Before you start applying for jobs, make sure you’ve set up your job search for success.

When you’re waiting to receive the first draft of your professionally written resume, it can feel like an eternity — especially when you’re itching to land your next job.

However, don’t consider this time to be a waste. While a well-crafted resume and cover letter are key to a successful search, they’re only one piece of the job-search jigsaw puzzle.

To land the right job as soon as possible, there are a lot of things you’ll need to do before you can start applying for jobs. Use this valuable time to complete the action items below so you can hit the ground running as soon as you've approved the final draft of your resume.

Write down your goals

Be clear on the type of job you’re seeking and write it down. You are 10 times more likely to accomplish your goal when you do this. Not only that, but this information will influence many other aspects of your search, from the types of employers you target to how you prioritize your networking activities. Consider all aspects of the job, from the work environment and industry to your commute and desired salary. The better defined your goals, the more efficient your job search will be.

Create a target company list

Landing a new job often requires you to pursue multiple job opportunities at the same time. To streamline the process, it’s helpful to build a list of companies that meet your location, industry, size, and corporate-culture needs. Use the information you brainstormed above to create your target list of employers.

Then, research each company on your list to get a better sense of their current job openings and determine if anyone in your existing network is somehow connected to these organizations. Start following these employers on social media, especially if they have accounts dedicated to recruiting, and set up Google News Alerts for each of them to keep you in the know.  

Get organized

Take a little time to figure out the best way for you to keep your job-search activities organized:

  • Communication: Consider creating a professional-looking, new email address with Gmail that’s reserved for your job-search activities. Also, if you decide to upload a picture to your email account, make sure it’s appropriate for your job search. Revisit the voicemail message on your cell phone, as well, to confirm that it includes your name so employers know they’ve called the right person.

  • Job applications: Whether you’re interested in a web-based solution like Huntr or JobHero, or you prefer to go old school with an Excel sheet or Word document, it’s important to find a way to track your job applications and other job-search activities. Keep track of the company name, job title and location, job listing URL, where you found the job, the point of contact (if applicable), the date you applied, and the name of the resume file you used for the application. As you start applying for jobs, be sure to document the date you followed up on your application and if you secured an interview.

  • Job boards: Run some Google searches to uncover niche job boards in your field or industry (e.g. marketing job boards). Make a list of all the job boards you’d like to use for your job search and start creating your profile on each so all you have left to do is upload your new resume.

In addition, upload apps to your smart device that will help you stay organized and search on the go.

Audit your online presence

Over 90 percent of recruiters admit to looking at candidates’ online profiles — regardless of whether the candidates provided this information. If you’re not actively managing your online presence, you may be hurting your chances of landing the job. Google your name to get a sense of what employers will find when they search for you and set up Google Alerts for your name to actively monitor it going forward.

Then, deactivate or update any profiles you have on job boards, social media platforms, online directories, and so forth to ensure employers will find the same professional online that they will meet face-to-face. Finally, increase the security settings on personal accounts you don’t want employers to find.

Earmark jobs that interest you

Start searching for job opportunities online that you’re interested in and qualified to do. Before you add a job to your list, ask yourself these questions to make sure the job application will be worthwhile.

In addition to adding the job to whatever system you’ve chosen to organize your applications, be sure to save a copy of the job description in a Word or Google document so you have it for future reference. Oftentimes, a company will take down its job posting once it’s received enough applicants, so you may not have access to this information when it’s time to prepare for the interview.

Prep for your job applications

Resumes – and cover letters – work best when they are tailored to specific job openings or employers. While professionally written resume will be in great shape, you’ll still need to make minor tweaks to the keywords to customize it for a specific job listing. These small optimizations will increase your application’s chances of getting past the hiring bots and on to someone in HR for review.

Jot down the keywords that are used repeatedly in the job description, and make a note of any skills or qualifications that seem very important to the employer. That way, you can be sure to highlight this information in your cover letter and resume when the time comes. Also, if there isn’t a name associated with the job listing, do a little online sleuthing to uncover the name of the hiring manager or recruiter responsible for the role. That way, you can properly address your cover letter.

Make networking a priority

There’s no denying the power a strong professional network can have over your career success — especially when you’re looking for work. In fact, you’re 10 times more likely to land a job when your application is accompanied by a referral. Use this time to ramp up your networking efforts.

Take a second look at your existing contacts and prioritize them based on their connection to the companies, fields, and industries that interest you. Start reconnecting with these people and setting up coffee dates and phone calls to ask for help with your job search.

Also, explore new professional associations to join or events to attend that sound interesting and are relevant to your goals. Click on the following link for more ideas on how to grow your professional network.

Line up references

References may not belong on your resume, but they play an important role in your job search. Line up at least three references from people with whom you currently or previously worked. The idea is to identify people who have insight into your skills and capabilities and who you trust to say good things about you and your performance. In other words, target people who are willing to advocate for your candidacy. Then, contact these people and make sure they’re willing to be a reference for you when the time comes. Once your professional resume is ready, be sure to send each of your references a copy so they have a better sense of your current goals and qualifications.

Now that you’re starting your job search on the right step, are you ready to start interviewing? Take this short quiz to create an interview coaching plan that’s right for you.

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