I often hear comments along the lines of, “I’ve never had to look for a job, they have always just fallen into my lap.” While that may have been true in the past, for most of us, a successful job search requires organization and effort. You will need to develop a routine to be successful in your job search. It is important to do something to move your job search forward every day. You will need to create a new set of priorities and schedules—and write it down so you can hold yourself accountable.
Since you’re employed but seeking new opportunities, you need to make an extra effort to make time for your job search. Be consistent in the amount of time you spend each week looking for a job. Don’t spend 40 hours one week and then nothing for the next two weeks! The hardest part is getting started. Once you get the momentum into your search, you will want to keep moving forward. Set a schedule and stick to it.
First you need to decide whether you’re looking for another federal job or if you want to transition to the private sector. If you want another federal job, you should create a search agent on USAJOBS. The search agent should target the agencies, positions, grades, and occupations you’re interested in. You should also update your federal resume, making sure to include quantifiable accomplishments and metrics to give your work context. In addition, take a look at your LinkedIn Profile (you have one, right?). While the federal government doesn’t typically use LinkedIn to conduct job search, hiring managers will often look at LinkedIn to “check you out” prior to interviewing. You can and should use LinkedIn for networking—reach out to potential contacts and let them know you’re thinking about making a change, and ask them to notify you if they have an opening that might be of interest. You should also network in person; attend professional meetings if possible and let your friends and others know that you’re open to a job change.
If you have decided to transition to the private sector, the underlying concepts are the same; you need to have a private sector resume that uses key words, has accomplishments and metrics, and shows that value you offer to a potential employer. If you haven’t written a private sector resume in many years, please know that they have changed. The old “objective” statement at the top of the resume has been replaced with a “qualifications profile” that immediately showcases who you are and what you have to offer a prospective employer. Likewise, it is considered old fashioned to include a section on references in your resume; instead, you should have a separate reference page.
Unlike the federal government, most of the private sector uses Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to screen applicants. If you’re applying online for a position — whether through a company’s own website or a portal like Indeed or Monster — it’s likely that your resume and application will be entered into a database. This makes ensuring that you customize your resume for each job posting essential, as ATS is searching for key words.
Networking is essential for a private sector job search; even with the widespread usage of ATS, it’s humans that still do the actual hiring. Having a referral from someone already in the organization you are targeting is very helpful. Research consistently indicates that more than 40% of jobseekers identify networking as the reason they found their most recent job. Social media is also critical to your private sector job search; many recruiters and companies use LinkedIn to “source” applicants. Your LinkedIn presence should present a positive professional image—and your other social media, such as Facebook, should not undercut that image. You should also make sure that the job titles and dates on your resume match those on LinkedIn.
It is also important to track your job search. Keep a list of the jobs you applied for, the dates you applied, and the results. You may also want to keep copies of the specific job postings so that you can properly prepare for interviews when called. Prepare a list of people in your network and then develop a log of when you reached out, what you discussed, and any appropriate follow up. Sign up with various job search boards, but be careful about putting personal information such as addresses, social security numbers, and the like, in the public domain. Read professional journals so you know what is going on in your industry. Attend job fairs. Develop your references. And most importantly, do something every day to further your job search!