You should manage job search like companies manage products. There is a reason that companies have been doing product management forever, and people pay a lot of money to product managers…..it works.

Product management is Pretty Simple (this is just one way to think about it):

  • Figure out what the brand is
    • What are its attributes
    • What is it trying to do, or provide
  • Figure out who wants the brand
    • What’s the target audience
    • How big is that audience
    • How do I reach that audience
  • Design the Marketing for the brand
    • What is the name, colors, message
    • Where and how will you communicate that to your customers
  • Manage the process
    • Have a plan based on the above
    • Track what you do, and how well it works

Those are the same steps people recommend for job seekers, and those managing their careers. The topics below are in order, but the order isn’t hard and fast. The key is to figure out who you are, what you want to do, and then market yourself accordingly. That’s how you manager your job search like companies manage products.

Create Your Job Search Plan Template:

There are a lot of things to keep track of when looking for work. Having a plan and process for doing that will keep you organized and improve your output. It will also make sure you remember which resume you sent to which company! There are lot of tools you can use to plan your job search. I’d recommend you use what you are most likely to actually use. Some of you will want a Word type document, others a spreadsheet. Another option is to use a free planning tool like Trello. Have a section for daily goals, and sections for each of the major categories of the process you plan to use (like the following sections).

Clarify Your Values, Goals and Skills:

Since you’ll be answering a lot of interview questions, it’s important to do a really good assessment of what your skills are, and where you need more work (in skills related to your chosen field). You also want to assess your goals in the short and medium term, and your values. Finding jobs and companies that align with those will do wonders for your happiness and career. Document all of this, you’ll want to refer to it while you prepare for interviews, and while you figure out what you want to do.

Develop a Branding Strategy:

When I first got this advice, I was amused. I don’t really think of myself as a brand, but you know what? Thinking of yourself as a brand really helps. It allows you to answer questions about who you are, and what you’re good at, and why you want job X. It makes it easier to have a resume that lines up with that, and helps you figure out how to keep your LinkedIn profile and other on line presence up to date. Think of this is having an answer to “tell me about yourself”.

Pick a Profession, or Career:

Many of us have more than one skill, and could do a number of different jobs. Your job search will be more productive if you pick the kinds of jobs you want to apply for, rather than applying for any old job. This is based on what you’ve done in the past, and your skills. Hopefully you are doing informational interviews to gather data on jobs you aren’t totally familiar with.

Create Your Marketing Materials:

Once you know what you are selling (yourself, for a type of job), you can create a generic resume and cover letter. You’ll use these as the basis for the specific ones you send out to companies and individuals in your network. If part of your plan is to attend a lot of in person networking, you may want to create business cards also. Even if you don’t plan for that, have some. You never know when you’ll meet someone in person that you can help, or that can help you.

Align Your Online Presence with Your Personal Brand:

One of the first things recruiters and hiring managers do is look at your online presence. This isn’t just about LinkedIn, but also Facebook, search (usually Google, but sometimes Bing or other), and anyplace else you turn up online. They are looking for a lot of things, some of them good (do you help others online, do you have posts or articles or other things that show your skills and knowledge) and some of them bad (typos, attitudes or other things that won’t fit their culture).

Make a List of Companies You Want to Work for:

Sure, you might apply to a lot of companies, especially if you are out of work and need a job. But there are probably some companies that you really want to work for. Research them and make a list of them. You’ll need that list as you plan your networking, and you track your progress on working for each. While researching companies, don’t forget to assess their culture against your values and goals. The best way to do that is to talk to people that already work there.

Manage Your Network:

Managing your network is one of the most important parts of finding a job. This includes using LinkedIn to keep a list of your contacts, but it also includes networking nearly every day. Even if it is just instant messaging or emails, and not in person discussions, you can actively managing your network.

Conduct Informational Interviews:

Informational interviews are about two things. First, they help you figure out what you want to do and where you want to work (or not). Secondly, they help you build your network. You will be more successful getting them if you use them for that, than if you are really just trying to get a real interview out of the process.

Prepare for Interviews:

Interviews are stressful. Someone is (or several people are) sitting across from you (in person or over the phone or internet) and is asking you lots of questions. It’s the first step in most any job process. They expect you to be prepared to answer, and to ask good questions yourself. In addition to answering questions about you, they’ll want to see if you did research on them (the company or person you are talking to). Preparation is the key to success.

Look up the kinds of questions people ask in interviews. Prepare answers to those questions. Make sure you have good questions to ask also. For each company, use your research, to ask one or two specific questions about the company. You can ask more later in the process…..just make sure you ask at least one about the company. Lastly, have a thank you letter ready to go, and email it when you get home.

Apply for Jobs:

Not surprisingly, you aren’t likely to get a job, if you don’t ask for a job! But applying for jobs isn’t as simple as just going on line and filling out random applications. You need to find jobs you want to apply for. This can happen on line, but research shows you are significantly more likely to get a job through networking and the jobs that brings you, than randomly applying for them.

This step will be much easier for you if you have used your network to find jobs in companies you want to work at. It’s the culmination of all the steps above. Figure out what you want to do. Figure out how to sell yourself. Find companies and people you want to work for. But, just applying isn’t enough. You’ll need to follow a process before, during, and after interviews.

Steps to Take After Interviews:

Send follow up thank yous to anyone you interviewed with. Send a thank you to anyone that helped you get the interview. Continue researching the company, to ensure a good fit. If you can, research the hiring manager for fit. Learn about salaries on line, and how to negotiate for a good one and other benefits. For most of us, there is some leeway in the exact salary you start with, and as you become more seasoned in your career, bonuses and vacation and other benefits are more negotiable. Be ready for this step.

That’s a lot to Keep Track of! Which brings us back to your planning template. Whether you follow this process, or another one, have a way to track your work. In addition, make sure you have a place free of distractions to do your work. Looking for work is stressful, so make sure you have healthy ways to manage that stress.

Good luck in your search!