Try These 25 Job Search Strategies

Making direct contact with managers looking to hire, rather than going through the usual human resources contacts, pays off for job-hunting veterans.
Making direct contact with managers looking to hire, rather than going through the usual human resources contacts, pays off for job-hunting veterans. (U.S. Congress photo)

Whether your separation date is quickly approaching, you decide that you need to ramp up your efforts for your dream job, or maybe you just left the military and find you're in a job search, now is a great time to consider strategies to increase your chances of success and impact.

Here's a list of my favorite tips for job seekers:

1. Start with your why. Why are you passionate about your work? Employers want to hire people who care about what they do.

2. Assess your current personal brand and reputation. Maybe you think you are a great job candidate, but you come across as abrupt or abrasive. Feedback will help you assess how you're presenting your personal brand to others.

3. Clarify your values. In a job search, it's important to find potential employers who value the same things. Get clear on what you stand for and hold as a moral compass.

4. Identify your target audience. A job search should not be random and abstract. Instead, focus on the companies you want to work for and then customize your resume and cover letter to them.

5. Don't forget to dream. Instead of looking at what you can do, imagine doing what you love to do. Paint a picture of your ideal, dream job.

6. Gather your transactional assets. Get a list of targeted employers, key networking contacts and research into the jobs you'll pursue.

7. Build a modular resume. You may have never written a resume before. Write one now. Ensure your resume can flex to the positions for which you'll apply.

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8. Add strategic keywords to your resume and online profiles. What keywords do employers in your industry use? Use those wherever possible to get their attention.

9. Build online profiles. Start with a focused and strategic LinkedIn profile. Spend time making connections, sharing content and building your online presence.

10. Start networking. Attend job fairs, mixers, meetups, networking events and business open houses where you can meet others who can help you.

11. Choose the people you'll network with. Be strategic: How can you add value to them? How can they help you?

12. Network online. Identify recruiters and hiring professionals at your target companies and send them an introduction message online. Seek out information about the company and any open positions you're pursuing.

13. Apply for jobs. After reaching out to a recruiter online, they'll immediately ask whether you've already applied to the company. Check this box before they ask.

14. Build your post-military wardrobe. Consider the industry, geography and company you'd like to work for. What do people at those companies wear? Look through their website or online profiles to find pictures of employees and see how they're dressed.

15. Do informational interviews. In 20-minute blocks, conduct focused conversations with people who can tell you about their work, career path, company experience and company culture at their employer. This gives you valuable intel on your path forward.

16. Find a mentor. Online platforms like offer flexible mentoring for specific issues or goals. Programs like American Corporate Partners match you with a mentor for a longer time period. Mentors are like unpaid advisers, and they are passionate about your success. Use them!

17. Create a great cover-letter template. Yes, template. Do not send the same cover letter to each position. Personalize your letter to the position, company and your value.

18. Research company cultures. Companies pride themselves on the culture they've designed and cultivated, and to which employees ascribe. Learn about that culture and whether there's a fit with your workstyle, personality and values before you apply.

19. Pursue education or certifications if your desired career path requires. No matter how convincing and charming you are, if employers need you to have a degree or license to do the work, you'll continually hit roadblocks.

20. Practice interviewing with a friend, mentor or colleague. Run through your response to various questions and scenarios so you're prepared for that interview.

21. Learn how to do a phone interview. More employers are doing them, and more candidates are taking them lightly. You'll amplify your enthusiasm and focus when meeting by phone, since there won't be body language cues to support your message. But you can have notes in front of you as you speak.

22. Listen for emotional cues in the job interview. Avoid sounding robotic and giving one- word responses to every question. The interviewer is assessing your skills and your communication style and fit with the company culture (see No. 18). Fit matters.

23. Ask for feedback. If you're not given the interview, inquire why. The more data and insight you can gather, the more quickly you'll identify weak areas and blind spots to address in your approach.

24. Follow up on every interview. Thank the interviewer(s) in person and then with a notecard or email. Let them know of your interest in pursuing the opportunity and moving to next steps.

25. Ask for help. Your job search will undoubtedly produce many questions and challenges. This is normal for any job seeker, not just veterans. Seek guidance, support, tools, resources and advice from your support network, mentors and community resources.

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