Hackernoon logoA Playbook for Finding Your Next Job by@alex_dea

A Playbook for Finding Your Next Job

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@alex_deaAl Dea

You’ve finally had enough! You’re ready to move on and to find a new job and company. While your interest to move on is high, you’re stuck because the job search process seems like it has so many tasks and not enough time. How do you move forward?

As a Career Coach, I work with lots of professionals who are thinking through career moves and transitions, and while many of them know that they want to find a new job they struggle with where to start and how to go about making moves.

After coaching hundreds of professionals through this process, I’ve put together a playbook that you can use for finding your next job.

The playbook is a great starting point if you’re looking for some structure and guidance on finding that next great role, and while it certainly omits some things is holistic enough that it should get you the inertia and momentum you need to find your next role. So with that, here we go!

Step 1: Current State Self-Reflection

The first step in this process is to dig deep and understand how you feel about your current job and what is causing you to want to look for another job. Let’s make an assumption that you don’t need to leave today. If that is the case, it’s important to make sure that you have exhausted all your means at the company you are at before you jump ship to a new one.

If at the end of the reflection you realize that there might be a chance to stay by changing things up or finding a new role, great, you just saved yourself a ton of time and effort.

If not, that is fine too, and you can now move forward with the job search process. Below are some questions to guide your self-reflection.

Answering these should give you some clarity:

  • What do you think is causing you to want to find a new job?
  • What are you not getting out of this job that you want to get out of your next job?
  • What are you going to miss most once you leave this job?
  • What is something unique that you’re currently company provides you that you think will be hard to replicate anywhere else?
  • If you could change something about your current job to make it better, what would you change? Is it feasible for that change to happen?

Step 2: Figure out the what, where, and why

Since you’ve determined you want to move on from your current company and role, it’s now time to figure out where you want to go next. Some of you already know this, and if you do, you can skip this question. Here are some popular paths that people go down to find a new job.

Same thing, different company — You like the role or the function you are in, but you want to do it at another company

Different company, different thing — You’re struggling with the role or function you are in, and the company you are working at.

Some mixture of the two — You potentially want to change the role/function and the company. Perhaps you want to do the same thing, but at a startup. Or, as a consultant, you’ve served lots of clients in the healthcare industry and you want to move into a functional role for a healthcare company.

When it comes down to it, you want to find out is the what, the where and the why:

  • What do you want to do? — The tasks, responsibilities and outputs of your next job. This generally relates to the role and function (ex: Brand Manager within Marketing, Financial Analyst within FP&A department)
  • Where do you want to do it? — The type of company you want to work at. This generally relates to the size, industry, geographic location, and scale of the company you want to work at.
  • Why do you want to do it? — The ulterior motives, desire, and interest you have in pursuing the what and how.

Key Questions to answer:

  • In my next role, what does my ideal day look like?
  • What are the types of roles, tasks, or responsibilities I want in my next job?
  • What industries am I interested in?
  • Is there a specific function or type of role that fits my interest and skillset?
  • What size of company is most appealing to me?
  • What kinds of characteristics does the company I hope to work at have?
  • Are there any geographic considerations that are important to me?
  • Am I more interested in a career path to be an individual contributor, or manager?

Step 3: Research and Information Gathering

Self-reflection is important, but so is going out and finding information and opinions that will augment the self-reflection that you do. Afterall, if you want to become a brand manager, no better way to find out than to actually go and talk to a few!

Or, if you want to know what it’s like to work at Company X, reading Glassdoor reviews and talking to employees who work there is a great start.

Find People to Talk to

If you’re a high performing candidate, odds are you have a decent to great network, and that’s the best place to start. Use LinkedIn to help with this, but here are a few types of people to talk to:

  • People who work at companies you want to work at
  • People who do the type of job that you hope to do
  • People who have made the transition from what you are doing to the type of job and company you want to do it at
  • People who are advanced in their career, who you could potentially end up as one day

There are lots of things you can learn in the research and information gathering stage, but here are the ones that I suggest at a minimum you look for. At the end of conversations, you should be able to:

  • Get a sense of the role and responsibilities of the job/person you are talking to
  • Get a sense of what the company is like, and some characteristics of their culture
  • Get a sense of the recruiting and interview process
  • Get a sense of the types of characteristics or qualities that they will look for if you were to apply to a role at that company

If you use these as a guide for your conversations and information gathering, you can then tailor your questions or research to ensuring you can answer these key points.

Researching Companies, Jobs, roles, etc

Here is the kind of research you want to do, and where to do it

  • Company Glassdoor Reviews — Find out what the low down is on the company
  • Job Description Postings — Review postings of jobs you might be interested. Specifically, get a sense of the skills and responsibilities. Places like Indeed and LinkedIn are a great start.
  • LinkedIn Profiles of People who have the job you want — Review profiles of people who you think you might want to work for or with, and get a sense of their work history and responsibilities
  • VC’s Investors, Former employees, etc — This is startup specific, but if you’re looking at a startup, talk to the people who have invested in them, recently left the company for another startup, or who are customers. Also startup specific, check out VentureLoop and Angel.co
  • Google Alerts — Setup google news alerts on any company you are interested in to stay on top of the latest news

A key note here: Everyone has their own unique path, and while talking to people is going to help you immensely it’s important to recognize that you need to follow the path and steps that are right for you, not the tried and true, or what someone who is like you would do. In some cases, it will be very similar.

For example, many consultants who want to work in Tech, end up making the move into a Business Operations role within a Tech company. Having said that, if that is not what is right for you, then don’t go down that route.

Additionally, it can be easy to fixate on those people who are very advanced in their careers who you might want to become one day.

While it’s great to see them and to understand how they made it to where they were in their career, because everyone’s path is different, you may or may not have a similar path.

The important thing is to learn their story, what motivates them to do what they did, and how they navigated the challenges and opportunities along the way, not learning how to copy what they did.

Step 4: Reflect

Now that you’ve gathered a ton of information and had a bunch of conversations with people out in the field, it’s time to synthesize that information and make sense of what you learned.

The goal here is to eventually come to some takeaways of what you learned, but also, to eventually use that information to come up with the types of jobs, roles, and companies that you want to pursue. Below are some questions that can help with this:

Key Questions

  • What are your strengths? How do they map to a particular job or function?
  • What are the types of things you like to do? How much would you be able to do these in a given job or function?
  • Who from who you talked to did you like the most, and why?
  • Whose job was most appealing, and what about it did you like?
  • Which company or role seemed like the best fit?
  • Is there any role or company that you don’t want to do?

Step 5: Hypothesis Formulation

Once you’ve sufficiently reflected, it’s time to come up with some hypotheses about paths you want to pursue for your next job. The key here is to eventually come up with 1–3 (I would say max 3) career paths that you want to pursue for your next job.

These are hypotheses, so they don’t need to be fully correct, but what you really want is get a few paths or lanes to help your focus when you start looking for and applying to jobs. So what is a hypotheses and how does it look?

  • A specific role/function/industry/company statement that you are interested in
  • A reason or two as to why you are interested in that role/function/industry

Again, just like in science, hypotheses are things that you eventually go out and prove whether they are true or not, so don’t feel like you need to be 100% correct on something. Having them will help you narrow your focus in your job search, but ultimately, being able to compare them against each other will help you use process of elimination to find out what you really like versus what is just “okay.”

Examples of Career Hypotheses/tracks

  • I like building and growing brands that people love, and thus I want to work in a Brand Management role at a large consumer products company.
  • I want to sell innovative products and be at the forefront of building a company, and thus I want to work for a growth stage (Series B/C) startup in a sale role the Ed-Tech Vertical
  • I want to use my analytical skills to improve efficiencies in a hospital, and thus I want to work in a finance role for a healthcare provider

Step 6: Get your Resume, Cover Letter, and LinkedIn Profile up to date

I won’t go into too many details in this section other than to say that it’s important to spend time to get these things done. If you need help with any of these things, check out some of my quick guides or contact me for more specific coaching.

Step 7: Figure out what your Compensation needs are

Compensation is an important topic to cover. At some point, this topic will come up, so it’s important to be informed and to have a number (I personally prefer a range so it mitigates anchoring bias) that is backed by some calculation and research. Here are a few tools for how you can figure this out:

  • Job Boards — Most job boards (ex: Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed) now have salary estimates and ranges for many of their job postings
  • Salary Specific Resources — Places like Comparably and Payscale are good resources based off of crowdsourced data
  • People — In today’s day and age, it still is taboo for some people to talk about salary and compensation, but, it’s also the quickest way to finding it out.

Use the job boards and salary specific resources to get ballpark estimates and accept the fact that while it’s a great directional indicator it’s not perfect. Back that up with any actual data you can get with people to determine what the ranges are, and figure out the range for you.

Step 8: Begin Targeting Companies and Recruiters

Before you apply to any posting, my advice, especially for in-demand candidates is to work your network to get introductions to recruiters and hiring managers. These introductions essentially are referrals and get you in through the side door of the recruiting process.

While it’s still fine to apply to job postings on a whim, or, to apply to a posting and have someone put a referral inf or you, getting to the recruiter, hiring manager, or someone who might be hiring in the future allows for a more high-touch experience, a chance for you to get time to explain your background and interests, and potential access to more opportunities that 95% of the other candidates won’t get access to.

Here are a few examples of how this works:

  • Job posting available — Let’s say there is a job posting that is open and that you are interested in it. Go and ask someone for a referral for the posting, but also see if they can get you in touch with A) the recruiter for the role and B) either the hiring manager or someone else on that team. In this situation, the recruiter can help expedite your candidacy (provided you are at least a fit) and getting in touch with the hiring manager or someone on the team can help give you additional context and information that is helpful to you.
  • No job posting, but you know what you are looking for — If you know the company you want to work at, and you roughly know the role, ask someone in your network to help with an introduction to the recruiter for that specific role. Ex: If you know you want to work in Product Marketing at Google, get someone to introduce you to the PMM recruiter for PMM roles. Generally, they will at a minimum, reach out to you and have a quick introductory call just to get to know you and your background, and may even circulate your resume to a few teams to see if anyone wants to chat with you. Worst case scenario: nothing is available right now but they’ll be back in touch if something comes available. If that is the case, always stay in touch with the recruiter

Bottom Line: 70% of job postings that are filled never make it to the public eye.

That means that you are competing with millions of candidates for 30% of the total postings. Using your network to get to recruiters and hiring managers is a good alternative.

Step 9: Preparing for interviews

If you want to knock your interviews out of the park it’s important to spend some time preparing for them. I’ve written a much more detailed approach for how I prepare for interviews but here is a quick summary:

  • Introductory Phone Screen: Be able to answer why you are interested in the role, what attracted you to the company, what skills/experiences you have that make you a great fit for the role, what your salary requirements are, and what you’re looking for in your next job. Also, make sure to come with some thoughtful questions to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm
  • Longer Behavioral Interview: Be able to do all of the above but perhaps in a more detailed fashion. Additionally, be able to use your stories and past work experiences to demonstrate your skills, abilities, and general knowledge. Finally, be able to ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm in the role
  • Technical/Case/Project: These vary company to company but many companies will have you work through a business problem, case study or technical project. Prepare, ask people who work their for advice on what they are looking for, and do your homework.


Finding your next job is a process that requires time, effort and persistence. Not everything here is required for you to find a job, and you can certainly play with the order of how you do some of these things.

However, if you follow this guide, I’m confident you’ll be well on your way to finding your next job. And if you happen to need help with any of it, please reach out.

Additional Resources

Thank you for reading!


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