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Whether you're searching for your first job, considering a career change, or seeking opportunities while unemployed, finding a job can be one of the toughest challenges you ever face. How should you conduct a job search?

You start with a personal value proposition (PVP). Your PVP is the target position and why you're right for that position. Even with a strong PVP, however, attractive opportunities won't land on your doorstep. You must go out and find them. That's the hard part.

The best source of possible jobs is networking. The way to succeed at networking is to reach out broadly to people who can help. The way to fail is to limit your contacts to the few people you know well. Massive outreach is the only reliable path to victory.

Active outreach isn't easy. It takes commitment and organisation. But it is absolutely essential.

Take these six steps: 

  • Broadly define your network. Most people don't realise how many contacts they have. They talk to close friends, but stop there. Consider former classmates, colleagues from earlier employers, business relationships outside your organisation, and civic acquaintances. People will be flattered. Massive outreach is best practice.
  • Create a new network along the way. Ask people who else to call. Imagine people you don't know who are relevant to your search. Cold call them.
  • View discussions as learning opportunities, not just job inquiries. Ask about more than jobs. Ask about the industry, how to succeed, and how to position yourself. Approaching these meetings as conversations breaks the ice. It's disarming. What you learn may lead you to shift your target.
  • Contact people in different ways. Contact your close professional friends in whatever way is most comfortable. For more distant acquaintances and certainly for people you're trying to meet, the best path usually will be an email or a letter, followed up with a phone call, and then hopefully a meeting. Buy coffee or lunch. After a substantive discussion, send a thank-you email or letter. As time passes, go back to people with an update on what you're learning and follow-up questions.
  • Be systematic with good record keeping. Staying on top of broad outreach is complicated. After each meeting, write down what you learned and what you'll do as a result.
  • Periodically evaluate your progress and whether to change the approach. View this as conducting a study. Review your notes from different meetings. Look for patterns. Are there better ways to move in the direction you've selected? Are there reasons to shift direction, to change your PVP? You may benefit from confiding in a friend or a spouse, but even if you don't have the right discussion partner, "meet" with yourself. Massive, structured outreach is the best way to find new opportunities. How do you leverage your network?