The 6 smartest things to do when looking for a new job

woman resume job applicationFlickr/Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Attribution License

  • When looking for a new job, you'll have to give significant time and effort to many facets of the search.
  • Here, author Myelle Lansat details the six most productive things she did when looking for a new position.

A lot of behind the scenes work goes into landing a job interview, and it takes more than tweaking a resume or cover letter to stand out in an applicant pool.

It's not easy to look for a new job opportunity, especially as a recent college graduate. To help guide my search, I reflected on the work I did in school and in past internships to motivate my job search.

I recently graduated with a B.S. in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and I previously wrote for the Your Money section at Business Insider.

Here are the six smartest things I did when looking for new job opportunities.

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1. Reach out to existing networks

1. Reach out to existing networks

When I sat down to think about my existing network, I started with my alumni association. I studied at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University and immediately reached out to students in my field. I also reached out to the career center and checked out our alumni jobs portal. This not only opened up several doors, it also made me realize how strong an alumni network really is. Don't be afraid to use it.

I also tapped on previous internship colleagues and people I've met professionally — just to catch up and chat about the job market today. I wanted to have a full view of what was going on in my field and how the hiring cycle works at this time of year, which in my case was the holiday season and new year.

2. Check job sites daily

2. Check job sites daily

I've found that job listings mostly come in waves and it's best to apply to a job within a week of its posting. A majority of companies have a careers portal on their webpage under their main menu or at the bottom of the site. But when I want to search a job by field, I typically start with LinkedIn and specialize my search under the "jobs" tab by category and location.

There are also a slew of targeted job sites, Facebook groups, and Twitter feeds for certain fields that may have opportunities not listed on larger sites, like LinkedIn.

3. Connect with people on LinkedIn

3. Connect with people on LinkedIn

Once I thoroughly searched LinkedIn and picked out job opportunities that I qualified for, I researched current employees and look for any potential connections. I kept an eye out for anyone who went to Syracuse, lived in my hometown or worked at the same companies I did. I drafted a short introduction and asked to take them out for coffee and chat about their career path.

In my experience, this opens the door to an in-person conversation and a chance to hear about a company and gauge if it's a good match for me. I've found that people are more inclined to help and vouch for you after making a personal connection or having a shared experience. Plus, knowing a current employee at a company you're applying to can give you a leg up in the applicant pool.

4. Nail the in-person connection

4. Nail the in-person connection

It's important to note that LinkedIn, while a social network, doesn't give a full picture of someone. I once overheard a friend say that someone reached out to her via LinkedIn and asked for a coffee and to chat about her work. While my friend was happy to meet up and did, she was sad that she was asked for coffee and not tea. She noted that per her Instagram, all she drinks is tea and that she did not hide her hatred for coffee.

I overheard this while I was in college, and for the most part I don't think people will turn you away for a slight mishap like that — coffee is the most generic networking word for meeting in person. But since then, if I ask someone I connected with on Linkedin to meet in person, I always look at their published work and social media profiles to get a real feel for who they are.

I think my friend would have been overjoyed if someone asked her for tea, her drink of choice, but there's definitely a fine line. Don't get too personal beyond that — like naming their most frequented coffee shop.

5. Use connections to make connections

5. Use connections to make connections

Whether I'm reaching out to my existing network or a new connection on LinkedIn, I always ask if there is someone else they recommend I talk to. Most of the time, the person you're reaching out to doesn't have a direct connection to the job you are applying for, but they may know someone closer to the opportunity.

I've found that people are more inclined to share that information after making a real connection, even if it's for an entirely different opportunity. That simple reminder will open more doors and give them incentive to help you going forward, which is what networking is all about.

6. Stay busy

6. Stay busy

It's important to stay busy while looking for new job opportunities. I've found it's easier to find a job while you have a job because you can talk about the work you're doing and how it connects to the job you're applying for. But that's not always the case.

In my downtime, I've been freelancing for publications to keep my author page alive. I want to keep myself fresh and ready to step into a new role. Once a week or biweekly I follow up with my network and the job applications I've sent. I also took up a hobby, embroidery. Finding a creative outlet has helped me relax and find enjoyment in things outside of the office.

Finding a job takes time, and patience isn't always easy to have. Most of the time I have to remind myself to stay confident that the right opportunity will present itself because of the steps I'm taking in building my network.

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