Looking for a job right now? If so, you’re probably getting plenty of advice. From old friends and colleagues to experts on social media, there are plenty of folks out there who want to guide your search.
The problem is that even well-intentioned insights can be less than helpful if they don’t apply to your situation or goals. Further, you only have so much time to devote to a job search—without cloning yourself, you can’t possibly do everything everyone says you “should” be doing to get hired.
If this is your situation right now, take heart and tune out the noise. Going back to basics will help you get your job search back on track.
1. Assess Your Needs and Plan a Strategy
Are you looking for your dream job—or are you just trying to keep the lights on? Both things can be true, by the way, but before you start searching in earnest, it’s important to have a firm grasp of your short- and long-term goals.
To do that, you need to assess your needs. If you’re like many Americans, you don’t have much in the way of an emergency fund. So, if you’re job searching while unemployed, your top priority might be to find a way to make money, fast. Consider part-time jobs, freelance work, or temp jobs to pay the bills while you conduct your search.
Once you’ve determined your goals and filled those short-term needs, you can settle in for the long haul—and it’s important to accept that it might be a long haul. Surveys show that it can take several months to find a job. It’s not just you: this really is a long, tricky, time-consuming process. Plan to do a little each day, whether it’s pruning your resume, looking for job listings, or keeping in touch with networking contacts.
And don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process. Job searching can be stressful, and it’s essential to incorporate self-care in your process.
2. Build a Resume You Can Tweak for Any Job
When was the last time you updated your resume? If it’s been over a year—or you’re actively job searching—it’s time for an edit. Make sure your resume is highlighting your most relevant experience and cut anything that’s outdated, including old jobs that no longer relate to your current career goals and lines like “references upon request.”
Starting from scratch? Use one of the many free resume templates available online to create a basic document, which you can then customize for each opportunity. And do customize it—a targeted resume is essential for a successful job search. Remember that hiring managers want to interview candidates who are interested in that specific job, not just any job.
3. Match Your Qualifications to the Job Description
Get out of the habit of skimming job postings. Instead, dig into the details provided to learn which of your qualifications will be most impressive to the hiring team. Look for keywords related to the skills, abilities, and experience required and then match your qualifications to the job in your resume, cover letter, and interviews.
4. Create a Targeted Cover Letter
In an era when job seekers in many industries have multiple social media profiles, online resumes, and portfolios, it might seem strange to labor over a cover letter. Doesn’t a cover letter just restate what your other documents, profiles, and sites already reveal?
Well, yes and no. It’s true that a hiring manager could probably figure out from your (well-organized, targeted) resume that you’re the perfect candidate for the job. But given that recruiters typically spend seconds reviewing a resume, there’s a good chance that they’d miss how awesome you are.
A targeted cover letter gives you a chance to tell that story yourself. Again, templates are your friend here, but you’ll need to customize your letter for each opportunity. Remember that even when job titles are similar, employers’ requirements will be different, even if subtly so.
5. Find Job Leads Quickly
When you’re looking for a job, time is of the essence. You simply don’t have hours to waste searching in the wrong places or talking to the wrong people. To maximize your job hunting time, look for job leads:
This content was originally published here.