• Hillary Hufford-Tucker

4 Secrets to Organizing Your Strategic Job Search

Does your job search feel out of control – like you’re on a treadmill with no tangible progress? It’s common for job seekers to get frustrated and distracted during difficult times. The secret to success is organizing your search and branding activities around specific tasks to use your time strategically.

Your job status will influence your planning. If you’re employed, the time dedicated to the search will be balanced with your current job and family responsibilities. If you’re unemployed, plan to search for four to six hours each day while also allocating time to essential activities like exercise, skill development, and personal tasks that provide a sense of completion and fulfillment.

In either case, a plan will provide emotional comfort, helping you complete tasks and driving you to accomplish the more complicated, strategic items like networking and cold outreach.


The job search process can be daunting. People often ask, “How long will it take before I get a job?” The answer usually is, “It varies but at least three months.” However, the truth is that it can take a year or longer to find the right job. Therefore, you will need a plan of action to stay committed to the search.

Before developing an action plan, you need to research and outline your precise goals. You won’t know if you’re a match for a position or if a job meets your needs unless you’ve assessed all the parts of the role. As such, write down your answers to the following:

  • Describe the skill sets needed for the job and how you do or do not meet the parameters.

  • Are you working on improving your toolbox? If so, how?

  • What is the typical salary range and compensation? Will this meet your needs?

  • Have you discussed potential income changes with anyone that this change might affect?

  • Have you confirmed that anyone impacted is on board with possible relocation?

  • Define how the prospective position matches your values and long-term goals.


Most apps allow you to search for jobs, apply online, and research companies and the people that work there. Each industry will have preferred apps that recruiters and job seekers use. As LinkedIn is the largest professional network, I’ll focus on that platform. Adjust these guidelines as needed to cater to other apps.

  • Create a banner that grabs the reader’s attention

  • Use keywords and show how you provide value

  • Check that privacy and sharing settings meet your needs

  • Select settings that let recruiters know your open to new jobs

  • Upload resumes for easy application

  • Have a resume and cover letter template ready to be tailored to each application


Maintaining positivity and perseverance through a job search can be tricky. Setting weekly search goals can help you maintain focus. Using the tactics in the targeted plan section below, create a tracking spreadsheet and set goals like:

  • 25 & 5: Cultivate 25 new LinkedIn contacts per week and schedule five networking calls

  • 10 & 2: Submit ten applications per week with a goal of two screening interviews

  • 10 & 2: Schedule ten networking calls per week with a target of two additional connections

  • 5 & 2: Comment on five LinkedIn posts, create one original post, and find one article to repost

  • 5 & 2: Research five target companies and connect with two relevant people at the company


The best way to develop your action plan is to create a system to assign search activities to each day of the week. You can do this in your calendar or with a spreadsheet, but it’s imperative that you actively manage the process. Assign each item below to a day of the week; set goals like those above to guide your priorities.


  • Review and update your LinkedIn profile to improve searchability

  • Apply for jobs on LinkedIn, Indeed, and company and association websites

  • Reach out to and interview field-specific recruiters and headhunters

  • Connect with potential bosses and request a connection on LinkedIn

  • Apply as an open application to get into a targeted company’s system and explore company resources


  • Review the leadership and vision of targeted companies

  • Research industry trade groups and associations

  • Understand salary and compensation ranges based on industry and company

  • Take note of dress code and company culture at targeted companies


  • Develop a list of people in your informal, formal, and strategic networks

  • Informal: friends, family, sports, volunteer, and religious affiliations

  • Formal: Associations, alumni groups, trade groups, classmates, etc.

  • Strategic: Recruiters, potential bosses, HR/talent, related business contacts, etc.

  • Create an email script for each network type to let them know you’re looking

  • Check-in with connections and set up calls on a rotating basis

  • Join LinkedIn groups and professional job associations

  • Send a thank you to every connection, including progress updates when applicable


  • Follow thought leaders, industries, and hashtags on social media

  • Repost industry-related articles

  • Create content to post on business platforms

  • Develop a personal website, portfolio, or blog

  • Engage with content in a LinkedIn group or strategic network


  • Identify skill gaps and how to fill them

  • Read industry-related books, how-to guides, and websites

  • Work on personal projects that will provide a sense of completion

  • Create an exercise plan that allows you to decrease stress

  • Seek out opportunities to enjoy the arts, environment, or other entertainment


If you’re unemployed, it’s easy to put your sole focus on the search. Similarly, if you’re in a challenging work situation, you may spend any free time on your quest. Though this process requires a lot of time, expending all of your energy on applications may lead to dismay when it takes longer than anticipated. So while putting all of your spare time into the job hunt might achieve your goal, a search plan can provide a healthier way to manage your time and avoid burnout.


As a certified career coach, Hillary guides extraordinary people and their personal brands. She’s a career solutionista that helps clients discover their unique worth to find new employment, pivot industries, or move toward cause-oriented work. When Hillary’s not busy coaching amazing people, she rides bikes, learns about wine, cooks for friends, and travels globally with her family. Find out more and sign up for her newsletter at www.careersolutionista.com.

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