Each week, TopResume’s career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, answers user questions like the one below from Quora and our Ask Amanda form. A certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), Amanda has been helping professionals improve their careers for nearly 15 years. Have a question for Amanda? Submit it here.

Q: What steps should I take to begin my job search?

I am just beginning my job search. What should my first steps be? — Nurul

Great question, Nural! Whether you recently graduated from college, are anxious to get out of a thankless job, or are simply ready for a new challenge, searching for a job can be both exciting and overwhelming. I’ve listed below the first steps you should take to kick-start your job search to ensure you find the right job as soon as possible.  

Plot your next move

Before you can dive into any job-search activities, you first have to take a step back and define your job goals. Think about the jobs you’ve previously held and write down what you liked and disliked about each one. Have an honest conversation with yourself and make a list of your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. Include both soft skills, such as leadership and conflict resolution, and hard skills, like a proficiency in Java or an ability to cut costs. Use this information to create a set of clear and realistic job goals that will guide your next steps. If you’re struggling to figure out what you want to do next, check out these job-goal exercises.

Brainstorm your selling points

When you decide to search for work, you instantly become a salesperson. Your job is to convince employers and recruiters — on paper, online, and in person — that you’re the right person to fill their open position.

In order to prepare for your “personal advertising campaign,” you’ll need to brainstorm a list of your selling points. Consider how your education, professional development activities, work experience, the skills you’ve developed along the way, the hobbies you enjoy, and the activities you pursue outside of work qualify you for your dream job. If you haven’t been maintaining a brag book of your professional wins, now’s the time to start.  

Create a company list of top employers

Based on your job goals, what companies interest you and make sense? Build a list of target employers that meet your location, industry, size, and corporate-culture needs. Use this list to search for job openings and people within your network who can provide you with an inside track on the organization and its hiring needs.

Find a few sample jobs

One of the best ways to ensure your job-application materials support your goals is to gather some sample jobs that you’re interested in and qualified for. Search online and gather a few job postings that represent the type of position you’re targeting. Don’t worry about where the job is located; for this purpose, you should only be concerned about the job description and its requirements.

Copy and paste the text of each job description into a Google or Word document. Then, highlight or bold any phrases in the listings that describe your experience and skills. This will help you or your professional resume writer identify which of your qualifications should be showcased throughout the resume and LinkedIn profile.

Related: 5 Signs It's Time to Hire a Professional Resume Writer

Update your resume

Think of your resume as a marketing document crafted to pitch your value and highlight your qualifications to employers, rather than a laundry list of your job history and education. Your resume should be re-written with your target job and its requirements in mind to ensure your application is engineered to beat the dreaded ATS bots and pass the recruiter six-second test.

Unsure if your resume is application-ready? Request a free resume review today!

Revamp your LinkedIn profile

If you haven’t already created a LinkedIn profile, now’s the time to do so. LinkedIn is an excellent resource to advertise your expertise, find out about new job opportunities, research companies in which you’re interested, connect with valuable networking contacts, and get found by employers.

Use your new resume as a guide to update your LinkedIn profile to support your current job goals.

Related: LinkedIn Networking: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections Online

Google your name

Most employers will Google your name as part of the applicant-vetting process. Run a search on your name as it appears on your resume to see what recruiters will find when they look for you so you’re prepared to explain away any damaging information or find opportunities to improve the search results.

Start networking

There’s no denying the power a strong professional network can have over your career success — especially when you're searching for a new job. The right connection can provide intel on job leads you won’t find online or offer you an employee referral that can increase your chances tenfold of landing the job.

Evaluate the people in your current network to identify those who could be of most value to you during your current job search. Then, make the effort to reconnect. Whenever possible, look for opportunities to provide value to those people before you ask for favors. Also, seek out new networking opportunities and take the time to build meaningful relationships with those you meet.

For more tips on how to kick-start your job search, download my free job-search guide today. Tackle this to-do list and your job search is guaranteed to be more efficient and effective.

Are you ready to get a new job? Download this free guide to get started.

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