4 Steps to Land Your Next Cleared Job Opportunity

Posted by Nancy Gober
Planning and Strategy

Job search starts off simply enough, with the job seeker just looking for job openings, but it soon mushrooms into more and more things to do, such as:

  • Applying for positions
  • Following up every application…multiple times
  • Keeping track of those follow-ups so you know when it’s time to reconnect
  • Customizing every resume sent
  • Targeting organizations…and following up…multiple times
  • Developing marketing materials
  • Keeping track of all the times you call, email, text, and meet
  • Setting up networking meetings  
  • Writing cover letters
  • Writing thank you letters
  • Following up, following up, following up…and a whole lot more!

It’s a lot. A lot to think about and a lot to do. And a lot can fall through the cracks unless a job seeker is armed with a plan to manage their job search. The most successful job seekers I’ve seen are quite organized and follow a process, or a method, that basically sees the work of a job search falling into four types of steps, which are:

  1. Planning and Strategy
  2. Marketing Your Skills
  3. Networking and Interviewing
  4. Negotiation

Sound simple? It is simple. It’s a simple and helpful way to think about the myriad of job-seeking tasks and group them into manageable categories to be done in an orderly fashion. Doing so forms a framework for knowing:

  • What you need to,
  • When you need to do it, and
  • How to go about it.

It’s a helpful way to go about the job of job seeking. Knowing that the myriad of tasks on a job seeker’s lengthy “TO DO” list fall into four types of activities offers a way to think about this task. It creates order out of chaos and even a sense of calm, because you have a way to move through the tasks without feeling overwhelmed, back-tracking, or letting things fall through the cracks.

In this four part blog series we’ll dive into the four steps of job search. Read on to learn how to put “Step 1: Planning and Strategy” into action.

Step 1: Planning and Strategy – Don’t Skip This Step

Good planning and strategy set the stage for a job seeker’s success! Taking the time and putting in the effort to plan your search – whether for a new job, entire change in career direction, or improvement in your current role – will result in a more efficient and effective use of your resources – your energy, time, marketing effort, and network. And, it helps you “see around corners” as you learn of and prepare for the “blips” that invariably occur during the course of a job search.

To sum it up, Step 1 lessens the chance of spinning your wheels, and increases the chances that the work you do is focused on your target – your next job – not just any job, but a position or role you really want!

Key Precepts of a Successful Search

Starting off your search on the right foot has a lot to do with how you actually “think” about your job search. We’ve all heard the saying, “Loose lips sink ships!” Well, negative expectations “sink” job searches.

  • Do you expect your search to be an interesting and positive experience?
  • Or do you expect it to be awful?
  • Chances are, whichever experience you anticipate having, you’ll prove yourself right! It’s your choice to make!

The choice you make is critical not only to the type of experience you will have as you navigate your way through the ups and downs, disappointments, failures, frustrations, near misses, small wins, accomplishments, and big successes of your job search, but whether you’ll even stick with it.

Having realistic expectations can keep you on the path to success, as illustrated by these key precepts to success:

  • Finding a job is a job…your job! A lot of job seekers waste a lot of time, energy, and resources trying to find shortcuts and ways to off-load the work of their job search. Know in advance that there is no magic pill. Finding a job is a job.
  • Career Management is your responsibility – no one else’s! Search firms, employment agencies, career coaches, and even friends and family can help, and help a lot, but do you really want to turn over responsibility for your career to someone else?
  • Think positively. Sounds cliche, I know. But keeping it positive will enable you to communicate more clearly and interact more effectively with your network, prospects from target companies, headhunters, and interviewers, moving you closer to your goal…quicker.     
  • Think strategically as you plot your job search course. Determining the type of work (not necessarily the name of the position) you would like to do will enable you to more clearly focus your marketing materials on the type of work you want to do. Then, armed with focused marketing materials, you can figure out: (1) What industries house the type of work you want to do? (2) Within those industries, what companies are viable candidates for hiring you?
  • A job…any job WON’T do. As job searches stretch on, and job seekers are unsuccessful in landing the job they want, they begin to think about settling. It’s a temptation better resisted. Instead, revisit your goal, and check to see if it is still viable. This is a time to consult your network for advice and encouragement!

For a complete list of precepts refer to Key Precepts of a Successful Job Search.

If You’re Looking for a Job, You’re In Sales!

Starting your search off on the right foot also involves recognizing this job search reality: If you are looking for a job, you are in sales, selling the most important product or service you will ever sell…YOU! For instance, when an employer makes a job offer, the job seeker has effectively “made the sale!” He or she has effectively “sold” the prospective employer on the idea that they are the candidate most likely to do the best job!

Finding a job follows a sales process. While the idea may be intimidating to some, the fact is that sales is simply a skill, and like all skills, sales skills can be learned. The most effective job seekers I’ve worked with adopt a sales orientation for their search by focusing on this 5-step sales process. They:

  1. Clarify and understand what they have to “offer” (sell) an employer.
  2. Research their marketplace to learn who would be likely “buyers” (employers) of their skills and competencies.
  3. Develop, or target, their “marketing materials” (of which a resume is only one such material) towards the needs of their prospects (i.e., prospective employers).
  4. Deliver a convincing sales presentation (i.e., interview).
  5. Close their sale (i.e., secure their job offer)!

Sound simple? It is! Hard to do? It can be, but developing the ability to offer a convincing presentation of yourself and your abilities is one of the most effective, if not quickest, ways to get where you want to go, both in your job search and in your career!

Oops! Moving Forward when Blips Occur

Good job search planning also takes into account the potential “blips” that are likely to occur. Stuff happens! It’s a fact. And it happens when you least expect it, and generally at the worst possible time…Murphy’s Law! So it makes sense in a discussion of job search proactive planning to address these “Oops” and plan how you are going to handle them.

While you can’t anticipate every blip that is going to occur, there are some obstacles that should be expected and planned for. And by way of learning how to deal with the most common ones, you’ll be better positioned to deal with the unanticipated ones that…guaranteed…are going to occur!

Here are some of the most common blips that are likely to occur:

  • Oops! The Family Obstacle. It’s a mistake to fail to take into account your family. This group wields a lot of influence over you (often more than you realize) and has expectations for you and what your goal should be – sometimes at odds with the goal you have for yourself. So involve them early in the process, discussing their thoughts but sharing your thoughts about YOUR goal of YOUR search. And keep them posted!
  • Oops! The Vacation Obstacle: To Vacation or Not to Vacation. Taking time away from your search lessens your momentum. Some job seekers never get back on track. Instead, plan to continue your search and delay taking that vacation until you have achieved your goal. You’ll enjoy your vacation a whole lot more, and really have something to celebrate!
  • Oops! The Holidays Obstacle: Taking Time Off for the Holidays. The holidays present a real challenge for interacting with employers when hiring can slow. So plan to adjust your strategy to keep your search moving forward. First, be empathetic with employers, who at this time of year, are facing the same holiday stressors as you, plus the added stress of end-of-the-year work obligations. Second, adjust your game plan. If your search is well underway, it may be possible to secure an offer by year’s end by staying visible with employers with whom you’ve established a relationship. If you are thinking of beginning a search, get ahead of the crowd that waits until the New Year by doing your preparatory work now. Third, network, network, network at all those holiday events you do choose to attend.

Prepare Strategically for Your Search

We’ve discussed how to “think” about a successful job search, but there are also some key actions to take in Step 1. Setting up the supporting materials and tools you will need to conduct your search can go a long way toward conducting an efficient search. They will save time and ensure that things don’t fall through the cracks. Get organized by taking the following actions:

  1. Set up your Office. Collect the tools you will need – computer, work space, good lighting, office supplies, printer, etc. – and make it comfortable. You’ll be spending some time there, especially in Step 1.
  2. Set up your Computer. Create file folders for expected categories of information you’ll be collecting and disseminating: Resume, Master Resume, Marketing Plan, Target Companies, Networking, etc.
  3. Set up your Phone. Utilize one number so that you don’t miss any calls. Have a professional message that includes your name and the action you want the caller to take.
  4. Set up your Email. Use one email address for all your job search correspondence. Set up a signature box that contains your name, phone number, email address, LinkedIn address, etc.
  5. Set up your Marketing Tools. Preparing a basic set of marketing tools before venturing out into the employment market will ensure you can hit the ground running fully prepared.
  6. Set up your Portfolio. A portfolio shows proof that you can do what you say you can do. Collect samples of your work and documentation of your performance.
  7. Set up your Budget. How high or low can you go when you find positions you really want? You will negotiate more confidently if you know what salary is acceptable.

Believe it or not, taking the time up front to get organized will speed things up in the long run. It will pay off in enabling you to conduct a more focused, faster, and rewarding search where thing don’t fall through the cracks and you don’t waste time spinning your wheels!

Hope is Not a Job Search Strategy

And a final word while we’re talking about planning: Hope is not a job search strategy!

Ever heard the old 60’s Motown song that went: “Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Thinkin’ and Prayin’” won’t get you the guy? Well, it won’t get you the job either. Hoping is neither a sales strategy nor a job search strategy!

Instead, turn your hopes into reality by making a plan and acting on it. Then decide to work at your job search for some amount of time every day. A small amount of time and effort spent daily will get you further than a few marathon episodes from time to time. And decide early on, that your job search is at the top of your priority list. Make a plan and work your plan, being strategic and taking a targeted sales approach.

Stay tuned for Nancy’s next three job search steps.


  • Nancy Gober

    Nancy Gober is a career strategist who has helped thousands of job seekers find employment, and the author of “Jobs Are Not Found Sitting at the Computer.” You may reach Nancy via email at [email protected].

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 03, 2023 6:25 pm

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