If you decide it’s time to change your career path or find yourself unemployed, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the job search. Your new part-time job becomes figuring out what job boards are relevant, reading job descriptions, and filling out applications that seem to only grow in length.

The idea is to apply to as many jobs as possible and see what sticks, right?

May I suggest a new approach? Spend your time thinking about what you want out of your next career and apply for positions that will be rewarding to you. Though it may seem overwhelming, a job search is the perfect time to explore career possibilities and find the best possible fit. That is the employer’s goal, and it should be yours as well.

Being intentional about your job search takes time, but it is time well spent – especially when you end up landing a job you love.

Here is how you can be intentional in your next job search:

1. Visualize

Before you run to your first Indeed search, take time to figure out what you want from your next career – then write it down.

Consider all your previous experiences, including your likes, dislikes, need-to-haves, and nice-to-haves. You must prioritize what you’re looking for in your next job. Once you have a solid list of career aspirations, don’t compromise on your needs. As a recruiter, I would much rather be turned down by a candidate than have to reject a candidate because the position is not a good fit.

Creating a list of career aspirations will also help you when crafting cover letters and answering interview questions about your motivations, ideal culture, etc. You’ll be fully aware of why the position is a perfect fit for you!

2. Research

You don’t know what you don’t know. Your dream job could be in an industry that doesn’t exist yet or is just blossoming. Find out what jobs are in demand and what the employment forecasts are for the coming years. Automation and machine learning will shift the job market dramatically in the future, so you must take this changing landscape into account as you plot your new career or job.

StudyPrioritize your needs from your career aspiration list: location, position, benefits, work/life alignment, etc. Begin researching your top priority, then work through the rest of your needs. If you can’t relocate, start your job search in your hometown. If you are open to moving, research your dream companies. Explore all opportunities, and don’t be afraid to add to your career aspiration list throughout your research.

Build a list of companies to watch for future openings and positions that are a good fit now. Be picky. Do not apply for every job. In the same way that employers seriously consider applicants, you should seriously consider potential employers before applying. Do not waste your (and the recruiters’) time on applications for jobs that are not a good fit.

3. Apply

Before you sit down to submit your application, read the job description. Don’t skim it – read it. Think through why this role is great for you and why you are a great candidate for it. Once you understand the reasons you are a great candidate, it becomes much easier to write a cover letter that responds to the job description.

You should absolutely submit a unique cover letter with each application. A cover letter is a great opportunity to help recruiters visualize you in their roles. Proofread your cover letter multiple times, then have a friend proofread it, too.

An easily forgotten rule when applying to jobs is to actually follow the directions in the application! Contrary to popular belief, good recruiters read every single resume and cover letter that comes through our systems. Your application does not disappear into the abyss. If you don’t follow directions, you risk not being taken seriously as a candidate.

Think of your application as the first step in your journey to getting your dream job. If you struggle with the idea of writing a unique cover letter for every position, think about the fact that someone else is taking the application more seriously than you. All pieces of the interview process are important to eventually landing your dream role.

4. Interview 

Remember when you did that research to find the job you wanted? The interview is a perfect time to whip your knowledge out and impress the employer. Research the company’s website, news, Glassdoor profile, and social media presence. Be ready with specific reasons as to why you’re excited about working with the company.

ConversationBe ready to talk about your experience, too. Would you be able to talk about a specific bullet point on your resume from three years ago if someone asked you about it? It may seem silly to brush up on your own experience, but you want to make sure you are ready to provide high-impact examples for every question asked.

Research common interview questions as well and write down your answers ahead of time or practice them with a friend. Preparing in advance gives you more confidence during the interview itself.

Remember that the recruiter you are talking to is a human. Interviews should be conversations, not exams. Sure, you should prepare for the interview as if it were a test, but when the day itself arrives, you should let your personality shine. Make a good impression. Tell your potential employer everything you need to tell them.

Ask questions – always. The interview is your chance to confirm that your research is correct and the job is the best fit for you and you are the best fit for it. You won’t be a good fit for every open position, nor will every company be a good fit for you. Keep your list of aspirations in mind throughout the interview process.

Though I cannot guarantee that you will get your dream job if you follow these steps, I assure you that you will have a better experience throughout your job search. Take control of your future and be intentional about your career in 2017!

Molly Scheller is the senior HR coordinator at Hanapin Marketing.

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