Step by step guide to finding a new job

Whether you made a New Year’s resolution to find a new job, or you’ve been thinking about it for a while, changing jobs isn’t as hard as you might think—as long as you have a system to rely on. The inspiration for this article came from observing former colleagues and close friends searching for new opening during the covid-19 pandemic.

There’s an old saying that, when searching for a new job, you should allow yourself one month per KES 100K of annual salary. But within the East African region market, allow three to six months to find a suitable job that aligns with your career goals. Whatever the case, make sure to give yourself enough time to find the right job—it’s better than accepting the wrong one and having to start all over again in a few months when things don’t work out.

Here are some tried-and-true tips to help you find that perfect new role, quickly and easily.

Think big

Scoring a new job can be many things—a promotion or a raise, for example—but most of all, it’s a fresh start. Take advantage of that opportunity by considering who you want to work for. What’s important to you at this stage of life? It could be the benefits a company offers, or the type of products or services it sells. It’s helpful to set your priorities before choosing where to focus your efforts.

Start by making a list of the companies you’d like to work for—the number will depend on where you are in your career. If you’re in the middle of your career, you should list between ten and twenty companies. More junior folks might have even more, while if you’re more senior you may start with just three to five. You now have a ready-made contact list.

Which businesses do you respect the most? Apply and network into those companies first. And don’t forget, many roles are now remote due to the pandemic, so consider widening your search beyond your immediate geographic area.

Build a top-notch resume

Your resume is how you present yourself to potential employers, long before they ever speak with you or meet you in person. So, make sure your resume is up-to-date before you reach out to a hiring manager. In many cases they’ll never see a cover letter or read your email, but they will at least glance over your resume.

Here are a few tips for building a winning resume:

  • Use numbers to quantify your achievements. You can either say you managed a team or you “managed three people,” but the latter is much more informative for the hiring manager. If you saved a company money by refining a process, it’s more concrete to say you, “Saved the company $1.3M by improving the workflow in the content management system.”
  • Try not to go over one page, especially if you’re early in your career. But if you do need more, two pages should be your maximum. That’s more than enough room to show a hiring manager why you deserve an interview.
  • Even if you have boatloads of experience, try to cover just the last 12 years or so to keep your experience fresh and relevant—and to increase the chances that you won’t be perceived as “overly seasoned,” which can be deadly at some companies.
  • Finally, but most importantly, SPELLCHECK your resume! You don’t need a sloppy typo to detract from your carefully cultivated professional image.

Keep score

Job hunting can be daunting. How much time should you be spending on your search? If you’re unemployed, how do you also make sure to enjoy the downtime? How do you know if you’re doing enough to find a job? A point system is the answer to all of those questions.

Looking for a job is pretty much a job in itself. So, if you’re unemployed, your “full-time job” is now job hunting. Even if you’re still working full-time, this system keeps the job-hunting machine working constantly.

To begin, establish the number of points you need to achieve each ‘work day’ while you’re searching; for example, it could be 20 points a day, Monday to Friday, or 100 points a week. Now assign a point value for each specific action, like this:

  • Email = 1 point
  • Applying for a job on a job board = 1 point
  • Phone call resulting in a networking conversation = 2 points
  • Phone interview = 10 points
  • Attending a networking event = 20 points
  • In-person/video interview = 20 points
  • Interview thank-you email = 1 point
  • Doing research, like writing your list of target employers (3 hours of work) = 20 points (give yourself credit for putting in the legwork to find new opportunities)

Here’s why this is great:

  1. On most days, you’ll be able to achieve your target points in 2-3 hours. So, you can enjoy your time off from work in the remaining hours guilt-free!
  2. At the end of any given week, you’ll either have sent out 100 emails, made 50 phone calls, had 10 phone interviews, five in-person interviews, or some combination of the above. At that pace, you’re bound to get a job in a matter of months.
  3. Let’s say you decide to go to the beach on Monday instead of job hunting. No problem! Just earn more points on the other days of the week so you still total 100 points by Saturday. The goal is to maintain your job-hunting momentum.

If you follow the point system consistently, you’ll look at your tally sheet after your first month and see 400 tick marks. Imagine how encouraging it’ll be to know you’ve reached out to that many people! And if you’ve sent out 400 emails, employers will be calling, you’ll be interviewing, and your new job will be even closer to reality.

Make sure to adjust this point system so that it’s realistic for you. For example, if you’re still working, you might only be able to reach 20 points a week instead of 100; or, if you’re more junior and you want to invest more time in your job search, consider increasing your point goal.

Whatever you do, remember that each point puts you one step closer to a job. No one wants to job hunt any longer than they need to, so keep your point goal ambitious and you’ll achieve your career goals sooner rather than later.

Reach out to the right people

During the initial days of your job hunt, keep an eye on online job boards and LinkedIn to see if any of the companies on your list have jobs that interest you. Job boards are the low-hanging fruit, so start there.

Once you know which companies are hiring and who might have a job you want, ask anyone you know at those companies if they can connect you with the hiring manager, to help you stand out in the process. Ask for just a ten-minute informational interview. While the actual conversation may take longer, it’s hard for well-intentioned folks to turn down a request for ten minutes.

If you don’t know anyone at your target companies, don’t despair! You can still network into the company. Your only goal right now is to reach the right hiring managers at your target companies to let them know you’re eager to work there and you’d like an informational interview. Hopefully, that informational interview turns into a real interview at some point.

Using Google or LinkedIn, find two or three people at each company with job titles that are relevant—look for people who work in the same department you want to work in. Send an email or LinkedIn InMail to all three (separately) and ask them for just ten minutes of their time to discuss where you should start if you want to work for their company or department. You only need one of these three people to speak with you to find success. Trust me, this approach works!

And don’t forget, those emails and interviews all earn you points!

Interview tips

If you’ve been working hard enough on your job search, you’ll eventually start to land interviews at your target companies. Don’t blow your opportunity now, after all the work you’ve done! Make sure you’re prepared for those prized interviews with these tips:

  • Practice your answers to interview questions. There are plenty of websites online with lists of interview questions. Run through them with a trusted professional friend and ask for their honest critique of your responses. Keep practicing until you know the answer to common questions like, “If we hire you, what is your expectation for career growth within our company?” and, “What would you say is your greatest fault?” Hiring managers are really good at their jobs but most are not expert interviewers, so they’re typically going to rely on a standard list of questions.
  • Google the person with whom you’re interviewing. See where they went to school, where they’ve worked, what their hobbies are, etc. This will give you things you can talk about in the interview, and show that you’ve done your homework and are sincerely interested in the job.
  • Be prepared to ask your own questions. Most interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them, so have five questions ready to go in case you need them. Some great options are, “What is it like to work for (hiring manager’s name)?” and “How would you describe the work culture in (x) department?”
  • Send a thank-you email after the interview. Tailor it as much as you can to your interview discussion since it’s your final opportunity to connect with the interviewer.

Keep going!

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to quit looking for jobs once they start interviewing for a job they really want. But it’s not your job until you have a signed offer in hand! Don’t slow your job-hunting roll for something that isn’t a reality yet. Once you’ve signed your offer letter and you know your start date, then you can sit back and relax.

And how sweet that day will be! Think of how proud you’ll be for all the work you did to get there. Imagine being satisfied with your job and your salary, appreciating your colleagues, and looking forward to many happy years at the company you’re now with.




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