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The days of simply browsing through the Sunday newspaper and sending out a few résumés in order to win your next career opportunity are over. The days of retiring after having worked for one or two companies are also over. Recession, downsizing, mergers, outsourcing, and corporate reorganizations have required rapid adaptation of workers, hard career decisions, and frequent transitions. These days, the average worker will hold approximately ten jobs before the age of 36.

While the timeframe for your job search will vary with the specifics of your situation, a commonly cited statistic is that the average job search will take anywhere from three to six months from initiation to the day you begin your new job. The U.S. Department of Labor indicates that the average length of unemployment in the U.S. is currently 18 weeks (a little over four months), but this figure covers all professions, all industries, and all professional levels. Another common job search statistic tells us that you can expect to spend approximately one month for each $10,000 in salary you are seeking.

If you are looking forward to your next job search with dread, you are definitely not alone. But with some planning, genuine effort, and sincere commitment, you can minimize that stress and land a new job – one that is personally, professionally, and financially rewarding – and shorter than you may have thought possible.

Here is a checklist to help you achieve a fast, successful job search:

Set a clear target. Put yourself in the driver’s seat by clearly defining your job search focus. For most people, the best and strongest job targets will include a statement of the job function and professional level paired with other indicators to make the job target more precise and ultimately more effective. These indicators may be criteria such as industry, company size, company culture, or geographic location.

Build your network of support. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a strong support network to offer encouragement and advice, to brainstorm and share ideas with you, to help keep you accountable to the goals you set for yourself, and to help keep you on track throughout the emotional roller coaster that a job search can be. Family and friends are often included in the support network, but also consider joining a job search group or working with a career coach, particularly one who is very familiar with job search mechanics.

Adjust your attitude. An enthusiastic, “can-do” attitude that exudes self-confidence and a clear understanding of the value you offer in the workplace will make all the difference. Always put a smile on your face when you talk on the phone; it will shine through in your voice. Make eye contact and watch your body signals and posture when you meet with contacts in person. Your positive, confident attitude is one that people will like to be around and will make it more likely that you will be hired.

Update and revive your résumé. Your résumé is your first introduction to employers. Don’t underestimate the importance of making a positive first impression with it. Your résumé should be up-to-date, focused for the current search, employer-centered, and results-oriented. You are a commodity in the job market and your résumé is your advertisement. If your résumé needs refreshing, now is the time to do it. You should definitely consider hiring a professional résumé writer.

Cultivate and strengthen your professional network. With more than 80% of available jobs never advertised, it is essential that you have the ability to access the hidden job market. Your professional network will be one of your most effective sources for information and referrals relating to the hidden job market. Of course, networking is all about relationships and so you should continuously nurture your network relationships regardless of whether you are job searching or not. But, whether you have or haven’t (If you haven’t, building network relationships would make a great New Year’s Resolution), now is the time to reach out to everyone you know to inform them of your search and to ask for advice and referrals. Consider using a website like LinkedIn to help with your effort.

Establish and promote your personal branding. At its essence, personal branding is about the authentic and unique promise of value you offer. In relation to your career, it is about the promise of value you offer that differentiates you from your peers and competitors in the workplace and job market. Branding yourself can actually have such a dramatic effect that you will become hunted rather than being the hunter for your next job opportunity.

Get organized and create a system for managing your job search. An organized plan and system will help keep you motivated, moving forward, and focused on achieving the ultimate goal. At the very least, you need a calendaring system, a system of logging inter-related and follow-up activities, a contact management system, and a filing system.

Create and follow a written, multi-pronged job search plan. Answering ads or posting your résumé on the Internet is the easiest, but usually least effective job search techniques. Your job search plan should include a balance of techniques to access both the published and unpublished job market. Further, it should include activities prioritized and strategically selected to fit in each of the five major job search approaches: 1) Networking and referral building; 2) Targeting and contacting employers; 3) Working with recruiters and agencies; 4) Internet job searching (which also has some overlap with the 5th technique); 5) Answering advertisements.

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