Why You Should be Preparing a Job Search Strategy Before It’s Needed

I have a confession to make. When I entered the recruiting field, I didn’t get my foot in the door by networking with key players in the industry. I didn’t establish myself as a subject matter expert by sharing my brand on social media – social media didn’t even exist then. Instead, I was one of “those people,” the ones just looking for a job.

After leaving a New York City advertising job while the city was struggling to recover from 9/11, I made the move to a city where ad agencies were few and far between, and was forced to start over from square one. Building relationships in a new city, in an industry that hardly existed there and working my way into my “dream job” wasn’t an option – I needed a job and I needed a pay check. But I had one thing to offer, and I believe it’s something that is, or should be, valuable to employers. Whatever industry I landed in, I was willing to learn it to the best of my ability, and give the company 100 percent.

Those of us who have been comfortably employed for a number of years, especially in the recruiting industry, may find it easy to dispense advice about how job seekers should go about getting themselves out there – how job boards are a thing of the past, whereas networking with industry experts on LinkedIn groups and Google Plus communities will allow you to make valuable connections that will eventually lead to employment. While this is valuable advice, it may not apply to all applicants, particularly those forced into desperation. And I can tell you from experience that desperation doesn’t make an applicant less qualified or employable.

When searching for a job, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Here is some advice for your job search that, while you’ve probably heard it before, I believe requires tailoring for the situation.

Establish Yourself on Social Media

We all know the importance social media has played in the recruitment and job search process in the past decade. If you have total job security and your industry doesn’t require a social media presence, then you may never need it. However, if you suddenly find yourself out of work and on the job market, don’t expect to quickly establish yourself on social media and be able to find work from it. A strong social media presence takes years to build, and like a garden, must be regularly attended to and allowed to grow.

Even if you’re not into the “social” aspect of social media, you should at least have a presence on the most popular sites, in order to connect with former coworkers and industry experts who can alert you to job opportunities, should you find yourself out of work. Having a professional and well-constructed LinkedIn profile is considered just as important (and sometimes more so) than a resume nowadays. This, combined with a Twitter profile with a number of followers from your industry, can be infinitely more effective in executing your job search than word of mouth.

Establish Yourself as an Expert in Your Industry

The same holds true here as with your social media presence. Establishing yourself as an industry expert won’t happen overnight, and if you wait until you’re out of work, those who are established will be hesitant to refer work to someone they’ve never heard of, but who suddenly claims to be an expert. As you build your social media presence, share your knowledge. Posting articles, blogs, job openings or even personal experiences in LinkedIn groups or as status updates or tweets will build trust and respect among industry colleagues. Then if the time comes when you need advice or referrals, you won’t be viewed as a stranger.

Don’t Rely Solely on Job Boards

I’ve read a lot lately about how job boards are archaic and a job search should only be conducted by networking on social media. But two things preclude this from happening effectively – one, not being well-connected on social media, and two, not having a significant amount of time to put into your job search. The first reflects the earlier paragraph emphasizing the importance of a strong social media presence. The second refers to whether you’re looking for a new job while currently employed, or if you lost your job unexpectedly and urgently need to return to work in order to meet financial obligations. If it’s the latter, you may not have the luxury of networking online for weeks or months, hoping to hear of an opportunity that someone in your network knows of.

Job boards are still the most direct route to employment. Considering the improvements that the major job boards are continuously adding, as well as the number of niche employment sites that are constantly being developed, they should be one of the first stops for anyone looking to get back to work quickly. As for those who are passively looking for a new job while still employed, job boards can be an excellent way of finding out which employers are hiring, and for which departments. Then you can use that knowledge in order to target recruiters, hiring managers and current employees of the company on social media.

The job search process is very different for someone currently employed but looking for a better opportunity than it is for someone who’s just been laid off and is desperately looking for that next pay check. Most of the job advice I see caters to the passive candidate, but doesn’t take into consideration those who don’t have the time to spend networking their way into their dream job. However, with some advance preparation, you can build your social media presence and online reputation enough to not have to start from square one should you find yourself on the job market.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.