Don’t wait to be laid off; take action now to be ready for your next job search. With much of the country’s economy still shut down, many Americans are nervous about losing a job in the near future. Rather than worrying about the job market — or spending your time wondering “how useful is LinkedIn really in terms of job search?” or “does online job search work?” — take steps now to prepare. Even if you keep your job, taking these steps will give you the tools you need to progress your career.
1. Conduct a professional audit
The best hacks for a job search aren’t found on Indeed or Monster. The old phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is only somewhat true, but still important. Now more than ever, job seekers should take a good, hard look at who they know, and how well.
Your network — who you know, your contacts — is crucial to making your next career move. Conducting a network audit is one simple way to start — write down who you know, what industries they work in, what jobs they’ve had or have that you’d like to have one day, etc. Then identify the holes in your network, and think about how you might start filling them.
Tactics for building and maintaining a professional network include keeping in touch with people. Send handwritten notes, engage on social media, meet for coffee or drinks (once that’s normal again) or send emails to keep in touch.
For example, how nice would it be to receive from a colleague a link to an insightful news article with a note that says, “Just sending this along given that you must deal with this all the time in your line of work.” People remember how you make them feel, and this type of engagement is a surefire way to build up your contacts.
2. Gather work examples and testimonials
Once you’ve left an office or workplace, it is usually too late to collect samples of your work. Without violating company policies or confidentiality rules, start tucking away some of your best work samples. That way, if you find yourself in the position of needing to find a job, you can create a portfolio to use in an application or interview. There is no substitute for showing the work you’ve done, especially if you work in a creative field where visuals are important.
One method that works for me is to keep a file on my desktop labeled “best work.” From time to time, when I am particularly pleased with something I have done, I save a copy to that file.
The same goes with testimonials. Hopefully, at some point in your career you have received nice emails or notes from co-workers, customers, or supervisors saying what a great job you did on something. These need to go into the file, too. It is powerful when others can speak on your behalf, so start saving those kudos.
3. Clean up your social pages
This one should be self-explanatory. Go through your social pages with a fine-toothed comb. Delete or hide anything that you don’t want to explain to a future employer. This doesn’t mean you have to censor yourself unnecessarily, but almost all future employers are going to take a look at whatever social pages are public. Give your pages an honest look with an eye toward, “are these posts or images the best representation of who I am?” Tons of boozy pictures of yourself at the bar or negative posts about your previous employer are not going to portray you in the best light.
4. Google yourself
This one is painful, but necessary. If you have problems with what pops up in the search results, it is time to take control of your online identity. Tips for managing it include starting your own website (yes, really, as long as it’s professional), beefing up your content on social pages like LinkedIn, and otherwise getting your name published online in a positive way.
Software tools like Squarespace make it easy to create a simple, professional website (you can even upload your resume and portfolio). You can also write a letter to the editor, ask a group you volunteer for to feature you in an online profile, appear on a podcast, whatever you need to do to get these types of results on the top of page one of your search results.
5. Be (virtually) visible
Get out and about and be seen! OK, this is admittedly a tough one right now, but there are still things you can do to raise your profile. It seems like almost every interest group or organization is offering free Zoom meetings these days. Sign up and attend, even if you’re just listening to whatever presentation is being made. Join a volunteer effort where you know people working in your target industry are likely to attend. Join a board for an organization you support that has members whom you would like to get to know.
Eventually, people will notice and remember you (they may even come to you with job openings), which is half the battle in being considered for a job. Once again, it all ties back to who you know.
Using job search sites, looking at job boards and setting job alerts are important as you think about applying to new jobs, even the best job websites and search engines won’t be as effective as these five steps you can take when you’re job hunting.