Create a ‘Career Search Action Plan’ Before You Look for a New Job

Create a ‘Career Search Action Plan’ Before You Look for a New Job
Photo: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Searching for a job can feel like a full time job itself. It’s easy to feel defeated when it feels like you’re sending your resume out into the void and hearing nothing back the majority of the time. Maybe you’re graduating soon, or making a career pivot, or jumping back into the workforce after some time away — the job hunt humbles us all.

An action plan is key to turning your overwhelming job search into a much more manageable process — both in terms of your sanity and to increase your chances of getting hired. It’s no secret that I love a good spreadsheet. Whether or not you’re Team Spreadsheet, you should create some form of a career search action plan.

Why you need an action plan for your job hunt

Your career search action plan is an organisation tool to keep all the elements of your job hunt in one place. This not only helps you stay on top of action items, but also visualizes your progress when you need a motivational boost after getting ghosted by Indeed.com.

Your action plan will be catered to your specific career search, but there are three main tabs to get started:

  1. Goal setting and preparation
  2. Tracking progress
  3. Evaluating and self check-ins

Let’s get into some of the specific action plan items within each tab. Again — I speak in spreadsheet terms, but your action plan can take whatever form works best for you. (But I’d be remiss not to ask: Do you understand how beautiful spreadsheets are?)

Goal setting and preparation

The first steps are always the hardest. When your career search is getting started, here are some concrete things you can do in the first major section of your action plan.

  1. List out career goals. What are you looking for in your next position?
  2. Research the types of roles you’re interested in, taking note of the qualifications you need to highlight in your application.
  3. Identify key words to add to your resume (which you should tailor to each job posting, no matter what).
  4. Search for new contacts. Spend some time on LinkedIn, Twitter, and company websites to try and find anyone who could potentially aid your search, whether that’s by their insight and expertise or their ability to put you in touch with someone else who’s hiring.
  5. Clean up your social media presence, if need be.
  6. Create and update an online portfolio or website for yourself, if applicable.

Tracking your progress

This is the meat of your action plan. With sites like Indeed and LinkedIn, it’s easy to send off application after application without much thought. To stay on top of all the different openings out there, get creative with all the ways you monitor your job search process.

  1. Organise links to job postings. Compile all the positions you’re considering, working on, or have applied to all in one place. Visualise this list with colour-coded columns for your application status, interest level, potential contacts for the position, and a space for general notes about the position.
  2. Compile a master list of contacts. Don’t hold back here: Brainstorm a list of family friends, former coworkers, HR managers, people in your dream job who you found on LinkedIn, and general networking opportunities as described in step four above. Not every person you reach out to will want to talk, and not every person you talk to will lead you to a job. Still, you never know what opportunities might come along from getting the conversation started.
  3. Prepare for interviews. Schedule out any interviews you get and map out strategies to prep for them. Make a checklist for interview prep: Research the company, your interviewer, and script answers to common interview questions.

Evaluating and self check-ins

One of the biggest mental roadblocks to any job search is keeping up the momentum. Whenever things lag, and it feels like the job market is hopeless, this tab is where you can check in on your progress.

  1. Follow up with anyone you networked with. Be reasonable — don’t keep nudging the same people over and over every week.
  2. Consider learning new skills or doing volunteer work to pad your resume while you search for a permanent role.
  3. Analyse your goals and identify what you might need to adjust going forward. Write down what you are willing to compromise and what is non-negotiable for you. This might lead to applying to different kinds of positions, which could give your career search another surge of motivation.

For most of us, finding a new job is a daunting and disheartening slog. Your career search action plan is an organisation tool that is as important mentally as it is professionally. And if you find yourself staring at a long list of rejected applications, you can always delete this spreadsheet and start fresh.

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