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How to Launch Your Job Search

Interested in more meaningful career but not sure where to start? Get tips for pursuing a new job that fits your needs, interests, and passion for making an impact.

A photo of two people working together on a computer.

By The TFA Editorial Team

January 10, 2019

Years of college and plenty of hard work landed you the job you currently hold today. But lately, maybe you’ve been feeling less satisfied with the work you’re doing. Perhaps your values don’t align with the company you work for. Or maybe you dream of the day when you can use your career skills and talents to make a difference in this world and change people’s lives for the better, as Teach for America corps members aspire to do.

Searching for a new job is never an easy endeavor. But whether you’re looking to switch careers entirely or want to find a position at an organization that is contributing to an important cause, there are concrete steps you can take toward finding a more meaningful and fulfilling job.

Evaluate What’s Important in Your Career

As you look forward to a new role, it’s important to reflect on your current position and consider why you’re seeking a change. You may find it helpful to create a list of the pros and cons of your current work. You can also think of the ways that you’ve grown and developed in your current position, and how you can contribute these skills to your next job.

From there, you should consider the new responsibilities you’d like to have in the future. Whether it’s more leadership potential or just having a greater sense of autonomy, consider the factors that will make you excited and proud to go to work everyday.

Update Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile

Getting your professional house in order should be one of the first things you do as you kick off your job search. Start by dusting off your resume and highlighting recent leadership positions that you’ve held. You can help frame yourself as a professional by highlighting examples of accomplishments that led to specific, quantifiable results. For example, did you help increase attendance at an event? Or exceed a previous year’s fundraising goal?

These examples can demonstrate how your past leadership experiences led to results. Once you’ve updated your resume always make time to proofread. Reading it out loud to yourself and sharing it with a friend can help you catch any typos so that you can put your best foot forward with a polished resume.

Updating your LinkedIn profile should also be on your checklist as you are exploring new roles. Having an updated resume will make it easy to fill in the details in your LinkedIn profile. You can also find good pointers on how to frame your skills and experiences by looking at profiles from other professionals who are in roles like the one that you are seeking.

Focus on Your Passions and Strengths

It's easy to feel daunted by lofty job descriptions. But just because your experience may not align exactly with every bullet point doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified. Take stock of the skills (hard and soft) that you have and jot down a few specific examples of how these skills played out in your previous roles. Did you achieve a specific outcome as a result?  

You can even practice telling these stories to a friend, which can help you get comfortable selling yourself in a way that feels authentic. Drawing on these skills can be big selling points, even if you earned this experience in a different sector than the one you’re trying to break into. In some cases, bringing perspectives from a different industry can help you stand out.

Research Places Where You Might Want to Work

Rather than choosing a career based on who’s hiring right now, try directly seeking out companies and organizations that align with your goals and values.

Start by listing what organizational culture, values, and opportunities matter to you. Say, for instance, you are looking to contribute to an important cause, for a chance to work with other like-minded, highly committed people, and a place with a proven commitment to diversity. Take these important attributes and use them to research possible companies and organizations. Explore the About Us and What We Do and Diversity sections on their websites. Check out their LinkedIn pages, explore their work culture on social media, and read employee reviews on Glassdoor. Then, after you have a sense for what they do, ]what their needs are, and the direction they’re going, head directly over to their careers page and start the application process, or even reach out directly via LinkedIn to a leader or human-resources manager there. And remember to check back regularly to see if their needs have changed and new openings are posted.

Connect with Others

Finding a job is all about making new connections and rekindling old ones. Meet professionals in your desired career path by attending industry networking events in your area or joining industry groups on social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook. Leverage your existing contacts by compiling a list of possible references and reconnecting with those individuals to see if they would be willing to vouch for you professionally. Set up coffee dates with friends and acquaintances in fulfilling careers to learn more about their work, the career path that led them to their current job, and what drives them to succeed professionally.

It may be intimidating to network like this, but you may be surprised at how receptive people are to sharing professional wisdom and helping others in their careers--just don’t expect job leads from every contact, and avoid pushing those who are uninterested in connecting. And don’t forget: Each person who shares career advice or agrees to be a professional reference is taking time out of their schedule or going out on a limb for you. So be sure to express your gratitude by sending a “thank you” note or email after.

Don’t Stop Learning

It’s never too late to gain more professional expertise and some skills, such as leadership, public speaking, writing, and computer proficiency, which are useful in so many careers. During your job search, spend some time away from the job board sites to attend workshops and seminars geared toward developing these universally beneficial professional skills. Free webinars, online courses, career blogs, and podcasts are also available for those who are seeking professional development.

Don’t be shy about highlighting all of the seminars you’ve attended and the new skills you’ve acquired on your resume and LinkedIn profile—you want prospective employers to see your continued commitment to professional development and to know about all the skills you have.

Don’t Give Up Hope

A career change can be stressful and sometimes feel like another full-time job in itself. However, it's important to keep in mind that sometimes the best life decisions aren't always the easiest to make or the first to present themselves. So be kind yourself and make sure to focus on self-care throughout what can be a difficult process. After all, you are embarking on a path toward a more meaningful and gratifying career, and it's wonderful you are doing it now.

If you are looking to do mission-driven work, there are so many options in both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds. The key is to find the right match, a role in which your unique skills and experiences are needed and valued--at an organization whose vision speaks to your passions and beliefs.

That’s why being yourself throughout the job search is essential. At Teach For America, we encourage applicants to let their unique selves shine through at all stages of the application process, to ensure that the corps members who step into classrooms every September are as well suited as possible--and eager and ready--for the challenges and opportunities of being a corps member.  

Good luck wherever your career path takes you!