This plan can help you land a new job in 8 weeks flat

For the fastest results with your job hunt, follow this week-by-week guide. You may just find yourself with a fatter paycheck on the other side of next month.

This plan can help you land a new job in 8 weeks flat

Check out our week-by-week plan for job seekers.

Does your “new year, new you” plan involve a new job? Well, then you're not alone. According to a recent Monster survey, one in three Americans (33%) plans on looking for a new job this year—and 90% expect to start looking within the first three months of 2019. That's right now! 

But you're also very realistic, since almost half of you (46%) think that finding a new job can be difficult. Job searching is a tricky process, but with persistence, dedication, and the right attitude, I believe you can get yourself hired in just eight weeks.

Below you’ll find our week-by-week plan for job seekers. Just as those of you resolving to lose weight will be exercising regularly, you should also schedule in 20-minute job-searching blocks almost every day; just as dieters track their calories, track your progress to keep you motivated. Consider Monster your personal job trainer.

Hey, if you can get six pack abs in eight weeks as the magazine covers promise, why not a six-figure job—or at least a raise? Are you ready to make it happen? Let’s do this…

WEEK 1: Clarify your values and goals

Assessing who you are and what you’re looking for sets up your job search for clarity and success. I think it’s a critical first step to any job search.

Start by creating a spreadsheet with three tabs: my current job, my dream job, and my worth. First tab should have one column about what you like about your current job and one column about what you loathe. Spend the first few days of the week filling in those columns.

Once you’ve done that, use the second tab to outline a job description for your dream job and company. Get as granular as you can—whether it’s an open floor plan, a start up, or offers a work-from-home option to being able to use both your coding, marketing, and leadership skills. Make sure you consider your strengths and weaknesses, as a job that isn’t directly in line with your strongest areas will be a tougher reach. Also include a list of prospective employers you’ll target.

The next thing you need to do this week is to figure out a realistic salary range for the role you’re aiming for, based on experience and education. You never embark upon a job search without first putting a price tag on what you can offer. Use Monster's salary tool to help figure out your worth. 

WEEK 2: Create your own marketing materials

When you’re clear on what you’re looking for, the next step is to revise your resume, create a cover letter template, and revisit your social media profiles. If you were going to run a marathon, you’d need to invest in good sneakers—so consider this week your opportunity to get the fundamentals of your job search marathon ready to go.

Make sure your resume is up to date and doesn't send the wrong message. Take some first steps: use action verbs and present tense for your current job, delete the objective or replace it with a summary if you’re switching industries or career paths, and quantify your achievements (if you managed a budget, what’s the annual amount? If you manage a team, how many direct reports do you have? If you saved the company money, how much?).

This can all seem really overwhelming, so to help make this stage easier, Monster offers a free resume assessment. Our experts will review the look, format, and overall success of your resume. And we can even write it for you, if you want. 

Next, draft a standard cover letter. It shouldn’t exceed two paragraphs and should highlight a specific achievement or skill set you bring to the table. Think of your resume like a menu inside a restaurant and the cover letter as a sign outside beckoning pedestrians to come in.

Lastly, peruse your social media profiles from the viewpoint of a recruiter or hiring manager. Do your profiles look professional? (Kegstand photos, we’re talking to you). Delete questionable posts or hide them on Facebook. Make a plan to start posting and sharing news-related items pertinent to your current or desired industry or role. 

WEEK 3: Start the application process

Now that you know what you want to look for and have your marketing tools at the ready, it’s time to kick your search into high gear.

First things first. When you see a job opening, apply ASAP. Back when I was recruiting full time, I found that I’d get an influx of resumes during the first 24 hours and then remove the posting just to give myself breathing room to review all of them. Don’t be left in the dust: You just need to update that cover letter with a few key sentences tying your experiences to the position, and using keywords from the job ad,15 minutes max.

Create a fourth tab in your spreadsheet to track the opportunities you’re applying to: the employer, date submitted and job description copied from the online posting. It’s important to have that info available as you get contacted for phone interviews.

WEEK 4: Stretch your network

As you continue to submit applications, identify influencers, connectors, and V.I.P.s in your network—and list them in a fifth tab on your spreadsheet. Call your connectors and ask to meet them over lunch or coffee within the next two to three weeks. Tell them what you’re looking for and ask if they know anyone at your target employers. Once you’ve met, schedule time on your calendar to follow up two to three weeks later.

Definitely connect with the three people you want to be references. Make sure you have their recent contact info, and schedule a date to talk about your search. If you connect early they can also be advisers through the process. Plus, you won’t feel as badly about requesting a reference at the last minute.

WEEK 5: Get prepped for interviews

During week five, you’ll probably still be applying—but you may also be starting to hear back on jobs you’ve applied for. Time to get ready for interviews.

Prepare for the most-common interview questions. In particular, come up with a solid answer for why you’re looking for a new job, why you’re interested in this one, and why you think you should be hired. Also, prepare for the ubiquitous “Walk me through your resume” line. Pick a few specific anecdotes that help you make the case on all of these.

Practice in a mirror, with a spouse or partner, or via Skype with a friend. Most important, just practice. This will help you feel more confident. Phone interviews are very common, so be prepared to talk a recruiter or hiring manager before being called in to meet in person. 

Always make sure to do your homework on the company (reviewing the company’s website to see how they define their mission and values, look at the press releases, and run a Google News search) and the person you’ll be meeting. Both of these steps can help provide you with relevant nuggets to refer to in your interviews.

Also, even as you land the interviews, continue to review and apply to jobs—you never know when hiring managers you’ve met with in the past will have a new opportunity or a company will re-allocate their budget and delay filling a job you applied for.

WEEK 6: Expand your network

You've already made your first-degree contacts aware of your job search, now it's time to start thinking further outside the box when it comes to networking.

Go beyond your current network’s network as well by attending industry events, professional conferences, and more. Plan to attend at least two networking events this month. 

Call your alma mater and ask if they will run a list of alums in your geographic region and industry so you can attempt to schedule coffee meetings and informational interviews. Also, ask for a list of alums who work for your prospective employers, even if they’re in different departments than you.

Consider your nonprofessional contacts as well—from volunteer projects, religious organizations, recreational sporting leagues, even your haricutter. There’s no harm in casually mentioning that you’re beginning to look for your next professional challenge. You never know who will say, “You know I have a friend who’s the head of recruitment at…”

Also, follow up with people from week four: If you haven’t heard back at all, reach out again. And if you met with them two weeks prior, follow up regarding new contact information and leads.

WEEK 7: Go into active rest

By now, everything is in motion. You’ve probably had at least one phone interview, if not an office interview. Way to go! (Just make sure to send thank-you notes—use the template here—within 24 to 48 hours of the interview to keep your name front and center with the interviewees.)

You’ve been going at full tilt for six weeks, and you might need some time to catch your breath. Keep looking out for jobs to apply to, but also use this week to regroup a little.

Debrief with yourself about how the process is going. What’s working and what could you be doing differently? Make sure to do the same after every interview. What questions would you have answered differently? Jot down what you wished you’d said to study prior to your next interview.

Technically, even as you rest and reassess, you’re not on the sidelines. Consider the follow-up stage a way to catch your breath and relieve your muscles so that they can take you strongly to the last leg.

WEEK 8: Reach the finish line—or repeat the circuit

If hiring managers are quick to move forward, you could very well have yourself a new job by this point.

But if job offers aren’t rolling in right now, don’t get down—much of this process is actually out of your control. Take guidance from what you decided was working in week seven, and tweak your strategy accordingly. When you start to feel blue, refer to the first two tabs of your spreadsheet—what you loathe about your current job as well as enjoy, and what you’re aiming for—to keep your eye on the prize.

Continue networking, continue applying and continue interviewing. Just as with a workout plan, you may not see results right away—but dedication and persistence will help you get to the goal sooner than you might think.

Stay connected 

A job search is no easy task, and you would benefit greatly by having a team of support in your corner. Need some help with that? Join Monster for free todayAs a member, 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. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Those are two quick and easy ways you can stand apart from the competition and land a job sooner rather than later.

Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi has more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and HR and is author of Big Career in the Big City. Follow her on Twitter at @vickisalemi