Ready, Set, Pause: 5 Steps to Take Before Launching Your Job Search

On the heels of a job loss, the initial reaction for many professionals is to activate their job search immediately. In this blog, we discuss why hitting the pause button is the best long-term job search strategy.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”  When you commit to a job search – whether you reached that point voluntarily or not – remember honest Abe’s remark. When a job search is needed, particularly if you unexpectedly lose your position, there is a strong compulsion to apply for jobs immediately, fill your calendar with networking coffee meetings and get your resume circulating in the job market with lightning speed. This is a completely understandable reaction; you want to take immediate action. It is not, however, the advisable way to proceed. While it may sound counterintuitive, this is the time to hit the pause button rather than spring into action.

How is this reasonable advice? In the job search world, every contact with a
recruiter, networking colleague, or hiring manager has a lot riding on it.  Searching for a job is not unlike the game of “Survivor.” One mistake may get you voted off the island, or, in your case, waste your time, money, and effort. Before you rush into action, create a process that will be efficacious, practical, and well-reasoned.

Here are 5 important steps to take at this critical time:

  • Take a deep breath. High emotion likely accompanied you to the
    present moment. Therefore, this is not the ideal time to communicate, as logic, serenity, and reason may be in short supply. Take a few days to calm down, process events, and make objective decisions. Self-control rather than a computer or cell phone is what is needed.
  • Maintain a positive mindset.  In a former post, I discussed how the universe — and the job market — loves an optimist. If you are on the heels of a job loss or are choking on the bile spewing from your boss, you may be experiencing anger, indignation, even outrage. No one, however, likes to see someone’s temper, displeasure, irascibility, or frustration. These are ugly emotions that may alienate the people who can help you the most.
  • Establish your Professional Brand.  What do you love to do?  What are you known for professionally?  What differentiates you from others?  What do you want to do next? What are you looking for in a position? If you do not know the answers to these questions, it is wise to postpone reaching out to your network. You need to be crystal clear on these issues so that networking contacts and recruiters will know precisely what you wish and how they can help you. Take out a piece of paper and answer these questions. Sleep on your responses, refine them the next day, repeat them to a trusted friend. Wash, rinse, and repeat until the answers are perfect.  Do not short shrift this step; your brand will be a central theme throughout your search and career.
  • Refresh Resume/LinkedIn Profiles. These are the most important marketing vehicles you have to communicate your career story and professional brand to the job market. Take the time to get them right. Have credible people – recruiters, HR professionals, or certified resume writers – review your work (versus your brother-in-law who sells insurance). Since a compelling and persuasive resume and Linkedin profile are vital to your search, please consider employing a professional.  You are making decisions that may affect your life for decades. Asking for guidance is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of wisdom.
  • Ace Networking Narratives. You must have compelling answers ready to go for the four most commonly asked questions in networking meetings and phone screens: “Tell me about yourself”; “Why are you looking for a new opportunity?”; “What do you want to do next?”; “Why are you interested in our organization?”  Think of these questions as a take-home exam. Write out answers to these questions and rehearse giving articulate responses. There is no excuse for not acing this test. This is your defining moment, and you are going to shine.

Give yourself a week or two to address my suggestions.  Walking before you run is key in a job search and will help you maximize every touchpoint.

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