Career Growth, Job Search, Leadership, Professional Growth 12 Key Steps for Successful Job Search Today Written by: Kathy Caprino
Job Search

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Building Your Best and Happiest Career”

In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving job market, landing your ideal position requires a multifaceted, strategic and committed approach. Gone are the days when we can simply apply for jobs online and hear back right away, or work with recruiters as our sole approach to job search. 

According to recent data from job site Indeed, total job postings were down more than 15% compared to the start of 2023. LinkedIn too saw a similar drop-off in hiring in that timeframe. So it appears right now that there is a slimmer pool of open positions available.

Furthermore, career experts and researchers alike have shared their views that there is an added challenge today – what’s referred to as a “hidden job market” – which represents open positions that organizations choose not to advertise publicly, for various reasons. Career experts over the years have estimated that 70-80% of job postings fall within this hidden market.  

There are several key reasons certain positions may not be made public, including these, shared by

  • Budget concerns: Advertising job openings can be costly. Some businesses might want to save resources or keep salary ranges private
  • Discreet replacements: At times, organizations need to replace a current employee discreetly
  • Employee referrals: Many businesses value the recommendations of their current employees rather than filling positions through public postings
  • Internal hiring: A company might be considering promoting an individual within, so they hold off on public listings.

It’s important to note, however, that other senior talent acquisition experts believe this hidden job market idea is simply an “urban myth.” Either way, for professionals to land roles they consider ideal, networking and other avenues of job search are essential.

As a seasoned career and leadership coach, careers writer, and executive trainer, I’ve distilled down 12 essential steps for a successful job search today and I teach and train these steps to my clients virtually every day. These steps are doable and straightforward, but they require commitment, focus, and a strong plan. And for some people, these steps will inevitably stretch you beyond your comfort zone, which is typically a transformative experience that helps you grow. 

The 12 essential job search steps I recommend are:

#1: Understand Yourself More Clearly and Deeply

Before diving into your job search, take the necessary time to gain a deeper understanding of yourself in your professional life and your career trajectory. Utilize tools like my Career Path Self-Assessment survey to uncover your strengths and achievements, areas where development is needed, your core values, non-negotiables, career aspirations and more. These are key questions that all professionals need to answer before they make any moves or decisions in pursuing a new job, career pivot, or entirely new career.

#2: Identify Your Core Niche and Industries You Want To Serve

Define your core niche and target industries based on your skills, interests, experience, and passions. Whether it’s technology, healthcare, finance, or other fields, narrowing your focus will help you streamline your job search and position you as a legitimate, specialized candidate who stands out. Research industry trends, market demand, and emerging opportunities to identify areas where your expertise can make the greatest impact in ways that matter to you.

#3: Get Clear On the Specific Outcomes You Want To Support

I speak to many people today who thought they would find their current job rewarding, only to discover that the outcomes they are supporting in their work are less than positive, purposeful or meaningful. Consider carefully the outcomes you want to support in your next role, whether it’s driving innovation, advancing social causes, or achieving business objectives that feel aligned with your values. Clarifying the desired outcomes from your work that will not only guide your job search but also enable you to articulate your value proposition more powerfully to potential employers. 

#4: Create Your Ideal Job Description

Once you understand what types of roles you’d like to go for, craft a detailed description of that ideal job that outlines the key responsibilities, skills, salary range, and qualifications. Format it just as if you saw it listed on LinkedIn or Indeed. Consider factors such as company culture, remote work possibilities, DEI policies, and growth opportunities to ensure the role and culture align with what you care about most and your long-term career objectives. This document will serve as a clear roadmap, guiding your job search efforts, helping your mentors and support community open the right doors, and enabling you to focus on opportunities that closely match your most important criteria.

#5: Carefully Vet The Culture and Leadership of the Organizations You Are Considering Working For 

Research prospective employers thoroughly to assess their culture, values, and reputation. Evaluate factors such as company mission, employee ratings and satisfaction, customer feedback, and growth potential to determine if they align with your career goals and values. Leverage resources such as company websites, employee reviews, and industry reports to gain insights into organizational culture and determine if it’s a good fit for you.

#6: Leverage LinkedIn Fully and Build a Compelling Personal Brand There and Beyond

In today’s digital age, LinkedIn has become an indispensable tool for job seekers. LinkedIn is typically the first place hiring managers will go to assess your professional strength and achievements (and your fit for their open role). Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, professional, and highlights your top achievements and skills. 

Populate every single section of your profile, including considering adding the “Open to Work” frame and uploading your resume. Engage actively in asking for recommendations and giving them, as well as selecting 50 skills for endorsement, fully fleshing out information about your roles and sharing the key outcomes you achieved in your roles (with metrics and data to support those statements), following inspiring people and organizations in your field and more.

Your personal brand should reflect your unique value proposition and competitive advantage as well as resonate with your target audience. Use keywords related to your industry and niche to increase your visibility and attract the attention of recruiters and hiring managers. (Check out these free resources and materials on using LinkedIn to the fullest.)

#7: Engage in Competitive Research

Conduct thorough research on the job market and competitive landscape to identify new opportunities and trends. Analyze job descriptions, salary data, and industry reports to understand market demand and tailor your job search strategy accordingly. Identify key competitors and industry leaders to benchmark your skills and experiences against market standards, positioning yourself as a competitive candidate in the eyes of employers.

#8: Network Rigorously and Build a Powerful Support Community to Help

Networking is one of the most powerful tools in your job search toolbox. Applying online alone won’t get you where you want to go. Connect with inspiring professionals in your industry through networking events, online forums, and social media. Build relationships with mentors, sponsors, and “ambassadors” who can open doors for you that you can’t on your own. Find trusted advisors who can offer guidance, support, and valuable insights into the job market. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for informational interviews or advice—it’s often through these connections that great new opportunities arise.

For more about Networking for Job Seekers: Building a Support Community to Help, check out my video interview with Andrew Seaman, Senior Managing Editor for Jobs & Career Development at LinkedIn News:


#9: Apply Online But Understand the Realities

While networking is essential, don’t overlook the importance of applying for jobs online. Just some of the most popular job search sites, according to U.S. News & World Report, are:

  • Glassdoor
  • CareerBuilder
  • Snagajob
  • Monster
  • Wellfound
  • LinkUp
  • SimplyHired
  • ZipRecruiter

Many companies use applicant tracking systems to screen candidates, so make sure your resume is tailored to each position you apply for, and optimized with relevant keywords. Keep track of your applications and follow up when appropriate to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm. 

But be aware of the stark realities of online application: If you apply online only, your application might never get seen, and it’s not unusual for a job posting to receive over 1,000 applications. (For more on this topic, check out this helpful article by James Hudson on Why You’re Not Hearing Back After You Apply for Jobs Online.)

Hudson shares these insights as a recruiter with decades of experience:

“Broadly speaking 50% of roles get filled via online applications, 30% get filled by employee referral, and 20% get filled by recruiters proactively searching (sourcing) for talent….Don’t overlook simply applying online (remembering that this is how half of all job roles end up being filled). However, once you’ve submitted your application, search for recruiters at the company, then message them to tell them you’ve applied to the role (include the full title and reference number, if there is one).”

#10: Leverage and Attract Top Recruiters

Recruiters can be valuable allies in your job search, especially if you’re targeting specific industries or roles. Develop relationships with reputable recruiters specializing in your industry or niche to access exclusive job opportunities and insights. Keep them updated throughout your career on your job preferences, availability, and career goals, and maintain regular communication to stay top-of-mind. Leverage recruiters’ expertise and networks to enhance your job search strategy, receive personalized career advice, and gain access to potential employers and decision-makers. (Here’s more from James Hudson on How to Stand Out On LinkedIn, From a Recruiter’s Perspective.) 

#11: Develop and Share Your Thought Leadership

Establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field who is highly engaged and active can significantly enhance your job search efforts. Share your insights, opinions, and industry trends through blog posts, articles, or speaking engagements. Contribute to relevant online communities and participate in discussions to showcase your expertise and credibility. 

If you feel intimidated to write your own material and share it on LinkedIn and beyond, start following experts who inspire you in your field. Repost their material that speaks to you, tag them and share your top takeaway from the material they shared. From this action, you’ll start gaining new followers who see you as a reliable curator of important content that helps them in their own work. (Click here to access free materials on building your authentic thought leadership.)

#12: Engage Actively in Your Field

Stay actively engaged in your field by attending conferences, webinars, and workshops. Join professional associations and alumni groups, and volunteer for relevant projects or committees to expand your network and stay updated on industry developments. And be sure to share that activity on your LinkedIn profile. Engaging with peers and staying informed about emerging trends will not only enrich your professional knowledge but also demonstrate your commitment and passion to prospective employers.


In the end, mastering the new requirements of effective job search today involves a proactive and strategic approach, grounded in self-awareness, confidence, patience, research, and networking. By incorporating these 12 key steps above, you’ll position yourself as a highly competitive candidate and significantly increase your chances of securing a new role that you’ll be thrilled with and proud of. 

Stay resilient, adaptable, and focused on your long-term career goals and reach out for help when you need it. By taking these steps, you’ll navigate the job market with greater confidence, success and reward.

And if you’d like a huge boost of confidence and self-assurance right now, take my Power Gap Survey to identify if you’re facing any of the 7 most damaging power and confidence gaps that keep us from reaching our highest potential. If any of the gaps resonate with you, check out my book The Most Powerful You and take my Most Powerful You video training program to move forward fast.


For more hands-on career growth help, visit Kathy’s Career & Leadership Growth programs and resources, her The Most Powerful You training course and book The Most Powerful You, her speaking programs for organizations dedicated to supporting the advancement of women in business, along with her free trainings and assessments.