Take Control of Your Job Search

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

Like it or not, at some point we all face the prospect of "job transition." Sometimes we take the initiative for a change of jobs and sometimes not.

But, regardless of whether you've decided to move on or you are facing the harsh realities of a forced job search, you can minimize the stress involved by taking control. That's phase one of the job transition.

Sounds easy enough, right? Let's look at 14 things you can do to stay cool and in control during your job search.

1. Don't wait!

You've seen it: Watching the ball drop as the New Year rings in or holding our breath as the detonator counts down to a TNT armageddon. We tend to be mesmerized by the clock rather than galvanized into action.

When it comes to changing jobs, anticipation is no substitute for participation. If you are going to take charge, now is the time to do it!

2. Have a plan and work it.

The adage "If you don't have a plan you'll be a part of someone else's" was never truer than it is now.
You may be making the decision to move on "just because," or maybe the decision was made for you.

But from this point forward, you need to "Plan, plan, plan!" More than that: Execute! Otherwise someone will be doing that for you too. Ouch!

3. Never, ever compromise...

We spend too much time at work to be forever miserable. Part of your process should be to reflect on what you want personally and professionally.

Don't give up on your dreams any more than you give in to flights of fancy.

Being realistic doesn't mean you can't change your reality though. Changing jobs is as good a time as any for making other life changes. Do it!

4. ...Unless you have to!

One of the things that can scupper the best- intentioned job transition is failing to know the difference between what you want and what you need.

If the career transition you ultimately want involves a series of mini-transitions, take those part-time or interim jobs. If it didn't sometimes involve a journey of sorts it wouldn't be called a "career path," would it? Just stay on track.

5. Start with a deadline

Set to-do dates for everything. When will your resume be finished? When will your interviews happen? When will your job offers come in? When will you be starting the new job?

Sure, you cannot control everything and your drop-dead dates might move. But be warned: If you don't have deadlines your job search could be the one dropping dead. Resurrecting a job search is tougher than getting one started.

6. Gather intelligence

Don't limit what you are capable of achieving by limiting the scope or rate of transition. You might find that connecting with other employees is better than going straight to HR looking for an interview.  It may take longer but the pay-off could be potentially much greater.

Research is the first step to gaining the intelligence you'll need to make intelligent decisions. Do it every step of the way.

7. Put your best foot forward

Perhaps the hardest part in any job transition is getting out of first gear and stepping it up a notch.
Your level of motivation and activity might vary depending on which type of job transition you are facing -- forced or desired.

Regardless, now is the time to take whatever comes your way in your stride.

8. Track your activity

Part of your planning should involve quantifying the behaviors required to accelerate your transition -- the number of contacts to make, the number of conversations to have and so on.

Keep a worksheet so that you can tick off each individual task as it is completed (interviews and offers too).

9. Stay motivated

Seeing your transition in progress is a great way to stay motivated. That's one of the reasons why tracking your activity is important.

If you fall behind, rather than be discouraged and run the risk of falling still further behind, revise your behavior plan and increase your daily activities so you can catch up over time and without killing yourself in the process.

10. Train for the interview

You stand a better chance of a successful job hunt by knowing how to play the game. Remember, recruiters are interviewing day-in, day-out while you might interview eight or 10 times every five years!

Level the playing field by brushing up on your communication, presentation and sales techniques. Who knows, they may even come in handy once you've landed the job!

11. Allow a little anxiety

Anxiety is normal during a job search. Coping with those feelings is easier if you accept them as par for the course. After all, not knowing what is going to happen next is unsettling for anyone under the best of circumstances.

But, rather than becoming preoccupied with what might happen and becoming more anxious in the process, make what you want to happen happen. That's how we got this far, right?

12. When time is dragging, relax

The inevitable feeling of helplessness that accompanies rejection is hard to avoid in a job search. When job prospects are running in slow motion it might seem like nothing is happening at all. Fear not...

What better time to be "living in the moment?" It might not seem like a step in the right direction but it will carry you further than stressing out ever will. Om!

13. Are you your own worst enemy?

Up to this point, your biggest competition has been between your ears. Now he or she is in your face! That's right, you're shortlisted but if your competition has their way, this will be as far as you go.

Anything other than a sense of urgency to get a decision in your favor might indicate something wrong -- with you! If need be, get ready to rumble. Be prepared.

14. Know your competition

You have to assume that your closest competition is ahead of you. Anything else may lead to complacency.

If you're up against someone who has been in "urgency" mode for months and is facing their final hurdle, having an over-confident way about you won't help you land the job, nor should it. The hungry get fed first.

At journey's end? Not likely...

You did it, you got the job! It hardly matters at this point what your motivations were at the beginning or how challenging the journey.

All that matters is that you've earned a rest, time to get ready for phase two of your transition: Bridging the gap between jobs.