8 things

8 Things That Are More Productive Than Staring at a Job Board

Snap out of it!

Are your eyes glazing over from staring at the computer — refreshing the online job search engines every other minute and blindly emailing résumés? Sorry, but while this passive job-search strategy is easy, “it’s the lazy thing to do, and it’s very unproductive,” says Andrea Kay, career consultant and author of “This Is How To Get Your Next Job.” Don’t abandon your online tools altogether, but consider these other ways to complement your job search.

1. Do some soul searching.

Take a step back and think about who you are as a worker. How would you describe your strengths, attitude and reputation? How do you want employers and professional connections to see you? Are there specific companies you’re targeting? The information you gather “helps you understand the work you do best, and it helps you identify what kinds of cultures and environments you work in best in,” Kay says. “And then it’s information later you use to help market yourself.”

2. Go offline.

Don’t “connect” with or “friend” or “follow” someone online. Meet her for coffee. “Live human beings are still your most direct route to finding not just a job, but the job you want,” Kay says. Start with people you know: alumni, former co-workers or bosses, clients, friends of family and so on. “You know a lot of people if you actually think about it,” Kay says.

But a note about that in-person meeting:

“If you go into this thinking it’s all about getting contacts and discovering jobs, you will trip yourself up,” Kay says, adding that most people make this mistake. “That’s insulting. It says: ‘I don’t really care what you know; I just want to know who you know.'” Instead, ask for advice, and listen to their fresh perspective. “I can’t emphasize enough how fruitful a conversation like that can be,” she says. Plus, make a good impression, and this person is more inclined to remember you for future opportunities.

3. Attend networking events.

Getting coffee with someone usually starts with getting acquainted, and that often happens at large events designed for folks to do just that. Whether it’s through MeetUp or Eventbrite happenings, local meetings of your industry association or even a friend’s potluck, be open to making personal relationships professional.

4. Write a note.

Say you know of companies you want to work for but don’t have any ins. Identify the manager of the target department, research his company’s goals and latest news, and then write him a note. While writing, keep in mind that companies “hire people to help solve their problems or achieve a goal,” Kay says. So, in the note, “you’re not asking for a job. You’re asking for an opportunity to show how you can help him achieve his goal.”

5. Follow up on your online applications if you’ve heard only crickets.

Here are the five rules for following up, according to Robin Reshwan, U.S. News blogger and founder of the consulting and staffing firm Collegial Services. “The art of a politely persistent follow-up is what distinguishes high-performing employees in every job function from those that just wait for things to fall in their lap,” she writes. “It makes perfect sense that employers will respond well to a job seeker that exhibits this skill since it is so professionally relevant.”

6. Volunteer.

Aside from the obvious (and important) merits of helping others, Kay points out that volunteering helps job seekers, too. “It keeps you fresh and energetic,” for one, she says, plus it connects you with new people and, in future interviews, separates you from candidates who spent their down time staring at job boards and binging on “Game of Thrones.” Career coach and U.S. News blogger Arnie Fertig describes more ways volunteering helps job seekers and how to find opportunities.

7. Learn a skill.

Learn to code. Take a public speaking course. Brush up on your Spanish. The more you continue to learn, the more you stand out as a job candidate. And like the volunteer work, it’ll show potential employers you’re game to take initiative. Miriam Salpeter, U.S. News blogger and author of “Social Networking for Business Success,” describes four career-boosting skills and websites that will help you learn them.

8. Build your online brand.

Remember the meaningful connections you made over coffee and at networking events? Remember the hiring manager you followed up with or wrote a note to? Those people will Google you, so make sure they find a positive and professional presence with these 10 tips for building your personal brand.

Laura McMullen is the Careers editor at U.S. News and was previously a Health + Wellness reporter. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her onLinkedIn, circle her on Google+ or email her atlmcmullen@usnews.com.

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