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September 18, 2009
The Job Search Plan: The Most Important Tool Ever in Your Arsenal

Well-known fact: Job searching and being unemployed can be one of the most discouraging and ego-smashing things a person could ever experience. Rejection is common, and there is a tendency to end up in a very unhappy place.

Then, there’s the chaos. If you’ve previously been working for most of your career in a full-time position, you’re used to have the structure and routine to each day. Being out of work, you find yourself in a drifting miasma of what do I do today? And with summer around the corner, it’s very tempting to blow off the job search and spend your day lounging in the sun. This isn’t an approach with a high rate of guaranteed success!

Here are some suggestions on how to chart your course, add some structure to your day, and give yourself definable goals to give you that sense of order that you had within the workplace:

1) Appoint a Job Search ‘Buddy’
This person will be someone you report to on a weekly basis. It’s going to be a lot more compelling for you to get off the sofa when you know you need to call this person on Friday and report back on your weekly activities. This person will hold you accountable and be your ‘cheerleader’ at the same time.

2) Number of Articles to Be Read Weekly
When you are unemployed or out of work, it is easy to feel that you are getting left behind on industry trends and issues. It makes sense to keep yourself informed and abreast of current events – not just so you can interject a useful bit of information in an interview, but also to have something to talk about when networking.

3) Number of Networking Events to Be Attended Weekly
Shy? Get over it. The ocean is full of sharks right now, and you need to be one of them. That means getting out of the house, and getting out to networking events. Think of yourself as an explorer… you never know what you might uncover!

4) Number of Educational Events to Go to Monthly
Smart job searchers realize that there is a huge opportunity to be gained during this time: go take classes. This could be a great way to help catapult you into a new career, enhance your professional credentials, or hone your skills.

5) Number of Volunteer Hours Per Month
Volunteering can provide exceptional opportunities to network, learn new skills, become a known quantity within an organization and even find out about industry or company job openings before they are even posted. Plus, you’ll feel good while doing it!

6) Number of Member Organizations To Belong To
The benefit of these organizations is that it can add to your professional credentials, you can add it to your resume, and then you can take advantage of industry events to either volunteer, attend educational sessions, gain industry certifications, and network to meet other people.

7) Number of Informational Interviews Per Week
Tap into your network, and see if your friends and colleagues can connect you to people that they know. Ask open-ended questions, like, “What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the past five years in this position?” “What were some of the steps you’ve taken in your career?” - the goal is to learn things, not use this as a persuasive opportunity to try and get hired.

8) Number of Friends To Talk To Per Week
Who do friends know? People. Employed people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your entire network. The key is to tap into your social circle and ‘refresh’ your connections. You never know what might happen.

9) Follow Up On Sent Applications
One of the biggest failures of job seekers is that they are constantly looking forward for the next job opening to apply for that they don’t go back and follow up on the positions for which they’ve already applied. Look both forward and backward, and you’ll have your bases covered!

This seems like a whole lot of homework, but the goal is to provide structure, stability and goals to you in a time where there is a lot of chaos, unclear objectives and confusion. By structuring yourself and your time while unemployed, this will give you the sense of purpose you need and also a boost to feeling productive.

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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