Why You Need a Job Search Strategy (and How to Do It), with Amy Santee

Listen On:

In the world of job seekers, strategy might seem like the last thing you need. After all, you’ll do just about anything to get your next job, right? But a dialed-in strategy is exactly what you need, says Find Your Dream Job guest Amy Santee. Without it, you’re flailing, not knowing what you want or where to find it. Your job search strategy starts with getting clarity on your priorities, financial needs, geographic preferences, and your long-term goals. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can develop a specific strategy on how to get it. 

About Our Guest:

Amy Santee is a career strategist and a coach for user experience professionals.

Resources in This Episode:

  • If you need actionable steps to take your career to the next level, find out how Amy can help you by visiting her website at amysantee.com.
  • From our Sponsor: Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. Get a free review of your resume today from one of TopResume’s expert writers.


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 418:

Why You Need a Job Search Strategy (and How to Do It), with Amy Santee

Airdate: September 27, 2023

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.

Get a free review of your resume today.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

Strategic planning can make a big difference in workplace decisions.

And the same is true when you make choices about your career.

Amy Santee is here to talk about why you need a job search strategy and how to do it.

She’s a career strategist and a coach for user experience professionals.

Amy helps her clients use self-research, self-advocacy, and strategy to design careers with intention.

She joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Well, here’s where I want to start, Amy. Why is it important to have a job search strategy?

Amy Santee:

Well, I’d like to first define what a strategy is, and the way I think about a strategy is that it’s an intentionally designed plan of action, and it helps you to achieve a desired outcome or goal, such as getting a new job. But you are being intentional. You’re being specific. You’re being systematic. And you are prioritizing all of the actions that you’re going to take that will work together in a very systematic way.

So, if you think of it as a source of truth, for example, for all of the decisions that you want to make when it comes to your job search, it really helps you decide how to spend your time and how not to spend your time. Just like a business might do when thinking about business strategy or product development strategy. So, if we think about the business concept of ROI or return on investment, this strategy that you put in place will give you a better return on your time and energy.

And you asked why is it important to have a job search strategy. I mean, there are a million things you can do for your job search. You can do informational interviews, of course, submit applications, working on your professional materials like your resume or your website. You can attend networking events.

All of these different tasks and activities, but you only have so much time, so much energy, and capacity to devote to your job search, and you want to make the most of it. So your strategy helps you figure out, out of all of these different actions you might take, what to focus on and when.

Mac Prichard:

So, it helps you figure out how to use your time and how not to use your time, and what to focus on. What are the other benefits of a job search strategy?

Amy Santee:

Yes. Well, I mean, if you sit down to think about your job search, it is helpful to start with what your actual goals are because you can’t figure out your plan without knowing what you want to achieve and when. So what it does is it helps kind of keep you in check and stay aligned with what it is you’re trying to achieve. And it helps you to also, again, have this source of truth that you can pay attention to as you’re going forward to assess your progress.

How close am I to getting this job? What is working? What’s not in terms of my methods? Are there any blockers coming up? And know when you need to pivot if something isn’t working.

And so, I mentioned goals; SMART goals is a pretty common framework that we might use for our career development when we’re on the job looking at annual performance goals. SMART goals is an acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely.

And so, deciding beyond just getting a new job, what kind of job do you want to get? What is it exactly that you want to be doing? Where do you want to work? What kind of manager?

So, I’m thinking about a client I worked with recently who decided and had pretty strong confidence that their current company wasn’t working for them anymore in terms of their career development goals. It wasn’t really serving them. They were a bit bored with their work. So they decided, I want to leave my current company and get a new job. But what we did was work together to get more specific with that goal.

So they had a bonus coming up that they would receive in about two or three months’ time. So we decided, you’re going to wait until you get that bonus, and then you’re going to find a job after that. So that you can get that bonus, but you can start working ahead of time to make that happen.

They wanted to join a healthcare start-up. They wanted to be able to wear more hats. They also wanted to get a pay increase of a certain amount of money and a promotion, either at the time of accepting that job or within one year. So they got much more specific, which helped them to work backward and design that plan and narrow their scope, so that their actions were much more focused and precise, and they weren’t wasting that time on stuff that wouldn’t help them get there.

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, Amy, do most people who are doing a job search have specific goals and have a strategy to accomplish those goals?

Amy Santee:

Not typically, and if you think about it, most of us aren’t really taught how to approach a job search. We sort of just do it and make it happen. We might ask around to see what works for other people, but we might start with looking at job ads and submitting whatever resume it is we have at the time. And if it’s not working, wondering why it’s not working.

But people tend not to be as systematic as they can. It might feel like more work. But it actually helps reduce the amount of work. It can reduce the stress involved. It can reduce the risk of just wasting your time doing things that aren’t going to serve you.

Mac Prichard:

What stops people, Amy, from setting these goals and having a job search strategy?

Amy Santee:

People tend to just wing it at life. Right? We’re all winging it, ultimately. But I think we all have also learned that if we can get more intentional with decisions we’re making in life, whatever it has to do with, things work out better. We feel more confident if we’re reflective and intentional and owning the process rather than, again, winging it. But I think that is just a very common behavior that people take in life with really anything.

So, it does require us to sit down and think about things as we go along. We also, I think, want to make things happen very quickly. Maybe it’s out of fear. Maybe it’s out of risk aversion. Maybe there’s some anxiety. So, we just want to make things happen quickly rather than take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Again, it sounds like it’s more work, but it actually helps to reduce the work and effort you’re putting in for more accelerated outcomes.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about the common elements of a successful job search strategy. You mentioned setting goals, and you described what a SMART goal is. What are some other elements that you encourage your clients to use when creating a job search strategy?

Amy Santee:

Thinking back to being intentional, systematic, and prioritized. I see a lot of people jump straight to designing a resume and starting to submit it without really being very clear about what kind of work they want to do and even more precise than a specific role or title. So, for example, user experience designer.

Well, do you want to work at a particular type of company? What size team? Like what are your career development goals? How much money do you want to be making? So they just start to submit applications and see what happens without being thoughtful and, therefore, narrowing that scope of applications or companies, and saving that time and putting that energy into the right place.

So there are things like that, and you want to prioritize actions. There are certain things you want to do before you get to the point of interview prep. You want to be getting responses to your resume. You want to be having recruiter calls. It doesn’t really make sense necessarily to begin with interview prep or, say, putting a portfolio presentation together before it becomes more relevant to you, wherever you’re at in the process.

I think the other element that is important for job search strategy is networking and engaging with the professional community that you’re in, and it doesn’t mean getting on LinkedIn and scrolling and scrolling for an hour each day and liking stuff and maybe leaving a comment here and there.

It might look like being more intentional about what is in your feed; curating what you’re seeing on LinkedIn, connecting with people that work at the companies that you’re interested in, commenting on other people’s posts so that you’re part of a conversation, and I’ve seen folks who do that more intentionally be really successful in just getting their name out there, and creating some awareness of them, and being in the right place at the right time.

So that component is really important. I think almost necessary at this point, especially in the current job market.

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. We’re gonna take a break, Amy. When we come back, I want to continue our conversation about why you need a job search strategy and how to do it. Stay with us.

Your resume is a vital part of your job search strategy.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Amy Santee.

She’s a career strategist and a coach for user experience professionals.

Amy helps her clients use self-research, self-advocacy, and strategy to design careers with intention.

She joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Now, Amy, before the break, we were talking about why you need a job search strategy and how to do it, and in our first segment, you described the importance of setting goals, the benefits of having a strategy, the time and effort you can save, and how a good strategy begins with those goals and good goals are SMART goals, and you talked about some other elements of the plan.

How do you take all of these elements and put them together into something that you can use on a day-to-day basis when you’re doing a job search? What do you recommend to your clients who are creating job search strategies?

Amy Santee:

You could start with one big, giant list of all of the things that you think will be important to help you make this happen. It could be starting with your requirements, your timeline for when you want to get your new job. As I mentioned before, there’s numerous things that we can do, from informational interviews, to submitting applications, to networking on LinkedIn, to attending events. It’s a whole buffet, and I think actually a buffet is a good metaphor here.

Everyone wants to be satisfied when they put a plate of food together. But what each person puts on their plate will vary based on what it is they like, what their goals are with that food. Maybe they have health goals. Maybe they just want to eat a bunch of comfort food.

So, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a job search strategy, so the best route for you depends on your unique situation, where you’re at in your career, your interests, your financial situation, and various other factors. So, I would say it’s fine to start with a long list of activities. But you want to look at them, again, as a system of things that are all working together to support your goal of getting a new job. They are prioritized. So, you want to start with certain things and work on other stuff later, depending on where you’re at in the process.

And resume is typically one of the first things. But even before that, what kind of story do you want to tell about yourself? What is the way that you want to position yourself and communicate your special sauce, essentially? You want to think about how you want to position yourself in comparison with other candidates and then use that to create your resume, to craft your LinkedIn profile, to figure out how to tell your story in the recruiter or hiring manager interview. So that’s an example of prioritizing activities that will make the subsequent activities more successful.

Again, there’s no one size fits all. It’s also not set in stone because things change over time. So you have to pay regular attention to what’s working and pivot when needed, and that goes back to the SMART goals framework and having measurable goals that you’re working towards.

This also means that you need to stay really organized. A lot of people will use software like Trello or even Excel or Google Spreadsheets to keep track of all of the activities, all of the information, where they’re applying, dates of interviews, what the compensation looks like, an assessment of that job opportunity in and of itself. Is it meeting this person’s criteria for what they’re looking for?

And so staying organized is really important. I often see folks who have their email inbox, and it’s a bit of a mess, and they have to go and try to find things there. They have scraps of paper, they have different software that they’re using, and everyone is a bit different when it comes to organizing information and staying on top of things. But I think that organization is key.

Again, having a source of truth, as well. Someplace that you can go back to where your strategy and your prioritized activities are laid out to assess your progress and figure out what is working and what isn’t.

Mac Prichard:

And what does that look like, Amy? You say you need a place where you’ve laid out your strategy and you’re tracking your activities. You mentioned Trello is a tool that you can use to track activities.

But, in the end, are you creating a short plan as you might in the workplace for a strategic plan for a program that describes both you’re goals, your strategies and tactics, and your timetable? Is that what you recommend to your clients?

Amy Santee:

I think it’s okay to have information in a couple of places, and thinking about my own business strategy, yes, I have a document that lays out my strategy – my SMART goals for my business. I work on this every year. I check in with it on a quarterly basis essentially to see what’s working and what’s not. Maybe I have an option in front of me for an event, and I might want to check back with my strategy to see if it’s worth my time doing this talk or going on this podcast. So it helps me make those decisions.

You could have something like that. You can also have a spreadsheet to keep track of activities as you’re doing them. So, a common use of a spreadsheet would be to track your applications and interviews and where you’re at in the process.

Did you get a rejection? Okay, you can set those aside, but keep them on your spreadsheet. Have you talked with a recruiter? Do you know the compensation info? So, those sorts of tools are helpful for keeping track of very specific information. So, yeah, I think it’s okay to have software or tracking tools to serve different purposes.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned earlier the importance of measuring your progress when you create and implement a job search strategy, and you also suggested that there might be times when you need to change your plan, and pivot, and move in a new direction. How do you recommend listeners measure their progress? And when should they consider revisiting their plan and making a pivot?

Amy Santee:

Great question. If we go back to thinking of business strategy or product development strategy, businesses and products teams will have specific goals that they want to reach, say, quarterly goals, shipping features, getting into new markets, and figuring out, basically, a systematic, prioritized, intentional way of achieving those goals. And so, if you think about your goals, you can design the measures around them.

If your ultimate goal is to get a new job and you have planned a list of things to do in a particular order, and, say, one of them includes doing informational interviews, so you can decide if you want to go into management or stay in an independent contributor role, and you’re chatting with managers who work in your specific field to learn about their day-to-day work life, what their challenges are, what they like about it so that you can go ahead and make that decision.

You can assess your progress by saying, have I answered my research question here? Have I gotten enough data to test my hypothesis that I’m interested in and would be good at going into a management role? And at a certain point, you will have reached the max number of informational interviews that makes sense to do in order to answer this question. And then you can move on to the next thing. So that would be a good example of a measure.

Now, you might find that something isn’t working. Maybe you’re not having a lot of success finding the people that you want to talk with, or maybe you’re not finding a lot of jobs that match with what you want to do and asking what’s going on here.

Is there something that I can change in my approach to find the folks that I’m interested in chatting with or to locate the jobs that I’m qualified for? Then, you can make a decision for how to better use your time and how to prioritize activities that might help you to get the information that you’re looking for.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Amy. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Amy Santee:

Well, I’m now into my fourth year as a career coach for UX professionals, and I am continuing to enjoy working with people who want to develop a practice of self-research, self-advocacy, and strategy when it comes to their job searches and, in general, with making important career decisions. I regularly do talks, workshops; I go on podcasts, do lots of activities. And if people are interested in finding out more about what I’m up to, they can visit my website and sign up for my newsletter.

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. I know your website address is amysantee.com, and we’ll be sure to include that in the website article on the Mac’s List site about your interview, and you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and if they reach out to you there, I hope they’ll mention that they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, Amy, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need a job search strategy and how to do it?

Amy Santee:

The one thing I would like people to keep in mind is that all of this is worth the effort. It sounds like it adds a lot more work to your plate.

We’re all busy with our personal lives, work is busy, life is busy in general, but it helps to take a step back, figure out a plan for yourself, a strategy that will help you know how to spend your limited time and energy, and it really does accelerate the process and get you to the goals that you want to achieve.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Brad Near.

He’s the CEO of Rainier Recruiting. It’s a boutique agency that represents hundreds of openings across North America.

Recruiters can be invaluable when you do a job search.

But how do you find the recruiters in your industry and make the most of their services?

Join us next Wednesday when Brad Near and I talk about his tips and tricks for working with a recruiter.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List.

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.