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3 Ways to Focus Your Job Search

By Rebecca Hawk

Whether you’re conducting a job search after hours or full time, sifting through openings and identifying appropriate connections can feel downright overwhelming. Focusing your search can help alleviate stress—and boost your results.

Everyone can benefit from a bit of focus in their careers, says executive coach and trainer Carol Vernon. “A focused job search can be a time when you’ve made an intentional decision to move on from one organization,” she says. “Or it may mean you want to be prepared for a change when the opportunity comes. This is part of managing your career: If you don’t do it, no one else will.”

The secret to finding your focus? It all starts with knowing what you want.

To set the foundation for a focused, efficient job search, begin by defining your strengths and your mission.

Know Your “Why”

If your sole reason for applying for a given position is “because I need a job,” you’re probably not going to have much luck. You’ll waste energy on jobs you don’t really care about, and recruiters and employers will see your lack of direction.

To set the foundation for a focused, efficient job search, begin by defining your strengths and your mission: Why do you want to apply your unique skills and experiences to this position or industry?

“Do the hard work up front,” Vernon says. “Really think about what it is you want to do, where you bring value, and where you’ve been happiest. Think about the size of an organization, its mission, and what the work is.”

When you’ve identified your strengths and goals, make sure that you communicate them on your resume and cover letter.

Manage Your Time

Especially if you are job searching full time, you might feel like every spare minute must be dedicated to sending out applications. But when you put all of your time toward one effort, you’re usually left drained and maybe even depressed. To avoid burnout, Vernon recommends these tips for managing your time during your job search:

  • Structure your job search time just as you would your time at the office. Start working at the same time every day. If you want to learn more about a given organization or cause, try a weekly reading slot.
  • Set clear, specific goals for your search. Instead of vowing to expand your network, you might say instead, “Reach out to three former colleagues this week.”
  • Build in time to relax, and keep up your after-hours routines. If every Friday night is date night with your spouse, keep that going. Don’t feel guilty for taking a bit of time off. “When you’re working all day then job searching at night, you’re basically working two jobs,” Vernon says. “You’ve got to be sure you’re caring for yourself through the transition.” 

Focus Your Language

Vernon says there’s a “Silver Rule” when you’re communicating with anyone: “If the message was not clearly communicated, it was not delivered.” No matter how many coffee dates you arrange or informational calls you coordinate, your connections will have a hard time helping you if you’re not specific and clear with your language.

“You may not be able to say exactly what organization you’re interested in,” Vernon says, “but if you cannot communicate clearly where you can bring value and how others can help you, you’re at a real disadvantage.”

If you’ve defined your mission and your strengths, you should be able to state your desired line of work and a relevant industry clearly. For example, instead of saying, “I’m looking for a job in communications,” you would say, “I’m looking for a digital marketing position within a large association, preferably with room to advance.” Using clear and specific language in talking about your job search helps others help you—and it helps you practice confidence in communicating with potential employers.

There’s a fine line between being focused and being inflexible. To avoid becoming uptight and rigid as you explore your employment options, think of a job search as a journey you can learn from—one that will inevitably include a few bumps in the road.

Rejection, for example, is a form of feedback, Vernon notes. “You need to look at this as a learning process. You might learn that you’re not going to fit into that organization, but that you could add value to this one.”

By approaching a job search with flexibility and an open mind, you can stay focused on your goals. And you’ll probably find that you’ve already made great progress toward them.

Rebecca Hawk is the marketing specialist for Association CareerHQ at ASAE Business Services, Inc. Email: [email protected]


Job Search Career Development