Finding work that you love, that also meets your financial needs, doesn't happen by accident. It requires a well-thought plan of action and an intense level of commitment.

According to April 2008 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, the length of the typical job search is 16.9 weeks. Most jobseekers are not mentally, emotionally, or financially prepared for the hard realities of the current job market.

A dismal economy punctuated by the worse job loss in years has resulted in a volatile, intensely competitive job market. Published job ads can easily generate hundreds of resumes from desperate jobseekers.

Overwhelmed employers and recruiters sift through mountains of resumes trying to quickly eliminate candidates. The average resume getting just a 15 - 30 second review unless the candidate is able to capture the employer's attention. So what can you do to get noticed by potential employers and shorten the duration of your job search?

An ultra competitive job market requires a winning strategy, thorough preparation, compelling marketing documents and an intensified effort.

Let's examine a five-point plan of action that can ignite your job search and give you an edge over your competition.

Step One: An Honest Self-Assessment

An honest self-assessment is the first step to finding work for which you are well-suited and that you will truly enjoy. Ask yourself:

  • Where do my skills, strengths, and passion lie?
  • What skills, education, or experience am I lacking?
  • How can I fill skill gaps that could prevent me from qualifying for my ideal job?

Consider your skills and experience from the viewpoint of a potential employer. Identify opportunities for improvement and find ways to overcome problematic voids. Take a class at your local community college to learn a new software application. Volunteer to gain additional skills and experience.

Step Two: Assess Your Ideal Work Situation

Review your past work, school and volunteer experiences.

  • What did you like about each of your past positions?
  • What tasks would you never consider doing again?
  • What do you require from your work - emotionally and financially?
  • What positions, companies, industries fit your ideal work profile?

Having a clear vision of your ideal work situation will help you to focus your job search efforts. It may become necessary to take on work that you don't love to meet your immediate needs. Do not get discouraged. Simply use the information you've gathered to continue a part-time search for your ideal work situation.

Step Three: Create a Customized Self-Marketing Plan

Getting noticed by potential employers requires an effective marketing strategy. You are the product and potential employers are your customers. Develop a comprehensive plan to target ideal companies. Jobseekers often find it more comfortable to search for work using online job boards or by responding to want ads. But, it is typically advisable to incorporate strategies designed to access both the published and unpublished job market. Don't rely too heavily on any single strategy.

Establish concrete marketing goals for yourself each week regarding the number of:

  • Hours you'll devote to your job search.
  • Resumes and letters you'll send.
  • Follow-up calls you'll make.
  • Face-to-face meetings you'll arrange.

Several factors determine which job search strategies are best for your unique situation. Take into consideration your personality, the industry in which you're seeking employment, and the effectiveness of each strategy. Keep track of your job search efforts and make adjustments as needed. Focus attention of strategies that yield the best results.

Step Four: Get Noticed with an Employer-Focused Resume

Your resume is a snapshot of who you are, what you've done - and most importantly - what you can do for potential employers. Its job is simple: to get you to the next step in the process - a job interview. While you are the subject of this critical marketing document, make no mistake; it is all about the employer.

So maximize your 15 seconds of fame by showing employers what you've got. And don't make them search through a two page document for applicable skills and experience because they won't. In most cases a single page is preferable. Use a resume format that will put your highlights in the top one-third of the page.

Step Five: Prepare for Your Interview Like It's Game Seven of the World Series

Prior to any game - let alone one upon which his entire season hinges - a pitcher studies the team he is up against. He knows each hitter's preferences and is keenly aware of his flaws. The pitcher will use this information to his advantage during the ballgame. What about you? How do you prepare for "the big game?"

Dressing appropriately is important. Mental preparation is even more so. Research the organization and formulate a few questions to ask about the company and the nature of the work you'd be doing. But, it is just as important to do some internal research.

  • What is it that you have to offer?
  • How have you proven your ability to succeed in the past?
  • What have you learned from past missteps?

Be prepared to clearly communicate your value to the interviewer. Provide convincing examples of your abilities and experience. This requires careful preparation. Practice with a family member; friend; career or job search coach. You'll only have one opportunity to make a lasting first impression.

Putting it All Together

Creating and implementing a successful job search plan requires discipline, hard work, and commitment. But, if you want to compete in the current job market, it is an absolute necessity. Create a plan of action that will get you noticed by potential employers:

  • Make an honest self-assessment.
  • Assess your ideal work situation.
  • Create a customized self-marketing plan.
  • Create an employer-focused resume.
  • Prepare thoroughly for your interview.

The current job market is challenging. Find your ideal work in less time by creating a five-step plan for job search success.

Author's Bio: 

Roxanne Ravenel is a Job Search Strategist & Coach and the host of The Savvy Jobseeker. She teaches job seekers to become improve their resumes, strengthen their interviewing skills, and implement a customized self-marketing plan. Visit Job Search Strategy Lab ( to learn more. Copyright © 2008 Roxanne Ravenel