Strategically Planning Your Career Search

Before you got to work on your current resume or looked at specific opportunities in your field of interest, did you develop a strategic plan for your career search? Planning is defined as the thinking that precedes the work. Likewise, strategic planning is the process of identifying outcomes one to three years in the future and devising a blueprint to reach those objectives.

Why bother to take a strategic planning approach to your career search? Because failing to do so could wind up costing you a quarter million dollars or more in lifetime earnings! A few well-spent hours up front mapping out your overall career search strategy could be one of the very best investments you make in your future, producing a higher dollar-per-hour return than completing your education.

There are three kinds of career searches being conducted today:

1. A reactive career search – you need a job so you jump in and start applying for just about any position for which you might be qualified and interested. Your next steps are guided by what just happened or is currently happening, so your planning ‘horizon’ may be hours or at most, days.

2. A proactive career search – you begin by determining what kind of work you’d like to do and for which you are qualified. You get a good idea of how long you think your career search will take, and begin preparing your resume, applying to positions of interest, hoping to land an interview. You have a good idea of the basic steps you’ll need to follow to manage the opportunities and follow-up. Your planning ‘horizon’ is typically days and weeks.

3. A strategic career search. You begin by setting aside a block of time to educate yourself on the entire career search process before developing a written career search plan covering all phases of your search. Then you begin the process of taking action on each step of your plan. For strategic career search planners, the planning ‘horizon’ is typically months to a year or more.

Strategic career search planning considers a career search in a holistic sense, not just a series of actions or reactions you make up as you go. It means that your career search activities will take place as part of an over-arching plan, not as isolated activities. It realistically recognizes that an effective career search will take months for entry level positions and likely a year or more for senior positions. It relies on up-front research on processes and methods with an emphasis on how each step of the career search can most effectively be executed.

Here are six questions to answer during your strategic career search planning:

1. What are my specific objectives? The answer to this question is not as simple as “a job.” You need to know specifically what kind of job you want, where you’d like to live and work, the size and type of employer for whom you’d like to work, the income range reasonable to expect with what you bring to the position, and similar objectives.

2. What are my assets? Personal assets consist of your own set of experiences, knowledge, skills and talents that can produce positive results in the workplace. Networks consist of people you know and who know you from your social networks, current and past positions, your education, and your personal acquaintances. Tools consist of the equipment you’ll utilize in conducting an effective career search (phone, computer, printer, etc.) as well as the documents, databases, checklists and other tools to help you manage your career search.

3. What is my branding strategy? Your brand is what people associate with you, based on their impressions over time. It encompasses your personal values, educational credentials, practical experience, appearance, and messaging. An effective career search draws on all of these areas to create the perception potential employers will have about you.

4. What is my online strategy? Today many important career search activities take place online, too many to not have a strategic plan in place. Areas here for consideration include social network presence, electronic resumes and postings, job boards, dealing with employer’s applicant tracking systems, and electronic communications.

5. How will I manage all of my career search activities? Consider the complexity of staying on top of all the details of just a single employment opportunity. Now multiply that by 20, 50, or 100 open positions that fit your ideal criteria, and you quickly realize that a career search management tool is necessary. Whether manual, pc-based, or online, a career search database is a must to ensure timely actions and responses.

6. What is my strategy for each position of interest? While most positions will follow similar steps of applying for the position, research, a series of interviews, etc., consider crafting a specific strategy for each opening you decide to pursue.

7. How and when will I measure progress against my plan? While you don’t know in advance the specific job opportunities that you’ll pursue, you need to establish a review process that will enable you to review your progress and make ongoing corrections to each opening of interest.

While it may seem like a lot of extra work, a strategic career search plan will save time when you need it most by having a targeted, efficient career search. You’ll improve your chances of getting a better job faster in your field of interest.

Boyer Management Group works with job seekers and employers alike to help both become more successful. For job seekers, we offer the world’s first assessment to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging career search best practices, along with the educational programs to support higher ed curriculum, career coaches and individual job seekers. For employers, we offer world-class talent acquisition and onboarding tools, training and programs, including management/leadership development training, as well as programs for new managers and supervisors. To find out more, please visit us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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