Looking for a new job can seem like a daunting task, to say the very least.
On top of that, the coronavirus crisis has upended job markets all around the world. Unemployment numbers are higher than they’ve been for quite a while, and they’re likely not going to return to 2019 levels anytime soon. Because of this, job seekers today are going to face stiff competition from other candidates.
To make sure you go about your job search in an effective manner and to give you the best chance at landing great interviews as soon as possible, follow our 30-day job search plan.
What is a 30-Day Job Plan?
Most of us don’t have the luxury of letting the job search drag on for 3–6 months as we find that one perfect fit. And, even if you have enough savings to last that long as you look for another job, the employment gap that’ll be seen on your resume will be a weak point when it comes to future career prospects. Not to mention the increasing cabin fever you’ll have to keep at bay the longer you take finding employment.
Our 30-day job plan aims to get you prepared for a new job in just a month, from start to interview. While ambitious, it’s also quite doable if you can stick with the plan with only minor deviations.
Things to Keep in Mind as You Search for Jobs
You can find yourself a job in as little as a day, sure, but it may also take months. In 2014, recruiting software company Jobvite conducted a survey in which they found that the average time it took for a person to get employed was 43 days (just over six weeks).
However, there are also differences in each industry, as you might imagine. In the same survey, hospitality jobs took just 36 days to fill on average, an entire week less than average, while healthcare jobs needed 65 days, or three weeks more than the average.
According to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 35% of people were able to find a job in five weeks or less, meaning a 30-day job search plan is quite feasible.
One of the most important things to do is to treat your job search as you would an actual job. Spend 30–40 hours on your job search each week and work at it each day without interruptions or side chores to give your hunt for employment the best possible chance to be successful.
Also, remember that everyone’s job search is different, so this plan (or any job plan, for that matter) can’t be a one-size-fits-all deal. Below, for example, you’ll find interview-related tasks in the later weeks, but they’re just as relevant in Week 1 if that’s when your interview is.
One final thing to keep in mind is that the job search can be quite similar to starting a new exercise regime. You’ll have to give it some time before you start seeing results, and it’ll be a lot of hard work at first. But, if you stick with it, you’re sure to have interview opportunities coming through in no time.
The 30-Day Job Search Action Plan, Week by Week
Week 1 (Days 1–7)
The first week of your 30-day job search plan will be a lot more difficult and packed with activities than the subsequent weeks. If I may put two idioms together, as you start pounding the pavement, you need to hit the ground running. However, once you get through the recommended job search tasks for this week, you’ll have an easier time in the weeks ahead as these actions begin to bear fruit.
Fix Up Your LinkedIn Profile — In the professional world, your LinkedIn profile is crucial to have. Be sure your LinkedIn profile is in good shape by updating your profile image, adding your latest work history, achievements, and skills, and redefining your summary statement.
Cleanse Your Online Presence — Most employers will do a quick (if not more thorough) check of each candidate on Google to see what comes up. As a candidate, ensure nothing offensive or controversial appears by searching your name on Google now. Also, clear up any material on your social media accounts which may cause a hiring manager to dismiss your application (e.g., political Twitter rants, photos of drunkenness on Facebook).
Create a “Master” Resume — Update your resume to contain the most recent information. However, this master resume won’t be the one you send, as each resume should be tailored specifically for each and every job you apply for. Use the master resume you create now to make it simpler for you to create a customized resume in the coming days.
Create a “Master” Cover Letter — Similarly, a cover letter can’t be generic if it’s to wow the hiring manager. Create a master cover letter now, and later you’ll tweak it for each individual job you apply for.
Build an Online Portfolio — Resumes shouldn’t be more than one or two pages in length, but, sometimes, this may not be enough. If you have project-type work in your past, such as graphic design or marketing campaigns, consider creating a website to host an online portfolio of your past work. There, you can go in-depth on each project, and the only room it requires on your resume is a simple URL.
Decide on Job Titles — Before you actually begin to apply for various jobs, it’s important to know which you are willing to accept. In the modern age, job titles can vary quite differently and all mean similar things. For example, a customer service representative may be termed a “client happiness officer” at one company or a “support ninja” at another. Also, even without the fancy naming conventions, make sure you include every role you’d accept. For instance, you may be a technical writer or legal writer by trade, but a content marketing specialist position could match your interests, as well.
Set Up Job Notifications — Head to a few of your favorite job boards (e.g., LinkedIn, Indeed), and do a preliminary search for your job titles. As you do so, you’ll have the opportunity to save the search to come back to it at a later date as well as the option to receive email alerts when new jobs appear which match your parameters. Doing this will make you very competitive as you’ll become one of the first candidates to apply.
Create a Spreadsheet — The job search can get messy, especially the longer it takes and with the more jobs you apply for. Create a simple spreadsheet for yourself to stay organized. Have columns with the job title, company name, application status, date, and any other fields you find helpful. A job search spreadsheet will make certain that you don’t forget an important opportunity, or that you don’t double-apply to a particular job.
Take a Weekend Off — As essayist Tim Kreider opined in The New York Times, “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.” Since you’re treating your job hunt as full-time employment, it’s important to also have a work-life balance as you pound the pavement. Take a weekend off each week during your job hunt just as you would once you begin working again.
Week 2 (Days 8–14)
You’ll notice that in Week 1, the job search seemed more like an afterthought than the main feature. However, now that all these preliminary tasks are out of the way, you can go full-throttle on the job search in Week 2.
Apply for X Jobs Each Day — Set yourself a goal this week to apply for a certain number of jobs each day. For positions with a heavier focus on training, experience, and education, you might only be able to do 3 or 4 applications each day, while you could do perhaps a dozen or more per day for lower-level positions.
Research Companies — Before applying to a specific job, research the company a bit. When you understand the company culture, you’ll get a better idea of how to write your cover letter, for instance. Also, knowing the company’s goals and values will allow you to speak to those points in your resume, giving you a great advantage over other applicants.
Tailor Resumes & Cover Letters — After finding a job you’d like to apply for, tweak your master resume and cover letter to match each specific company. This is called tailoring, which is important and helps your resume to stand out, as hiring managers and recruiters hate receiving generic documents.
Delve Deeper Into LinkedIn — After fixing up your LinkedIn profile with updated information, go deeper into the platform to get the most out of it. Add current and former colleagues as connections, and ask your closest connections if they’d be able to write you a recommendation or endorse you for the skills you’ve listed. Also, for applicable skills, take the LinkedIn skill quiz to get a badge next to key talents that shows prospective employers you really do have a solid grasp of various abilities.
Network — Keep networking as you are in between jobs, as it’s one of the most important activities for any career. Connect with new people in your industry on LinkedIn, keep in touch with colleagues from your past jobs and schools, and, if you can attend local networking events.
Week 3 (Days 15–21)
In the third week, hopefully, things will be starting to pick up. It’s important to keep your momentum going strong as you head into the second half of your 30-day job search plan.
Apply for X Jobs Each Day — Stick with your goal of how many jobs to apply for each day from the week before. Adjust if necessary, of course.
Earn Quick Certifications — Industry-related certifications could go a long way towards qualifying you for certain job opportunities. For example, if you are applying for food service employment, earn or renew your food handling and safety certificate to show hiring managers you’re ready and serious. All other things being equal between you and another candidate, it could just be what scores you the job offer.
Join Professional Organizations — Likewise, become a member of industry organizations, when it makes sense. As a writer, I’m a member of several professional writing associations, for example, and these trade bodies exist for just about every profession you can think of. It’s a great way of showing recruiters that you’re confident of your career path and dedicated to the work you do.
Decide on an Acceptable Salary Range — As you continue sending out applications, start deciding for yourself what your acceptable salary range would be. What benefits are important for you? While you should finalize this after you get an offer, of course, it’ll help you sort through job opportunities which might be too low-paying, and it will also start preparing you for upcoming interviews.
Week 4+ (Days 22–30)
Hopefully, some of your work from the first and second weeks (and the third, as well) will be paying off around now. Time to prepare for job interviews as you enter what will hopefully be the final obstacle between you and your future employer.
Give Yourself a Makeover — To look professional before an interview, make sure to dress the part. If you can afford it and you feel it’s necessary, shop for an interview-appropriate outfit. Head to the salon or barbershop now, as well, as this might not be possible right before the interview.
Prepare for Interviews — There are quite a few tasks to consider before heading to an interview. Practice how you’ll answer the most common interview questions, ask a friend or relative to give you a mock interview, and plan your interview day in advance.
Research the Company — We mentioned earlier to research the company to help you write a tailored resume and cover letter. However, it’s important before an interview, as well. Dive deeper. Get to know the company culture, their mission statement, values, and organizational objectives, among other things, to give you solid intelligence to take to the interview.
Think Up Questions to Ask — The interviewer will ask you questions during your meeting, for the most part, but it’s important that you also ask them questions. Toward the end of the interview, they’ll usually ask if you have any questions for them, so be prepared with a few of your own. Don’t ask yes/any questions, but rather questions which take some time and thought to answer. Also, don’t ask any questions which have already been answered on the company’s website or in the job description, as these will just show them you weren’t paying attention (which is why researching the company is important).
Print Copies of Your Resume — Even in this age of all things digital, it’s good practice to print out copies of your resume and cover letter to bring to your interview. Printed copies of your resume show them you’re prepared, and it lets them mark it up with handwritten notes if they so choose. I recommend five copies of each, in case you get into a group interview situation.
Follow Up After — According to a Robert Half survey, 81% of employers expect a follow-up email or phone call within two weeks of the interview. A follow-up email will also help to ensure that the company doesn’t forget that you applied.
Ask for Feedback — If you were turned down, whether it’s after an interview or simply after sending in your application, make it a learning experience. Send an email politely asking the hiring manager what made them turn you down. In many cases, it could just be that they filled the position already, which will help you avoid any negative thoughts as you wonder and dwell on why you were rejected. And, if it was something about you personally or professionally, you’ll have free advice from a professional in the industry on what you can do better in the future!
Don’t Give Up
The final advice to follow is to not give up. The job hunt can be slow at first, and it may get discouraging when you don’t receive any positive responses for days or weeks in a row. On top of that, keep in mind that it could take longer than 30 days to locate employment, just as it could very well take less than a month.
However, if you can stay motivated and stick with your 30-day job search plan, you’ll soon get the replies, interviews, and job offers you’ve been waiting for!