Most people don’t enjoy the job search process — not necessarily because their livelihood is at stake, but because hunting for a job forces you to sell yourself to strangers and deal with judgment, criticism, and rejection.

What is a job seeker to do? Is there any way to make the job search less painful?

The first thing to understand is that the days of relying on your resume to woo the HR department are over. Today’s job seekers need more than just resumes and LinkedIn profiles if they expect to grab an employer’s attention. There is too much competition for every position; job seekers must take additional steps to truly stand out.

Job seekers must learn to package themselves like products. They must learn everything there is about the hiring process — from sourcing to placement — and then reverse engineer each stage in order to determine what they must do at every moment to get an edge over their competition.

Key to these efforts is building an effective personal brand, as that will attract more decision-makers to you. Your LinkedIn profile should be clear, concise, and compelling enough that stranger can understand who you are within 10 seconds of reading it.

Additionally, because 85 percent of jobs  are filled through networking, you will want to engage in two kinds of networking: direct networking and social networking.

Direct Networking

What percentage of your LinkedIn connections are hiring managers — that is, people with the power and authority to hire you? If this number is less than 30 percent, you’re in big trouble.

Direct networking is the practice of actively expanding your network of hiring managers. You can engage in a lot of direct networking through various social media platforms, but we’ll focus on LinkedIn here, as this is the most useful platform for connecting with hiring managers in particular.

All it takes is one job lead to finding a meaningful contact at a prospective company. However, it is important to connect with people who can make things happen, rather than people who can only give you empty promises.

Based on my experience, the most challenging part of networking is doing it with a clear sense of purpose. Without a clear target and a step-by-step process to meet the target, you can never reach your goal.

Begin by reaching out to people who could be your future manager. For example: If you are a mechanical engineer, connect with engineering managers. If you are a manager, connect with directors in your field of work.

I’m positive this isn’t the first time an article has told you to build a network on LinkedIn — but are you building your network every day? You should be.

Here’s something to make daily networking a little easier. It’s a template I use for my invitation messages on LinkedIn, and it has worked well for me:

Hi [Name],

I’m expanding my network in the [industry] field, and you look like a great person to connect with. I’d love to connect if you’re open to it.

Looking forward to getting to know you more and sharing ideas and experiences.

[Your name]

[Your phone number / email address]

Social Networking

By “social networking,” I mean joining conversations with influencers, decision-makers, and fellow professionals on social media. This puts you on their radar, and they may think of you down the line when a new role opens up.

Building valuable conversations is the most important part of networking these days. It isn’t about how many people you send invitations to per day; it’s about how many meaningful conversations you have with your contacts.

The fastest way to find and join these conversations is to start them yourself. Finding interesting industry news and sharing it with your LinkedIn network connections is a good way to spark conversations with experts in your field. Let’s say you’re a mechanical engineer and you find an interesting article related to additive manufacturing (3D printing). Share the article on LinkedIn, and consider posing some related questions to your followers or adding a little of your own commentary on the article.

Your goal is to create exciting discussions around topics of high value in your industry. You must show that you’re on the cutting edge of personal and professional development and that you care about your industry. You should come across as someone who is in the know and can be relied upon when challenges arise.

Show your network connections that you are serious about your field by sharing what you’re passionate about and the types of projects and problems you like to work on. This works especially well for new grads who have little or no work experience.

It’s important to note that you can’t simply ask a new contact for a job as soon as they accept your LinkedIn invitation. This is why conversations are so important: They give your network connections time to get to know you and like you. Then, they will feel more comfortable having hiring conversations with you.

Easing the pain of the job search requires you to create a well-packaged professional brand by becoming a respected thought leader in your field. You can establish yourself as an authority by sharing interesting and engaging information on social media to attract the attention of decision-makers.

The biggest mistake you can make as a candidate is to be generic. Choose a specific career focus, join conversations around that focus, and show employers your passion and skills as they relate to that focus.

Nader Mowlaee is an engineering career coach and recruiter who is motivated by building confidence in engineers.

Power your recruiting success.
Tap into, the largest network of recruiters.

in Job Search]