Let's be honest-finding a job isn't for the faint of heart. It requires tenacity, persistence and a great deal of positive energy. Experts say the best results happen when the job seeker commits to the search as if it WERE their job. The more time and concentrated effort devoted to the work, the greater and faster the payoff.

Building a strategy for the search is a great way to begin the job hunt. It doesn't have to be overly complicated; a brief outline that includes career goals, a time frame to shoot for, location considerations, etc., will be enough to get started. With overall parameters in place, start working on detailed tactics. Here are five helpful steps that can lead to successful employment.

1. Start with self-analysis.
Introspection can be very productive in job-hunting. Take a look at your unique combination of attributes: academic profile, work history, credentials, interests, skills, volunteer activities, talents, skills, hobbies, values, lifestyle, and more. Put them all under the microscope. Also consider work ethic, attitude toward co-workers, ability to work independently, cultural influences, personal principles and values, etc. Each of these traits are important for determining which positions will make a great fit. Keeping them clearly in mind keeps the search focused and on track.

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2. Prepare and organize.
Now put those project management and multitasking skills into play. Create a personal data sheet to track employment applications, responses and all interactions with potential employers. Get up to speed on any competency tests required for specific positions. Create a pristine resume (no grammatical or history errors!), get approvals from any references listed, launch a personal website and print personal business cards (but if a good lead surfaces, don't wait till they're done to follow up). Make copies of compelling samples, design a portfolio and draft a cover-letter template. Identify associations, schedule networking events and organize a support group of friends, colleagues (past and present), alumni and relatives interested in helping (via encouragement, contacts, letters of introduction, phone calls and other acts of kindness).

3. Search in the right places.
Don't confine the job search to a (emphasis on "a") job board. Cast a wide net and cover the many places where job opportunities might be advertised, mentioned and otherwise communicated. Ever overhear conversations in elevators? Or in a line waiting for coffee? Keep eyes, ears and awareness open to all possibilities. Consider using any or all of these resources to scoop up openings that seem like promising good fits:

  • Personal contacts: Employers often fill positions by hiring someone recommended by a trusted friend or associate. So, in addition to connections on the "job hunt personal data sheet," consider reaching out to friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues, etc. It never hurts when a job seeker's name is passed along by someone an employer respects.
  • Networking: Finding a job demands more than casual conversations. Purposefully focus on building a circle of new contacts. Think of all possible ways to meet the right people: Internet communities, associations, industry events, trade shows, business clubs, conferences, volunteer organizations, social gatherings, etc. Another effective tactic is the informational interview, a technique used to gather knowledge about the skills, training and experience needed for a certain occupation--also good for learning about a company and gaining an entree there.
  • The Internet: Numerous online resources can aid the job seeker's quest. For example, after creating a list of appealing companies, bring up a search engine and explore their websites to uncover info, openings and whether they're a good match. Other information sources include job boards such as CareerBuilder, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster. But watch your time. Career coaches recommend limiting online research, etc. to only 10% of the job search effort. Spend the bulk on the other options listed here.
    • Professional associations: Many professions have associations that offer employment information on their websites, including job listings and career resources. These associations may also publish professional journals or trade magazines that carry job ads.
    • Employment or staffing agencies: Agencies can be a valuable resource for job seekers. Staffing professionals often have inside knowledge on specific industries and may know about available positions before the general public becomes aware of them. Staffing firms also lend a wealth of experience to helping job candidates negotiate salary, and many firms offer resources to assist them. Cella's 2020 Creative, Marketing and Digital Salary Guide is a good example.

4. Dust off those interview skills.
As job hunting isn't usually an everyday task, even the most self-assured candidate can get a little rusty. Before going on an interview, consider what questions may be asked and prepare thoughtful responses. Practice the answers with a friend. This will build confidence, alleviate anxiety during the real interview and reveal opportunities to fine-tune your presentation. After each job interview, jot down any questions that proved particularly difficult to answer, or moments that caused a bit of faltering. Awareness and continued practice are keys to being an adept and poised interviewee.

5. Stay positive
Many job seekers approach their search with a great deal of trepidation. They resent the loss of control in their lives and become easily frustrated by the smallest setbacks. Try to look at the job search as an opportunity for discovering new options and embarking on more satisfying pathways. Job hunting takes persistence and patience, in a market that's constantly changing.

Sometimes jobs are scarce; sometimes they're plentiful. Today, the outlook is a sunny one for job seekers; the demand for talent often exceeds the supply of qualified candidates. Nevertheless, anyone looking for a job should approach the hunt like it's their work, showing employers the best they can be. Rewards come to applicants who are enthusiastically relentless. Skills, attitude and inner qualities matter the most, not conditions in the market outside.

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