Career Planning Homework – Assignments For Job Seekers

Back-to-school season has me thinking about school and it’s similarities to career planning. When searching for your next job, you should think of networking as your schoolwork-you should concentrate on contacting your network about opportunities and following up with the leads. As in school, sometimes getting the job means cramming for an interview and doing extra credit work to get past some unexpected hiring obstacles.

Below, I’ve outlined three additional things-essentially homework assignments-which will help you get past some of the hiring obstacles.

Assignment #1: Keep up with your chosen industry

Whatever industry you chose to work in, you need know the current trends and the forecast for the future by reading publications and blogs. You should also go one step past that and follow blogs and tweets of those companies you where you want to work. Keeping up with the industry has the advantage of helping you expand your network by introducing you to others through blog comments or tweets and gives you an advantage in knowing which companies are in trouble and which ones could be hiring soon. Another good way to keep up with their work and changes in their clients or organization is to use Google Alerts to receive articles and blogs about that company. It is also a smart idea to follow industry gossip blogs to know about internal strife and situations in a company. In addition to keeping up with the industry, you should leverage LinkedIn groups and join those relevant to your target industry. This will help broaden your network and expand your profile on LinkedIn while keeping you updated on the industry.

Assignment #2: Update phrases for your résumé, cover letters, and correspondence

With computer programs scanning résumés for certain key words and phrases it is imperative to do the research and know which ones they will be seeking out. Usually those words are in the job post. If there is not a job post-say you have a contact within the company and are passing on your résumé through them-then you should look at similar job posts and job boards. Comb through your résumé and cover letter for outdated terms and titles and eliminate them. Using the current industry terms and phrases shows you are up-to-date and give your résumé a higher score by the scanners, making you stick out of a crowd.

Extra Credit: Brush up on necessary skills

Sometimes great job candidates are excluded for lack of skills. If an opportunity you want calls for skills you don’t have, you should take the time to learn those skills. Courses are usually available at local colleges, Apple Stores, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. In addition, several sites offer online tutorials and webinars for skills and software. This homework assignment may be more time consuming than the others, but will pay off when you get past some of the hiring hurdles keeping you from your next job.

Taking the extra time to keep up with your industry, update your language, and learn any necessary skills will help make you more marketable and help you find your next job.