Five steps to take before you start a job search

Take these steps even before you start updating your resume.

Five steps to take before you start a job search

Develop a 5-point job search check list

You're used to the standard drill of applying to jobs: search online, update your cover letter and resume, prepare for interviews, send thank you notes, follow up, rinse and repeat. But there are things you should do that will set you up for a successful job search before you even start applying. Monster spoke to career experts to find out what should be at the top of your to-do list.

Reflect on your current job

Cathleen Carmichael, a California-based career coach, recommends thinking about what you want to change and why as the first step in the process of finding a new job. Take the time to reflect on if you actually want a new job at a different company or if you feel stagnant and want to take on new challenges or roles at your current company.

We humans tend to be motivated by our emotions without questioning them, and sometimes they mislead us,” says Carmichael, “It’s better to do due diligence than to make a move and regret it later. Avoid the whole ‘grass is greener’ idea.” She suggests starting with questions like: What is not working for you? What would you change if you could? Would it be possible to change it? What does work for you? Your answers will help clarify if you can shake things up in your current role or apply to another position internally or if it’s time to start your search.

Figure out what you want next

As part of the process of figuring out the pros and cons of your current situation, think about what would make you happy in a new job. “Just like in relationships, jobs can look great from the outside, but it takes time to get to know all the realities of the situation," says Carmichael. "It's best to have a realistic list of parameters you're seeking.”

She recommends writing down what you dislike about your current job and what’s missing from your current role or company, and then make a “wish list” of things you’d like to have next. Be specific. Think about things that make up your work life like a shorter commute, work from home options, a stellar benefits package, a better work-life balance, or opportunities for future growth. Write down the types of tasks you’d like to do, if you want to manage someone, and the skills you want to gain.

Spruce up your social media

Just as there is a good chance someone will Google you before a date, there's a good chance that employers are going to check out your online profiles—both personal and professional—before making a job offer. Assume that all of your social media profiles and every single post is fair game for future employers. (Yes, even those photos from Greek Week freshman year that seemed funny at the time.)

Start by auditing all of your social media profiles to make sure everything is appropriate. And remember, people at all levels have lost job offers, gotten demoted or fired, and had offers rescinded because of things they posted years ago. “No company wants to hire an employee who might embarrass the company in their social media posts, badmouthing a previous or current employer, making negative comments about customers, engaging in online arguments using vulgar language, or posting anything seen as racist, sexist, homophobic, or offensive,” says Andrew Selepak, director of the Master of Arts program in mass communication at the University of Florida with a specialization in social media. “Employers are going to search for new hires online and use what they find to eliminate candidates in an application pool,” he says.

Next, work on your personal brand. Write down what you want to be known for and what you want people to think of when they look at your profiles. It’s also beneficial in some fields to create a professional website with your professional bio, a photo, and even a blog that shows that you're an expert in your field. Now when future employers Google you, you have more control over what they find.

Perfect your pitch

Now it’s time to nail your elevator pitch. A great elevator pitch is engaging, short, and tells a story in a few sentences or less. Before you start your job search, you should be able to explain your career goals and what you're looking for next clearly and concisely.

“You need to have your response to the question, ‘tell me about yourself’ well-rehearsed because you never know when someone will ask you this question,” says Joseph Liu, a London-based career coach and host of the podcast Career Relaunch. “While you can certainly expect to receive this question during job interviews, this question may also come up during informal networking or even social situations when you cross paths with someone who may be aware of a potential role.”

Get the 411

“Now that you've narrowed down what you want to do and where, start collecting information about what it takes to succeed and use that information as ammunition for your resume updates, cover letters, and interview talking points,” says Beth Tucker, CEO and founding partner of the Boston-based staffing firm KNF&T Staffing Resources. She recommends going on informational interviews to learn about different roles and companies. “The goal is not to sell yourself for an interview, the goal is to instead gather data about the job and industry you're aiming for—like what it takes to succeed, how to position yourself, skills that are valued, industry resources, career paths, frustrations, and expectations.” Get to know people at networking events, through your alumni network and friends-of-friends, and even social media and apps. Just like a job interview, always come prepared with questions, research, and yes, your elevator pitch.

Find the right fit

A major part of any job search is figuring out exactly what you're looking for. There's a lot that goes into narrowing down job prospects: industry, title, salary, commute, and work schedule. Need help figuring it out? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can get career advice, interview tips, and job search strategies emailed to you weekly so you can see how to get yourself to the next rung on the career ladder. Additionally, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. How far you go in your career is up to you, and Monster can help you reach your full potential.