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Successful job searches are carefully planned

Sometimes, good things really do come to those who wait.

And to those who have a good strategy.

Some of you might remember my previous posts about The Great Job Hunt. The quest has finally come to an end.

I will be officially employed as of Nov. 5 as a communications specialist for a local city government where I live, running their social media pages and writing and editing documents and information for residents, among other things.

How did I finally get a job, after submitting nearly 30 job applications in the past 15 months or so?

I did it with patience, professionalism and experience.

We moved to a completely new place in August of 2017. We didn’t know a single person here. I had often worked during my spouse’s military career. I have years of experience in my career field, both full-time and part-time, and as a freelancer. I never had any problem finding a job. In fact, up until my most recent attempts, I was hired for every job I ever applied for.

Post-retirement, I figured it would be just as easy. I have years of experience as a journalist, writer and communicator. I’ve worked around the world as a journalist and writer. My resume is extensive. And now, finally, I was in one place, with no threat of moving in a year or two or three. Now, I thought, I’d be even more attractive to employers.

I quickly discovered that wasn’t the case. First, my last full-time job was in 2012. Second, I didn’t have any local connections.

I knew I needed a better plan. So I decided to continue freelance writing, and, more importantly, do some volunteer work.

I’ve never been a firm believer in the philosophy that volunteer work will help get you a job. I’ve had dozens of military- and unit-related volunteer “jobs,” but I rarely bother to include those in my resume.

While volunteering is extremely important and rewarding, it typically matters little or nothing to potential employers.

Here’s the exception: Volunteer work in your specific career field can matter a lot. In my case, it was a key reason I got this job.

How did I make this happen? I went to and searched for a position with a duty description as close as possible to the paid job I wanted to secure. I was lucky and found an almost exact match with a downtown revitalization organization in the heart of my new town.

That volunteer work gave me three crucial things I needed to succeed in my job hunt. The first was recent, relevant experience. The second was local references. The third was a product I could show prospective employers.

And last week, I ended up with two job offers on the same day.

Here are six other tips I learned during The Great Job Hunt that might help you, too:


  1. Target your application. At first, I was applying to any job that seemed remotely a good fit. That quickly became frustrating. I decided to be more thoughtful about the process. Not only did I narrow down my applications to positions that I was closely qualified for, I also determined which companies and organizations I would most want to work for. In the interviews for both jobs I was offered, I was able to honestly answer the question of why I wanted to work there. I knew both organizations fairly well, and had a good idea of whether I would fit and whether I would enjoy the company culture.
  2. Don’t be afraid to follow up. Nearly all applications are done online, and go through automatic sorting by keyword and other data. Every time I sent in an application, I did my best to find the direct supervisor, or as close as I could tell from Googling. I then emailed that person a cover letter and a copy of my resume. Often I followed up with a phone call, too.
  3. Tailor your resume to each specific application. I spent hours sometimes doing this. And don’t just base it off the job posting – do some research on the company to find out what they do and what their mission is. Pay attention to what kind of language they use on their website and other written content. And, of course, try to include as many keywords from the job posting as you can, without it being a direct copy.
  4. Include samples of your work, or cite specific achievements for each job listed on your resume. This was a hard one for me as I’ve never really been in a job that had specific goals or targets to meet. But I was able to come up with a few key achievements, and I did have writing samples.
  5. Make connections. Make sure everyone you meet knows you are looking for a job. Tell people at your kids’ school, people you volunteer with, your neighbors, your church, the cashier at the liquor store. Anybody and everybody.
  6. Most importantly, have a plan. If you are fortunate enough to be able to wait for a great job, do so. Don’t rush into something if you don’t have to. Figure out the best way to get where you want to be, and make that happen.
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