Whether motivated by a desire for job growth, challenge, work-life balance, or simply a larger salary, almost everyone eventually becomes curious about what other job opportunities are out there. But particularly if you have not been on the job market for a while, it is critical to prepare your resume and build your professional network before even thinking about applying for any open positions. By following these six steps, you will avoid common pitfalls that can hurt your chances with potential employers and find yourself ready for a successful job search.
Review resumes of similar candidates before beginning to create your own.
Often the easiest way to avoid common resume mistakes- including vagueness, passive voice, long-windedness- is to see real life examples of these errors. So a good starting point is to review good resumes from candidates similar to yourself. This exercise will often help remind you of the important skills you have to highlight and help you brainstorm your own accomplishments to call attention to in your resume. LinkedIn is a great place to review resumes and profiles to start.
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Rework your resume with an eye towards keyword optimization.
Properly utilizing keywords in your resume is important for two reasons. First, if you want the resume you post to online job boards to be reviewed and considered by recruiters, it must first be found by those recruiters. Recruiters use keywords to search databases; therefore, you need to be strategic with your use of keywords. You want to be clear about your target job title- for example, “Benefits Administrator” or “Accounts Receivable Clerk”- and about your “hard” skills- such as “Project Management” or “Customer Database Maintenance".
Keyword optimization is also important once you are ready to actually apply for jobs. Employers are increasingly utilizing Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which allow HR professionals to place all resumes received from applicants into a keyword-searchable database. If your resume does not include the proper keywords, it will never be reviewed by a live person.
Craft your resume to demonstrate that you are ready for the next step in your career.
If you have more responsibility at your current job without the corresponding increase in job title, this step is particularly for you. You are already moving up the ladder so you must design your resume to prove that to potential employers. Using the objective section and section headings of your resume to highlight your true performance level-- for example, by underscoring the fact that you have responsibility for "project manager-level tasks"—signals to prospective employers that you are ready for an increase in job title. Your education and experience sections contain the meat of your resume, so perfecting the objective and summary sections will amp up the effect. In addition, this is a great opportunity to enforce those optimized keywords.
Update your LinkedIn profile and match it to your resume.
LinkedIn is the largest professional network in the world with more than 433 million members, and having a strong presence on the site has become an essential branding tool during any job search. Recruiters often rely on LinkedIn to find candidates for their job openings, and the site's networking tools allow you to find and connect with employers in your industry. However, LinkedIn can only be an effective resource in your job search if your profile is current and has those keywords. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile reflects the most up-to-date version of your resume, ideally they should be the same.
Use social media to connect with those who may be able to help in your job search--but only after confirming that your social media presence is a good representation of you as a candidate.
Social media can be a very effective way of building your professional network and connecting with others who work your preferred industry. Before reaching out to anyone who may help your job search, double check everything to make sure that your social media positively represents you. If you have any controversial or questionable content posted on any social media platform, review the privacy settings to ensure that it is not visible to those you wish to connect with professionally--or, even better, remove the content entirely. As many employers do a web search for any applicants- and any employees, for that matter- cleaning up your online presence is essential before starting a job search.
Build a network of recruiters before you start the job search
By connecting with and developing relationships with recruiters in your industry, you put yourself in a position to be considered for job openings before they are marketed to the general public. Moreover, a recruiter who believes in your talents and skill set can be a great proponent for you to employers. You should have a strong recruiter network before your job search starts. Keep in mind that recruiters work on behalf of the employers, putting everyone on the same team with the same goal: match the right person to the right job.