3 Steps to Be Your Own Job Search Assistant

Now you’re your own assistant.

When you’re working in an executive capacity, your company provides a clear support system to take care of day-to-day tasks: Administrative assistants and other players within your organization free you up to focus on the critical tasks that drive revenue or reduce costs.

You can’t do a high-level job without a support system, and don’t fool yourself: You can’t conduct an executive job search without one, either.

A job seeker accustomed to a position atop a team of many often falls into disarray when she finds herself a team of one.

“Even after I was laid off and having an outplacement program provider, it was still my responsibility and challenge to come up with a system to organize myself and my search,” said “Allen Cantnor” (we’ll call him), an executive health care administrator, who asked that we not use his real name. Creating a clear system to organize your search can be the key advantage you have over your competition. Online resources, spreadsheets, e-mail records, LinkedIn and an inventory of business cards can be helpful. But so many tools can become chaotic. You need a system to organize them, whether you purchase it or create it out of a raw Excel spreadsheet.

Then prioritize your activities as if your full-time job is now your search. Isn’t that what it is, anyway?

Follow these steps to help get organized about your job-search tasks.

1: Remove Obstacles.

In today’s job market, it sure feels like you have to marshal and maneuver forces in combat. Barriers to your goal can slow or stop your proper job-search maneuvers.

According to Cantnor, “I found myself in a sea of clutter at home. I had an office, a nook and a kind of man cave where I put all my little awards, papers and files. I had a computer and a pretty nice arrangement where my loving wife and two kids would even give me some space. But the truth is, I stumbled over everything. I had no filing system and the acoustics when I talked on the phone made it sound more like an old phone booth than an office.”

If you have the means to do it, you need to optimize your work space.

Create a place where you feel comfortable working. If you have access to an outside-of-the-home office, take advantage of it.

I know many executives in transition who can adapt easily. They have adapted for years by working on spreadsheets while they’re on the road. They can work in hotel rooms, lobbies (of all kinds) or just about anywhere. But others need a kind of quiet to hone resumes, cover letters, applications and other paperwork for an intensive search.

2: Be More Prepared Than Your Competition.

While you organize your work space, get your thinking in order, too. Prepare yourself to outmaneuver the competition.

On a job hunt, how do you prepare for a competitor you haven’t seen?

Assume your competition has your skills and better.

To be more prepared than her, become more prepared than you are.

Anticipate the toughest interview questions you will receive on the phone or in person and prepare to answer them. “I had the wrong thinking about practicing the interview,” said “Ron Caufey,” a combined technical and sales executive in transition from a major software firm, who also asked that we not use his real name. “I really thought that I had the gift of gab and could pretty articulately brag about my performance.”


I did not have organized is a carefully thought-out and practiced interviewing plan,” he said. “In actually doing or being part of the executive interview process at my last job, I found out that we sometimes hired people who were the most prepared in the interview process vs. the most qualified on paper, so to speak. So pulling off the live interview to me was another way for me to win and have an advantage over my competition. I knew my competition was not putting themselves through such pain!”

3: Have a Backup Plan.

Especially when times are tight and ideal jobs are scarce, your goals need to be multilayered and realistic. Develop goals associated with salary, bonuses, time and more. You may need help with making these goals reasonable and obtainable. “If you do not have a goal, then all your organized plans won’t matter,” Cantnor said. “I had to set up a plan for contract and consulting work if my full-time work didn’t happen. I had to set up a separate plan for a local job search and a distance search if I could not transition in my local geographic area of 50 miles. Lastly, I had to get real about salaries and income expectations. I had to be willing to take less or give up more.

“I was aware of what I needed from a job and income perspective,” Cantnor said. “I was realistic but aggressive. I think that’s the right frame of mind.”