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6 things you should be doing when looking for work, besides just applying online

This post was originally published by Fast Company, and was written by Susan Peppercorn.

If you’re spending every waking minute browsing job listings, you’re doing your search wrong.

A man sits at a small café table outside. There is an open red laptop, a coffee cup, his phone, notebook, and papers on the table. He is dressed in a suit and writing on the notebook. There is greenery on the ground behind him.
Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels

“Why do you spend so much time scouring online postings?”

As an executive coach, I often ask this question of clients who are in the midst of a job transition. The answer I invariably get comes down to FOMO: They fear missing out on an opportunity.

Anyone who has ever been unemployed knows how overwhelming a job search can be. The FOMO is real, as is the stress. It’s easy to feel guilty if you’re not spending every waking moment looking for your next big thing.

But this “spray and pray” strategy of applying to as many job listings as possible and hoping that your résumé stands out as the needle in the haystack rarely works.

The fact is that most positions are not publicly available, with more than 60% of jobs being found through networking instead. Plus, you could be using this time to develop key skills and market them in a consulting capacity to earn some money before you land your next fulltime job. So, while it may feel productive to spend most of your day combing online portals for openings that you may be qualified for, there are more strategic ways to spend your time and, in the process, set yourself apart from your competition.

Instead of sinking the full day into a random online hunt for positions, here are six ways to more fruitfully spend your job-search time.


It still holds true that the best way to find a job is through networking, but most jobs leads don’t come from people who know you best. To have networking pay off for you, consider going broad instead of only connecting with people in your immediate network. Investigate professional associations where you can virtually rub shoulders with a diverse range of professionals. Most people are more than willing to spend ten minutes giving advice, sharing information, or providing a referral.

Also consider revising your playbook in terms of who you reach out to for assistance and be willing to bump it up a level if appropriate. One of my clients was looking for a new position in a biotech company. Most recruiters would eliminate her because she only had two years of industry experience. She decided instead to reach out to CEOs at her target companies to ask for their direct input on employee engagement and industry trends. This outreach ultimately led to a referral for an open position that she was hired for.


To maximize your ability to connect with influencers who can open doors to your next job, you need to be visible in your field. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through content creation that can help you become a recognized industry thought leader. By showcasing your expertise through writing or speaking, your authority increases because others learn what you care about and how you approach problems.

My client Rebecca is a radio executive who found herself in transition due to falling revenues at her station due to the pandemic. Through her network, she learned that a respected journal published by Harvard University was about to publish its predictions for 2021. Rebecca asked the editors if she could submit a piece for their consideration. The prestigious publication accepted her article on racial inequity in her industry, a topic she is passionate about. Since Rebecca was in the process of applying for a grant to support diversity efforts in the media, her article placement offered the credibility she needed at just the right time.


Once you start generating content, you’ll need to share it to attract attention to your expertise. You can post thought leadership articles that you write, or professional videos that you create, to the “Featured” section of your LinkedIn profile. Prospective employers and recruiters do check out your presence on digital platforms—especially LinkedIn—to learn about you before inviting you to interview. According to a CareerBuilder study, roughly 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Of those that do, 43% said a candidate’s social media content influenced their decision to hire them. Since your new content will likely be luring more potential employers to you, take the opportunity to revisit your LinkedIn profile, making sure it’s as compelling as possible.


A third piece of the puzzle is investigating the most in-demand skills in your job function and industry. Taking the time now while you have some downtime to invest in learning those skills that are most important today—as well as competencies that are projected to be essential in the future—will enable you to show the hiring manager that you care about your long-term career and how you can best serve the company. Ask your manager or a mentor what capabilities you’ll need to get to the next level and beyond. Online portals such as Coursera and LinkedIn Learning offer a plethora of high quality, on-demand course offerings to help you upgrade your skills.


If you aren’t sure which skills to develop, thinking through what services to offer on a consulting basis while you look for work can help you hone in on your strongest offerings. Developing a niche to monetize your skills while in a job transition enables you to identify your most valuable skills and interests while diversifying your sources of income.

One of my clients had been a radio producer for 20 years when her job was eliminated. She asked her network what they thought was her most marketable skill. Today she is a successful podcasting and storytelling consultant.


Prepping for an interview in the COVID-19 era requires a different approach than in pre-pandemic times, and if you haven’t interviewed in the last year, it’s important to understand the new virtual interviewing process.

To present your best self over video, test out your lighting, sound, and background beforehand. Have the light in front of you, camera at eye level, and find an aesthetically pleasing background—no bed or messy shelves. Then, dress as you would for an in-person interview, right down to the shoes. The key is to think of the virtual opportunity just as you would an in-person interview in terms of professionalism, but to integrate these specific tactics that create a professional impression when communicating through a web cam.

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