Six Steps to Job Search Success

We get it. It's tough finding a job these days – and sometimes, it's tempting to take the first offer that comes along. But guess what? With some thoughtful planning and proactive moves, you can dramatically increase your chances of landing a job that pays the bills and lets you make your mark on the world.

With input from career experts and industry professionals, we've developed the following six-step process designed to yield results whether you're just starting out or looking to shift gears.

Step 1: Reflect

Ask yourself:

What causes are you passionate about?

On the flip side, issues that make you angry or upset can also offer a path to making change.

What do you value in a job?

Do you care most about salary or prestige? The ability to make an impact on a larger community? Or maybe work-life balance is most important to you.

What type of work energizes you?

Think about the activities that make you lose track of time or provide a deep sense of satisfaction. This can be a good starting point for thinking about what job function might be best-suited to you.

Additional resources

More Than Money Careers offers additional career resources on their site. Echoing Green has developed some additional questions for self-reflection, and self-assessments such as Career Leader, Strengths Finder, and MBTI can provide useful insight as well; many schools’ career centers can provide access to these resources and assistance interpreting the results.

Step 2: Explore

Here are some places to start:

  • Browse overviews of impact fields popular among Net Impact members.
  • Read about working professionals who found their paths to impact and take advantage of their advice and tips.
  • Use social media and online tools like LinkedIn to identify people with interesting jobs and career paths.

Step 3. Target

Ultimately, you should be able to describe your target in one or two sentences with key examples. Contrary to popular belief, being flexible and open to everything is likely to decrease your chances of honing in on something great and make it difficult to make a decision. So be sure to narrow the field of possibilities and get specific about as many dimensions as possible.

  • Geography: Do you want to be in a city? If so, which city? Want an international experience? Where?
  • Issue: What problem do you want to solve? For whom? Saying “I want to help companies be more sustainable” is still too vague. Narrow it down until you can say “I want to help consumer product companies be more sustainable by improving packaging design.”
  • Industry: Is there a particular industry that intrigues you? Not sure? Go back to the Research stage. Read Net Impact’s field overviews and talk to additional people and get a sense for the flavor of their industry to see if it’s appealing.
  • Type of organization: do you get energized by start-ups and new ventures? Or are you more comfortable in a large, established company with systems and processes in place? Learn more about a variety of business models that make an impact from
  • Function: What kind of skill-set are you interested in building? Do you like influencing people through language? Communications may be for you. Enjoy big picture thinking? Perhaps you should seek out a strategy role.

Step 4. Engage

Put the word out to everyone you know. But go beyond your current network and talk to others working in roles aligned with your target. Don't forget to attend relevant conferences and events, and use Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media channels to surface relevant contacts. These people will be critical for revealing opportunities that may not be posted online. This is known by some as massive structured networking, but we think of it as simply building relationships. These relationships can help you with your search – and will remain part of your network for years to come.

Use these conversations to learn more about others’ jobs, which will help you confirm (or adjust) your target and signal that you’re interested in their field. Don’t ask for a job outright, but leave a great impression and request that they keep you in mind if any relevant opportunities come across their desk. Ask if they’d be willing to introduce you to others you might speak with as part of your learning process.

Believe it or not, you should spend about 80-90% of your time connecting to people and only 10-20% of your time applying to online job postings. Even if you find an interesting posting, see if you can also speak with someone in the company. Most positions are filled through warm contacts (as opposed to cold calls), so your chances are much better off if you have a connection within the hiring company.

Step 5. Prepare

After all your self-reflection and research, you should be well-positioned for your interviews, but there is still work to do to prepare. Before you dive into the preparation, make sure to congratulate yourself for being asked to interview! Acknowledging the small wins along the way is important to staying motivated (and remaining sane) during what can be a long process.

  • Review your self-assessments and make sure you can articulate how the position aligns with your interests, skills, and passions – and your personal brand. Be prepared to provide examples that establish authenticity and demonstrate you can succeed in the role.
  • If you’ve spoken with someone who works where you’re interviewing, let them know you’re being considered for a position and ask for their advice.
  • If you’re fortunate to receive multiple offers, consider listing out the various elements that are important to you in a position and ranking each opportunity to see how each one aligns with these desired job elements.

Step 6. Perform

The best way to guarantee future job search success is to excel in your current job, but there are also some other good practices to keep in mind.

  • Update your resume regularly (at least every six months) and document your accomplishments so you can make sure to capture all that you’ve done in your job.
  • Build in time to reflect on whether your job is still satisfying to you and whether your interests, passions, and values have evolved.
  • Maintain the great network of contacts you built through your informational interviews by connecting with them on LinkedIn, making sure to share relevant articles and information, or just dropping them a note to say “hi.” If you decide it’s time to move on, you won’t need to dig out the old spreadsheet and remind them who you are again.