Often we begin a job search by simply updating our resume and starting to scan job boards. If you have been in a job you love, that may be a decent approach. But if you are looking for anything other than a lateral move, it is not.

The hardest part for many people is to really focus on what specifically they want to do next and what organizations offer the conditions for them to succeed. Once you know what you want, it is far easier to demonstrate how your past achievements support your goal. And yes, employers are looking for someone who can demonstrate their value immediately. Once you know what conditions or environment you work best in, you are ready to research potential employers to find the best matches.

Instead of starting with your previous resumes, consider starting with a blank page.

  • Write out, in detail, the achievements you have found most fulfilling in the past.
  • List some of your best employers and define what you liked about them.

These exercises offer insight into what might be your next great job. Once you have ideas on what specific jobs at which target employers interest you, you can begin to hunt effectively.

Do create a master resume with all your jobs and achievements in each. This allows you to pull out what is relevant to the jobs you seek. It also offers the information you will need for online applications.

Consider attending a local job club. Many organizations offer these and they provide support, information, assistance, and networking to help you move forward effectively. Check out Meetup.com for those in your area if you do not know of one. If you do not find the right group, you might consider setting up your own or creating a virtual one — ask people you know to join you and bring others.

Learn how to use online resources for research. An example is the terrific collection of career change, job search, and career development information available on www.job-hunt.org . Do not waste too much time online looking for jobs though.  Set up some job agents and use your time more effectively.

Job search is changing faster and faster. But it still remains a game in which human connections will get you far further than any other method. Humans you know and those you connect with offer insight into jobs, employers, the process, the players, and so on.

People you know help you:

  • see strengths you may not have thought of,
  • catch the glitches in your marketing materials before they knock you out,
  • offer insight into the market, etc.

People you meet at events or are connected to by others help with insight into specific employers, the marketplace, and potential other options. Even all those government contractors who want all applicants to go through their online application process (for legal compliance reasons) will admit that employee referrals are a big source of new hires. And research shows that weak connections offer excellent employee referrals, so building your network helps directly in job search as well as long term career prospects.

On average, 28% of open jobs are filled by employee referrals but many MetroDC companies are at 40-55%. About 16- 18% of jobs are actually filled via job boards — and the niche ones in your field are usually the best bets. Another 5-6% are filled by agencies/external recruiters.

Over 95% of recruiters (internal and external) cite LinkedIn as their best source so learn how to use your LI profile effectively to help you. Being active in relevant LI groups helps show your knowledge and interest too. Bitching on LI doesn’t. Lots of organizations also tweet their jobs these days. Following the organization and its recruiters on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other social media is a smart way to keep up on what is going on at your target employers and make connections which can help you get in.

Having a resume to use in your networking and to tailor to each specific job is still critical. Remember it is an AD, not your bio. Real achievements relevant to the job you want are most critical. Make it easy to see your value quickly — lots of recruiting these days is done on a mobile device’s preview pane.

This brief overview should get you started on your actual job search process and planning. Good hunting!