tidy, easily managed filing system. If most of your work is on a computer, organise your files carefully and take backups regularly. Some correspondence will be by post, so you will have to keep a physical copy of some documents. Get your hands on some portable filing boxes or similar to keep your records together, along with copies of your CV or references.