3 Positive Ways to Turn Your Job Search Inside Out


We often hear frustrated clients lament, “I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, and not gotten one interview!” If you’re a job seeker nodding your head as you read this, it’s time for another tactic. Relying solely on job boards is like sending paper airplanes into the ethers where they quickly disappear. 

Although online applications are often unavoidable, if this is the only thing you’re doing, your chances of getting hired are limited at best. Only about 5% of jobs are found this way. At Life Working, we like to say that if you’re spending all your time looking for a job online, you’re not really looking. So what’s the smarter approach?

Job Search Strategies

1. Reflect

Go Inside Out

Instead of passively reacting to the outside world, start by going inside yourself and asking some questions. It’s important to give yourself permission to be open-minded and curious. What are your strengths? What really interests you? What gives you a real sense of reward and satisfaction? What skills can you offer? What is the unique gift you bring to an employer that will add value to the work they do? 

I Don’t Have Time For This – I Just Need a Job

It just doesn’t work that way.  Yes, going inside and reflecting takes time and energy. You are worth it. Better to invest in creating a focused career direction and strategy for your personal success than passively responding to whatever job post crosses your digital path. Start with what you want, what your strengths are, what energizes you, what you can do to solve a problem and ease an organization’s pain…then point outward to discover where you might do it. Instead of just responding to what’s posted online, start with what’s inside you, then go after what you want, and where you might find it. Be proactive. If you start from the inside, good things will come out of it. 

Focus on your job search

2. Focus

Create a Target List

Once you’ve identified your inner strengths, interests, and skills, it’s time to point outward. Where is your focus? What industry (or industries) do you want to target? 

Have you researched online what types of skills, education and experience are typically needed to succeed in these industries? Sites like My Next Move and O*NET OnLine are good places to begin. 

Next, what specific companies or organizations within this industry are places where you’d be proud to work? List them by name. Read trade magazines, business blogs, and explore social media. Talk to people you know. Who is doing exciting innovative work that you’d like to be a part of? Where are best practices upheld, and where are managers demonstrating inspired leadership? 

Make Your Target List Your Own, and Make it Realistic

What other criteria is important to you? Do you want to work for a big international firm or a small-to-midsize company? For profit or nonprofit? What are your true financial needs, and is there any flexibility? What about geographic parameters: are you willing to relocate, or are you committed to staying where you are? Do you want to restrict the distance between home and work, and if so, how much?  What about transportation: will you need public transportation, or will you drive to work? What about commute time? 

This is the time to be honest with yourself. Look at your unique situation and consider what you really want, what you can tolerate, where you can be flexible, and where your limits are. As in all endeavors, strive for balance between the idealistic and the realistic. 

Job Search & Networking

3. Connect

The Human Connection

The Internet has changed many things about job hunting, but one thing remains the same: people find work through people. Hiring Managers like to hire people they know, and people who’ve been referred by people they know. 

It’s just human nature. Wouldn’t you prefer hiring someone you already know and like, someone you know is qualified and can do the job well, and/or someone who has been vetted and recommended by someone you already trust? For many, it’s also perceived as being faster, more efficient, less risky, and certainly less tedious than sorting through the vast piles of anonymous resumes.

Once you’ve created your Target List, start asking yourself who you may know who already works in these companies or organizations. Then ask yourself who might know someone who might know someone who works there. Have coffee with them, ask about what it’s like to work there, what they look for when hiring. Make Linkedin your best friend. Connect with people and stay connected, throughout your entire working life. Remember the Invisible Job Market - the one that’s not advertised, the one where people just meet and talk, and with the right people at the right time, it results in a job. Some estimates say this accounts for up to 80% of all hires. 

Look inside yourself first, then move outward in your job search. Let your target list guide your networking activity and stay flexible; your list is likely to change and evolve as you add some companies and eliminate others. Network like crazy. Maintain your connections. And hold true to your vision. There’s a job out there just for you; your job is to go inside to find it.