1. Identify your 12-week job search cycle, culminating in an employ-by date. Now, segment your timeline into three one-month sections. The first two months are for your Plan A search; the last month is for Plan B. You might not achieve your ideal job in 12 weeks, although you have a good chance if you are a reasonable match. But you can still meet your deadline if you switch to a lesser position late in the search.
2. Now identify your Plan A job target, including a job title or area. Be more specific than “something using my communication skills.” We'll use corporate trainer for this example.
If you're stuck on this step, meet with a career counselor to break the logjam. You don't have time to over-think this.
3. Create a resume describing your relevant strengths and experience. Build it by frontloading information that answers the core question: What would a manager hiring a corporate trainer need to know about me? Identify the strengths and experiences that would interest most such managers, and position them near the top of the page.
4. Identify 50 organizations that might use someone in your role. Our corporate trainer might choose consulting groups or larger corporations and nonprofits. Don't worry whether your targeted companies are currently advertising. Every job opening is unadvertised for some portion of its life cycle, and many are never posted.
5. Now populate your list with the names of department managers. Search the Internet, LinkedIn, professional associations and your own contacts to find the names. You don't need all 50 names at once; 10 or 15 will do, as long as you keep filling the list.
Once these steps are finished you can start the job search clock for your 12-week countdown. Get your resume and an introductory letter into the hands of 10-15 managers per week, then ask for a meeting to discuss their current or future needs for your skills.
Will everyone meet with you? No – but at least one out of 10 will. Will every meeting result in an offer? No, but about one of 10 will. By the end of the fourth week you will have contacted 40 or more managers and almost certainly set a few meetings. If not, this is your checkpoint to correct course: Do you need to target a different group? Phrase things differently? Solve the problem and forge ahead with renewed momentum for weeks 4-8. Then, if you're still not making headway, shift your focus to Plan B for the final four weeks of the search.
Next week I'll wrap up our series with a look at your letter and follow-up phone call, as well as strategies for Plan B.