Searching for a job effectively

  • Published
  • By Catherine McNally
  • Hilltop Times staff
This is the first in a a two-part series on effective job search techniques, resume writing and interviewing. Please look for the second installment -- covering resume writing and interviewing techniques -- in next week's edition of the Hilltop Times.

In today's world conducting an effective employment search can be a job in itself. Job seekers -- both civilian and retired military -- must constantly be on their toes furthering their education and skills, updating their resumes and searching for job postings that meet their qualifications.

"There's a lot more to it than searching for openings and submitting a resume," Kim Taylor, a community readiness consultant with the Airman and Family Readiness Center, said. Taylor teaches a course entitled "Effective Job Search" that is intended to help job seekers prepare for all the do's and don'ts of the work world.

The Effective Job Search class begins by introducing participants to a six step process:

  • Self-assessment
  • Job search techniques
  • Networking
  • Resume writing
  • Interviewing
  • Retention
"Career preparation is a process," Taylor said. "Landing the perfect job requires planning and organization."


The first step is most important because it helps direct a job seeker toward a career they not only will enjoy but also be skilled at. "No matter where you are in your career you should do some sort of assessment," Taylor added.

Self-assessment involves gathering information about yourself, such as your work preferences and interests, financial needs, skills and abilities and your goals. The assessment basically has a job seeker asking, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Several tools are available through the Base Education Office and online that will help you determine an answer to this question, such as career aptitude tests.

"An assessment test cannot guarantee the perfect career but it can be a wonderful tool to use to narrow down your choices or to open up avenues you might never have thought to explore," Taylor added.

Self-assessments also cover your values, which are a very important thing to consider when you're choosing an occupation. Values can range from moral values to qualities in employment you consider important -- things like a good salary and benefits, the ability to help society or even the chance to supervise the work of others.

"If you don't take your values into account when planning your career, there's a good chance you'll dislike your work and therefore not succeed in it," Taylor warns. "For example, someone who needs to have autonomy in their work would not be happy in a job where every action is decided by someone else."

Another aspect to assess is your family's financial needs. This requires you to determine the amount of money you need to earn in order to meet your expenses and cover the cost of working as well as achieve your financial goals. A good plan of attack is to complete a budget worksheet. The A&FRC offers financial management classes that can assist you in filling out a budget worksheet.

The last part of the self-assessment process is to analyze your goals. Three different questions to ask when completing this assessment are:

  • Why do I want a job? For the immediate paycheck, career development, other reasons?
  • What is my five year career goal?
  • What can I do now to move me toward my five year career goal?
It's important to remember that there are three different kinds of goals: short term, intermediate and long term goals. Goals should also follow the acronym "SMART", which states:

  • Specific -- Make your goals specific and include what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable -- Know you are working toward your goals and how close you are to achieving them.
  • Adaptable -- Goals need to be flexible. Sometimes needs or interests change and your goals should be flexible enough to adapt to those changes.
  • Realistic -- Goals need to be something you can obtain.
  • Trackable -- Have a way to track your goals, such as a notebook that documents where you've sent resumes, where you've interviewed and more.
Job search techniques

After completing a self-assessment, the next step to beginning an effective job search is to fully understand job search techniques. This includes understanding the job market and how it works, how to actively search for opportunities and leads, the importance of your education and training and organizing your job search.

Taylor begins this portion of the class by quoting Richard Lathrop, author of the book "Who's Hiring Who?" -- "He or she who gets hired is not necessarily the one who can do the job best; but, the one who knows the most about how to get hired."

In today's competitive job market this quote rings true. Jobs typically become available in two ways -- by replacement and by creation. Because of the slow economy most companies are no longer creating jobs so there is even more competition to fill those job slots opened up by people retiring, getting promoted or relocating.

What most job seekers don't know is that there is a "hidden job market," which accounts for up to 85 percent of all job vacancies. These vacancies are never listed and instead are filled by internal applicants or people who find out via friends, relatives or job agencies giving them the heads up.

This means that a successful job search should be tailored to each company you apply for. "You must do your research and find out who does the hiring, who you need to talk to, who you need to send your resume to, etc.," Taylor said.

While networking typically remains the most successful way to execute a job search, most employers also look for applicants through the company's job postings and external agencies. Placement agencies and want ads are last on the list of places employers will look for possible candidates.

Despite this job seekers should still become familiar with sources of job postings. Utah's state employment site can be found at and the nationwide employment site can be found at The Bureau of Labor's statistics reports can also be useful in figuring out what career areas to direct your search in and can be found at

It's becoming more and more common for companies to limit job applications to online only. The best way to find job opportunities with specific companies is to visit their websites, but online job search engines can also provide a leg up. Monster ( and Career Builder ( are both well-known job search engines that allow you to create a profile, upload a resume and browse through job postings.

Another job search engine, Indeed (, instead aggregates a listing of all job postings found online recently from other job sites, newspapers, associations and company career sites. Indeed does not allow you to create a user profile, but can directly link you to a company's Web site or a job posting that wasn't listed on Career Builder or Monster.

Federal employment involves a different process. Typically applications for federal jobs are accepted only online at USAJobs ( The website can sometimes be a bit intimidating and confusing, but the A&FRC and Department of Workforce Services offer classes that teach job seekers how to navigate the ins and outs of USAJobs.

When conducting your job search it's best to keep everything organized. Taylor suggests using something simple such as an Excel spreadsheet to log information such as the date you applied, the company's website, your username and password for that website, along with the job title and a contact.

It's also important to make sure your personal information and resumes are in an easily accessible place, especially if you're in the middle of a permanent change in station.

"I learned the hard way being a brand new military spouse," Taylor said as she described how her job search was stalled as she waited for her household goods to arrive at her new base. "Just like your military member has to carry medical records, you have to carry job records."

Taylor suggests carrying a career portfolio -- something as simple as a small binder or pocket folder that includes all of your personal information, driver's license, passport, certificates and licenses, education history, transcripts and resumes.

"(The portfolio) should be constantly updated, even if you're not looking for a job," she encouraged, stating that updates should be made at least every six months.


"Networking gives you an earlier chance at an opportunity," Taylor said. "Employers favor hiring from personal referrals because they're easier, faster and cheaper. They are thought to bring on a more productive employee who stays with the company longer."

The best way to network is to ask those you know one of these three questions:

  • Do you know of any openings for a person with my skills?
  • Do you know of someone else who might know of such an opening?
  • Do you know someone who knows numerous people who might be able to help me?
It's also a good idea to ask for them to refer two other people that you could talk to in order to expand your network. Networks can include your supervisor, spouse, former employers and co-workers, the military transition office, relatives, close friends or colleagues and relatives.

Other networking resources are social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. These sites give you the ability to "build strong connections and widen your professional network," Taylor said. Of course, they should also be approached with caution. Don't post any personal information or anything that you wouldn't want a possible future employer to see. Things posted on the Internet have a tendency to not disappear and instead pop up in unexpected places.

Volunteering at a company is also another great way to network and become an internal applicant. "It provides you the opportunity to network with key decision makers and to gain or improve skills," Taylor said. Volunteering can also fill gaps in your employment history or open the door to a career you hadn't considered before, especially since the federal government views volunteer work as employment experience.

Last but not least, job fairs also provide job seekers the chance to network with company representatives. It's a good idea to attend these events periodically even when you're not searching for a job as they can provide insight into what opportunities exist and offer a perspective on where you fit into the job market.

When attending a job fair you should always make sure you are prepared. Research the companies who will attend--many job fairs publish these lists online. Revise and update your resume and practice a 30 second "commercial" that advertises your skills and what you can offer a company. Be sure to also dress for success -- don't show up in jeans and a T-shirt -- and leave your kids at home.