Starting a job search without a plan is somewhat like starting a long trek in the snow without boots. You’re handicapping yourself at the outset because you don’t have the necessary tools lined up to get you where you want to go. The analogy breaks down a bit at this point, because while you can grab a pair of boots before you open the door to head outside, it’s not always so clear what to do about a job search plan.
But lets assume for the moment that you agree you need a job search plan. What are some of the underlying assumptions or elements that will get your plan in good shape, and what will you need to do to keep it there?
Recognize at the outset that no plan is perfect. In the real world of job search planning, “good enough to do [get] the job” is probably good enough in most cases. Also, I’d guess there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of expert views on what your job search plan can and should include. An online search for “job search plan” brings up several variations of the wording, including “job search action plan.” I like that way of putting it because it emphasizes that you’ll need to take action–a plan on paper, as it were, is useless by itself.
An item my search turned up was titled “Scheduling Your Job Search Plan of Action,” and the one-page document makes clear that one size doesn’t fit all: “It’s impossible to prepare a precise layout of all of the job search steps which you may require. Everyone’s situation differs in terms of employment objectives and available alternatives.”
It’s important, then, to review possibilities, suggestions from others, etc., with the understanding that not all of the advice will fit your particular situation or needs. You must define a job search plan that takes into consideration the goals, challenges, opportunities, and resources specifically relevant to your job search. Don’t adopt something just because you know it worked for someone else very well, but don’t reject it just because it didn’t work for someone else, either.
For starters, because no one can anticipate and prepare for every possible contingency that might crop up. When you prepare your plan initially, you will certainly take into account all the likely possibilities you can think of, but you can’t think of them all, and you can’t anticipate the ones that are so far out of real-world experience that they’re basically off the grid.
To give an extreme and tragic example, most people wouldn’t have imagined anything like the immense disaster that hit the eastern US on September 11, 2001. Whether or not some people should have had a clue ahead of time (which has been argued), most of us didn’t and couldn’t. Therefore our planning simply wouldn’t have been in shape to anticipate and/or prevent it.
Almost certainly, your job search plan will involve a much less severe situation, with substantially less extreme consequences. Given that greatly reduced scale of impact, however, your plan still can and should be considered a work-in-progress, something you rethink and amend from time to time based on new information you learn or new possibilities you encounter. Even if your plan leads to a mistake, you can learn from that mistake, improve your plan, and move on. As inventor Thomas Edison once said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”
In short: Plan It – Rethink It – Move On.