Like Ben said, it's insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results, but this is exactly what the majority of jobseekers do every day, growing more and more frustrated. They hit the job boards over their morning cup of coffee, identify some positions they think they could do, and then spend the rest of the day cranking out applications. Tomorrow they'll get up and do the same thing all over again. Why? Well, for starters, it doesn't work very well, but they don't know what else to do and figure that somebody has to get hired, so why not them? So for 2014, my mission is to get people off the hamster wheel that's going nowhere, and help you all revamp your search.
Instead of looking for openings on the job boards, try looking for employers you want to work for, regardless of whether they're hiring. How do you find them? Check out the sector listings for the geographic area of your search.
Let's say you're looking for something in the accounting field in Philadelphia (a random choice). I head over to Google and search for: accounting firms Philadelphia. Now the first result is from a job board, and shows 671 openings. When I go to that site, I see that 7 out of the 15 companies listed are staffing or recruiting firms, and the remaining 8 are mostly the big, multinational players in the field. I can make note of the staffing agencies if I am interested in contract work or just need a financial filler while I search for my next position, or if I know that the firm routinely handles hiring for permanent/continuing positions and not just short term. Some staffing agencies specialize in sectors or industries, so it is always good to note if you have any relevant companies in your region.
The better lead was the second result that came up on Google – a CPA directory that lists 80 other accounting firms in the Philadephia area. You would then be able to save that list, look each firm up on Google, and decide if you like what you see. If they get your thumbs' up, then you could save them to your shortlist of potential employers. Remember to save the research you collect, because that will help you with future applications and networking.
Want even more choices? Go to professional association directories. Keeping with our example, I went back to Google and searched for CPA Association Philadelphia. It returned PICPA (Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants). On their home page was a search option to find a CPA by location. I selected the Greater Philadelphia area, and had 718 results. So maybe you don't want to search through 700+ employers. In this case there is an advanced search option, which you could use to narrow the results by specific county, or other criteria. Selecting Philadelphia County yielded 70 firms from sole practitioners to the big players in the industry. If you don't have an advanced search option, try searching the page by keyword.
So why go to all this trouble? Knowing who you want to work for gives you power in the job search. With a shortlist of employers, you can target your networking activities to bring you into contact with your preferred companies, get leads on upcoming positions, and become the frontrunner candidate. It is a proactive strategy, and will help you find the right employer, faster.
Questions or comments? Both are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you have an idea you'd like to see covered let me know.