Whether you’re a recent college grad looking for that first gig or simply wanting to make a career change, your success really comes to down a handful of factors: your network, your knowledge, and your dedication to self-improvement.
In this article, we’ll be sharing five key skills and behaviors every job hunter should cultivate—starting now—to maximize the chances of landing a killer gig.
Build your network
According to an ABC news report, 80 percent of jobs come from networking. That means that 4 out of 5 positions get created through relationships, while only 1 in 5 is found through a career fair, job board or other traditional channel.
So the best way to land a great gig is to build the relationships that lead to those opportunities. The people you meet now—both established professionals and direct peers—will help you launch your career. They’ll also shape your professional prospects for years to come.
So how do you get to know the people you want to meet?
First, by building yourself. Focus on creating, learning and growing as you reach out to new people, using those new relationships to fuel your goals. At the same time, remember that networking requires patience, persistence and experimentation. There is no “right” way to network, as long as you stay authentic in your interactions.
Being in the job market is also an excellent reason to reach out to new people. Hiring managers and other contacts generally respond well to to requests from ambitious people looking to create professional opportunities. And those who say yes to networking enjoy a huge professional and personal advantage for the rest of their lives.
Invest in yourself
Searching for a new job isn’t just a short-term goal. It’s also a major growth opportunity. As you work to become an attractive candidate, you also become a more resourceful, sophisticated person.
The particular skills and expertise you develop are up to you (and will be driven by your professional interests and goals), but there are common activities every job hunter should focus on to become a stronger candidate. Reading and applying information from different sources, for example; studying and mastering your industry; developing and sharing your expertise. Together these skills will help you bridge the experience gap in your career.
So think of your job search as a journey, not a destination. Use your job hunt as an excuse to explore new concepts and evolve as a candidate. If you do, you’ll be surprised by how much you learn—and how many unexpected opportunities will start to come your way.
When you decide to look for a new job, lots of other demands will compete for your attention: relationships, family, jobs, friends, and fun.
While it’s tempting to do everything all at once, prioritizing will serve you well. It’ll also become a necessity as you become more serious about your job search. Finding a great job requires effort, attention and dedication, and always benefits from being single-minded.
Each person’s priorities will be different, of course, but generally speaking, placing professional goals, personal friendships, and self-development at the top of your list is smart.
Most people treat health and fitness as a luxury. Once a major commitment comes up—like finding a new job—it’s easy to start skipping the gym, sacrificing sleep and slacking on personal wellness.
But as we know from multiple studies, fitness is linked to perceived value, exercise is linked to cognitive ability, and sleep deprivation strongly impairs brain function. Looking good, staying active, and getting enough sleep are key to becoming an attractive candidate.
Staying healthy will also give you the confidence, mental health, and energy to fully engage with your job search. Optimism, which is tied to serotonin (a neurotransmitter that gets released during periods of physical activity), is a common trait of successful job hunters. That positivity in turn creates a positive feedback loop. Optimistic job hunters believe they can thrive in new opportunities, so they tend to seek out more of those opportunities, and they have a higher likelihood of succeeding in interviews as a result.
So don’t ignore your own health and wellness during your job search. It might feel like you need to make sacrifices while you apply for jobs, but maintaining a basic exercise routine—even 2-3 times per week for 30-45 minutes—will deliver the benefits you need to be the most attractive candidate possible.
(Re)discover your passion
The old adage is true: If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
But how do you discover what you love as you navigate career options?
Start by paying attention to what you enjoy for its own sake. Ask yourself which aspects of your last job you genuinely loved—and which you enjoyed the least. When you think about your career up untill now, which projects and initiatives gave you the most satisfaction? Which gave you the least?
Then, think about what you would do every day if you weren’t getting paid. Would you rant online? Would you fix old cars? Would you edit your friends’ resumes and cover letters? The things you would do for free are things you probably love doing for their own sake.
Finally, imagine your dream job from scratch. What kinds of projects and activities would you like to be responsible for? What kind of team, location, and dynamic would you prefer?
The overlap between those three exercises is your area of passion: what you have enjoyed, what you already enjoy, and what you would enjoy.
At the same time, focus on building up your strengths (more than eliminating your weaknesses). Apply those strengths to the roles and problems you enjoy, and you’ll soon discover how your ability intersects with your passion—and how they might become your career.
The general principle here is to follow the fun. Wherever there’s fun, there’s usually a passion lurking. And where there’s a passion, there’s always a good reason to build a network, invest in yourself, stay healthy, and prioritize your career.
Which is a great formula for finding a job that is professionally and personally rewarding.