Career FAQs: Tips for Your Job Search

By: John Shlaes

How to network, research, and evaluate the current market in your job search.

Association members are influenced daily by changes in the economy, the marketplace, resources, competitiveness, and regulation. For those in transition, these changes pose a challenge in identifying new opportunities—particularly opportunities that will accommodate your skills. Candidates have to work hard to focus, organize, and motivate themselves. As you undertake the job search, the following may help you evaluate your approach.

You (the job seeker) must access the market (where the jobs are). The bridge between you and the market—and a job interview—is networking and research, which are interconnected. Research helps you broaden your knowledge of the market and its networks. Networking can provide the kind of feedback that will narrow your focus and define your research.

The market is key. It is large, diverse, and influenced by many factors, including economic change, competitive issues, and government policy. You need access to that market and the ability to target those positions that your skills fit.

Evaluate yourself; conduct an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of your experience and know-how. It's hard work, but without being able to clearly articulate your skills, accomplishments, and capabilities to others, you can find yourself drifting. Remember, the question you are trying to answer is: Do I want to assist this person, or, does this person fit my needs? Whether it is a chance meeting of an acquaintance or an in-depth interview, if you understand yourself and present your accomplishments and objectives clearly, your chances of success are greatly enhanced.

Networking is indispensible for providing support to the job seeker. It needs to be scheduled regularly and it takes time. Networking gives you the access to people who can provide market intelligence, give you leads, introduce you to new contacts, or convey valuable information on the market. Your objective when networking is to turn a contact into a relationship and an advocate for your search. What you learn from networking also leads you back to research—to investigate and analyze what you have learned.

Research is a key element in a job search and takes many forms, but the internet is crucial, providing valuable information on your local market, data on future job growth, information on individual companies, and government initiatives. Through social networking sites like LinkedIn, as well as job, company, and nonprofit sites, you can identify job openings. Job listings not only tell you what is available, but the description of skills required for the types of positions you seek. Good research helps you sharpen your focus, define your target, and identify the networks that are going to aid your access to the market.

Remember, the successful job search starts with you. You are the most important element in this process. It is how you present yourself that's going to help you turn a job potential into a new position. Am I prepared? Am I energized? Do I have a support team? Am I marketing well? Am I confident? Adding an effective research and networking program can help you identify your market and provide the forums you need to gain knowledge about and access to the job interviews you seek.

John Shlaes is associated with McCarthy and Company, a firm with more than two decades of Washington experience working with trade association and nonprofits to provide career guidance and coaching. Email: [email protected]