proactive job search

8 Effective Ways to Prepare for a Proactive Job Search

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In my previous post, I talked about what to do after experiencing an unexpected layoff, providing advice for those who’ve recently been laid off in the early stages of a recession. For those who are still employed, I want to share some tips to help you be better prepared, in case you also experience a layoff in the future. Instead of being reactive, these tips will help you have a more proactive job search, resulting in a much quicker recovery.

One thing to keep in mind when reading through these proactive job search tips: don’t feel like you have to do all of them. Be realistic about what you have the time and mental bandwidth for.

Also, consider focusing only on those that have worked for you in the past, while incorporating one or two new ones. Test out the new ones to see if they work for you. If not, replace them with one or two of the other suggestions to test out.

The goal is to be prepared and strategic. Waiting for the news of a layoff and then going online to fill out job applications, only to wait even longer for a response, is not a good strategy.

How to conduct a proactive job search

1. Research other companies of interest

Start making note of other companies you may be interested in working for in the future. Research them on Glassdoor and in local business journals to see what their reputation is, especially among their employees.

Also, try to learn about how they’re faring in the current economy. Do you see them growing when other companies are downsizing? If so, they could be a potential future employer. Start now making connections with people who work there, utilizing your current contacts and LinkedIn.

In addition to researching established companies, you may also want to spend some time researching the viability of starting your own company, especially if you’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak or desire.

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2. Don’t wait for jobs to be posted

Part of your research should include finding ways you might fill a current void in a company. My future father-in-law has a saying,

“Never turn down a job that’s not been offered.”

I always try to help my clients determine their skill set and unique differentiators, so they can pinpoint how those skills help solve a problem.

There doesn’t have to be a job listed online for you to figure out how your skills might meet a need. Sometimes your research and conversations with your network can help you determine this, thus giving you an opportunity to propose your experience and expertise to a company in need.

If you’re able to see an opportunity where your knowledge can be a win-win, you don’t have to wait to fill out an online job application. This is when you can conduct a truly proactive job search.

Many people have created jobs for themselves this way, jobs that never previously existed. And some have even started their own businesses.

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3. Maintain your current network

Regardless of your goal to change companies or start your own, you want to maintain your connections with your current network. Contacts are helpful and necessary for both pursuits. And, networking should always take place before, during, and after a job search.

Reach out to those you haven’t talked to in a while. Catch up with them. Find out what’s been going on in their world. And ask what they see are the biggest needs and voids in their own companies or industries.

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4. Make new connections

While you’re reconnecting with your current contacts, you also want to find out who are some new people they’ve connected with since speaking last. Asking for introductions can open the door to a lot of new warm leads. It can also help you expand your network and discover the gaps your skills can fill.

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5. Update your skill set

When researching the needs of a company, you may discover it’s time to update your current skill set. Many technical skills quickly become obsolete in this fast-changing world. Take the time to enroll in refresher courses, get re-certified, or earn some continuing education credits in your field.

Perhaps you discover there’s a major need for a skill you don’t currently have, but are interested in learning it. It’s always a good idea to develop new skills to stay relevant.

Consider signing up for online courses, trainings, or boot camps to learn something new you can add to your skill set and your resume.

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6. Look for opportunities to build your resume

Speaking of resume builders, you can find all kinds of opportunities in your current company to build your resume proactively. This can include serving on committees in other departments you’d like to gain more familiarity with. Or, it can include agreeing to a special project to showcase both old and new skills.

Outside of your company, you can build your resume with industry-related activities such as speaking at conferences, or with community events by serving with a local non-profit.

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7. Update your resume

After you’ve completed your resume builders, don’t forget to update your resume with them, including results and numbers to quantify those results.

And don’t forget to always update your resume every six months to reflect your on-the-job accomplishments. If you’re following the tips above and are conducting a proactive job search, you never know how soon you may need to provide one of your contacts with a copy of your resume. Always be prepared!

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8. Don’t assume your job is secure

Never assume your job is safe from elimination. Things change, and business is business.

Being realistic about what could potentially happen can keep you from being caught off guard. Also, it can motivate you to put some time and energy into some of the tips provided above.

Your Job Provides You Security. Until It Doesn’t. Then What?


By being proactive and prepared, you’ll feel more in control of your career, and will experience less panic and stress over a sudden job loss. You’ll be able to recover much quicker, and find a new opportunity sooner than later.


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