Career Navigation: Steps for Success in the Proactive Job Search

Stick figure climbs the ladder of success.

2U, Inc. is the parent company of edX.

It probably comes as no surprise that one of the hardest parts of a job search is getting it started. Despite this reality, one old adage holds true: you have to start somewhere.

According to Tramaine Isaac, a career expert at 2U, Inc., one big mistake that job seekers often make is beginning the search without understanding their why.

– Tramaine Isaac, Launch Your Job Search Today
Tramaine Isaac smiles at camera.

Isaac suggests taking on a more tailored approach to the job search strategy:

Instead of applying to twenty jobs in one sitting, you are applying to five – keeping in mind that the five applications you are submitting are of better quality.

This strategy is called a proactive job search.

In her recent workshop, Launch Your Job Search Today, Isaac examined the proactive job search process and its seven steps, which we have summarized below.

For quick access to job search specific material, check out the sources listed below. Visit the Career Engagement Network to find more resources, events, and workshops.

1. Get to know your skills.

Time to Brainstorm.

Ask co-workers, friends, family, and those that know you best about your strengths.

Reflect on previous roles and the successes that you had in those positions. 

Make lists of skills that you have, skills that employers look for, and merge those to create a working inventory of in-demand skills that you bring to the table.

Make sure to focus on transferable skills, industry-specific skills, role-specific skills, and the unique skills listed on job requirements.

2. Evaluate criteria.

A Look Inward.

Think about what is most important to you in a career. This can be anything from commute times to sick leave to company swag.  

Once you have reflected, take time to jot down a list of criteria and non-negotiables for your future employer.

It is crucial that you are able to differentiate the things you desire from the things you require.

– Tramaine Isaac, Launch Your Job Search Today

3. Explore roles of interest.

Shake it Up.

Explore different job boards and search engines to discover titles of interest – that way when you sit down to apply, you will know exactly where to get started.

Websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor are great resources for finding job titles and figuring out what they entail.

– Tramaine Isaac, Launch Your Job Search Today

Set your target.

Dream Big.

Form a list of target employers.

This can include dream companies (and their competitors), employers of your current connections, organizations that are actively sourcing, and local favorites.


Stack Them Up.

Once your target employer list is ready, come up with a numbers system to rank companies based on importance and accessibility. 

Make sure to consider questions like: 
Are these companies currently hiring?
Would you have to relocate?
Is the company a startup with a small budget?
Do you know someone at said company?

Self assess.

Get Motivated.

Taking a look at your list and its rankings, assess your own levels of motivation.

Consider questions like:
Are you ready to prepare materials?
Do you have the time to set up and conduct informational interviews?
Do you have the bandwidth to complete the application process in earnest?

– Tramaine Isaac, Launch Your Job Search Today


Utilize LinkedIn to see if you know anyone personally at the companies you listed. Check for indirect connections or alumni from any schools or programs you have attended. 

Look for any-and-all through lines, whether it be interests, hobbies, travel, etc. For resources and guides on how to network, check the list below.

– Tramaine Isaac, Launch Your Job Search Today


Launching Your Job Search Workshop Guide (make a copy)

LinkedIn Guide

Networking Guide

Networking Resources

Career Engagement Network Job Board

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