To-Do List: The Most Important Things to Do the Second You Decide to Go on the Job Market

To Do List

Are you ready to look for a new job? If you have made the decision to put yourself on the job market, there are a few things that you need to do right away to get yourself ready for the process… and it is a process. From getting your job application materials together, to searching for the right positions, to networking, to interviewing (and more interviewing), once it’s all said and done, a serious job search can take weeks or months (sometimes more, as many academics can attest to) to complete.

So, with all of this staring you in the face, what’s the best, most effective way to get started in your search? Here is a checklist of the most important things you should do the moment you decide to go on the job market, before you start sending out your resume or CV:

Resume To-Do

  • Bring your resume up to date by revising the “basics” like job titles, employment dates, degree info., contact info., duties or responsibilities descriptions, conferences attended or papers published, etc… anything that may have changed since you last updated your resume.
  • Read through your resume very carefully at least once but only for things like spelling, grammar, or formatting errors
  • Ask a friend (who is familiar with your industry but discreet enough to keep your intentions private) or a mentor to review your resume after you’ve made all of your key updates but before you start sending out.   

(Here are some tips for writing a biotech-specific resume.)

Cover Letter To-Do

  • If you don’t have one already, draft a generic cover letter -- your own personal “template” -- that you can quickly reference and customize depending on the job you’re applying for. That way, you won’t have to write a new cover letter each time you apply for a job.
  • If you already have a cover letter, read through it carefully, making sure it’s current and speaks to your most impressive, relevant strengths, experiences, and accomplishments.
  • As with your resume, ask at least one well-informed friend to read through your document and give feedback before you start applying.

Social Media To-Do

  • Make all of your social media accounts (except LinkedIn) totally private until you have a chance to review them. This will give you time while you’re on the job hunt to “clean up” all of your social accounts and make sure you remove any sensitive or compromising content that could reflect negatively on your candidacy. But, in the short term, you’re better safe than sorry, so take them offline while you do a more thorough review.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn account (or any other account you use for professional purposes and choose to keep public) is updated with the correct employment history, an accurate summary, correct contact information, and no glaring mistakes or inconsistencies that don’t align with what’s on your resume.

Networking To-Do

  • Reach out to that first layer of contacts in your network (the people who you know on a professional and personal basis and who you feel won’t compromise your current job by knowing you’re on the market).
  • Sign up to receive job alert emails in your industry or field so you automatically receive information about the latest open positions relevant to you without having to search for them every day. Even if you’re not quite ready to start applying, job alerts are still valuable because you’ll get a sense of who’s hiring, what employers are looking for, average salaries, and trending job titles.
  • Get your “elevator pitch” ready. Before you kick your job search into high gear and start networking, make sure you’ve refined your elevator pitch: your very short (a few minutes or less) summary of your experience and quick statement of what you’re looking for. In short, when you go on the job market, be prepared to talk (in a professional and social setting) about yourself, your experiences, and your goals in a succinct, effective, and memorable way… and at a moment’s notice -- you never know who you’ll run into that could recommend you for your next position.

Personal To-Do

  • Give some thought about what you’re really after and what is most important to you. What do you truly care about in your professional life? A high salary? Status? Location? Benefits or flexible work environments? Working for a well-known organization? Be honest with yourself about what drives you and makes you happy at work, and use those things to inform the opportunities you seek out.
  • Evaluate your motivation for going on the job market and how this might affect your candidacy. Is your job search reactive or proactive? Are you going on the job market because you need to leave a bad situation with your current employer and concerned only with “getting away” from a toxic work environment? Or are you more focused on finding the right potential future employer and what you’re running towards (as opposed to away from)? Ideally, it’s the latter, but if you find yourself on the job market because you’re very dissatisfied with your current employer, remember not to rush into a new job. Be diligent in your job search, and take a thoughtful, measured, and research-driven approach as you seek out a new employer.
  • Before or as you go on the job market, talk with your significant other or those closest to you to make sure they’re on board with your decision to look for a new job. Lay out your career goals and how the change might affect them and/or your family. In a time of such great transition or change for you professionally, you can’t ignore the personal ramifications that a job change (or simply being on the job market) could have on your personal relationships.

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