Besides making sure your unemployment benefits start as soon as possible, the first step is developing a plan for your job search. Even a simple plan is better than no plan at all, for the plan will help direct your efforts and make you more effective in your job search activities.

Your Job Target — What would you like to do?

First part of developing your plan is to identify what you would really like to be doing for work. This is your job target or objective. If you are going to be spending days even weeks of effort to find a new job, why not take a moment to think about what you would be good at doing, help you earn more income and even enjoy doing?

To come up with your job target, try answering these questions:

  • What have I always done well at? What have people always complimented me on?
  • What work activities leave me feeling refreshed and satisfied instead of tired and bored?
  • What skills have I developed in my previous jobs?
  • What would be the next level up in the jobs I have been doing? Do I have all of the qualifications for the next level? Would I really like that job?
  • Could these same skills be used in a different job, maybe even in one I would rather be doing?
  • What are my income requirements? Can I make enough money doing this work?
  • How important is job satisfaction relative to my income requirements? Can I do well at jobs I don’t like?
  • What jobs are in demand today? Do I qualify for them? How? What training or additional experience would I need to qualify for them?

If you believe that it’s time for a different type of job than the ones you have had in the past, then you may need to list a series of steps that will lead to the job you really want. It might be a job that would give you needed skills or experience to prepare you for the next job. It might be a training program that will lead to the next job, and there will be opportunities for on-the-job, or paid, training as part of the economic recovery. All this taken together defines your immediate job target (and maybe the next job target too)!

(You can find sample CAREER/JOB PLAN with the above questions in a form to print out or copy into another document here.)

A List of Jobs

It would be useful at this point to make a list of all of the jobs that you have had, leaving nothing out. (Click here for a sample JOBS LIST) First, it would be useful to help answer these questions above. As you write down each job, think about the experiences you had, those jobs you did well, the jobs you liked or didn’t like, when people congratulated you on doing a good job, or things you found difficult. Second, you will find it useful to have this list to fill out paper or on-line applications. Later on we will talk about filling out online applications, and how we can use this document to make the process a lot faster!

List and sort your accomplishments and skills

Once you have a plan, a job target and a list of jobs, use your answers to some of these questions above and list your accomplishments and skills. Use phrases containing action verbs and specific facts to describe your accomplishments. For example, instead of listing a job title like ‘Shift supervisor at a car wash’, say instead that you ‘Supervised eight people, leading to a 20{ef9f8179093f526302d37b59cd7765a54e9ced7d4086f9be1b061e4e82be5467} increase in cars washed per hour’. Being specific about what you did helps the employer visualize how you could help benefit their company.

Take a look at the list and sort it so the top accomplishments or skills that would help you convince an employer that you are the right person for the job are at the top of the list.

You may find this sample skills profile useful to create your own list of accomplishments and skills.

Make a list of key words to use in your job search

From your list of accomplishments, list some key words that describe your job target. If you think of a word that you should have put in your list of accomplishments then add it to one (or more) of the listed accomplishments. You will be using this list both to develop an effective resume, and also to search for a job. You may have more than one job target (or objective), so you also could have more than one list of keywords.

There’s a document with an example of keywords for two job targets here.

Make a list of people who could help you in your job search and contact them

This list could be people who could be a reference for you or better yet know of someone who is looking for someone to hire. A personal reference is worth a lot more than an letter sent in reply to a blind ad. List the name, address and telephone number. The list can be used both to direct your effort in contacting these people as well as provide an easy way to write a list of references. Having a job target and a list of accomplishments/skills in hand will help in talking to your contacts.

Put your References in a document like this one.

Click here for the next step — Create a Resume.