In a job search with so many variables and options, focusing your efforts to a few desired industries, then regions and finally firms is key to succeeding faster.
In prior posts I've noted how I've already focused my own search on the strategic management consulting and the defense/military/intelligence industries. I've since further refined my industry preferences. I am now focusing on the top six to ten management consulting firms, plus a few with very strong practices in the defense industry.
Within the defense industry, I am focusing my search to the larger prime and sub-contractor firms. That is primarily because of it takes 12 to 18 months to gain the security clearance necessary to work directly in the federal agencies and positions that most interested me. The contractors also require security clearances for the best positions, but they also have other very similar and/or directly supporting opportunities that I can take while they sponsor me through the clearance processes.
(As an aside, after 9/11 Congress passed legislation calling for all federal employees to have background checks and/or security clearances. These security checks used to take 30 to 60 days, but after the legislation was passed the lead times for these security checks jumped to six to nine months. Further, a few months ago this legislation was extended to all contractors working in key positions. Consequently, the wait times jumped again to 12 to 18 months. Interim or temporary clearances used to be issued for individuals "in process," but those were also eliminated for security reasons. Between the backlog and the loss of interim clearances, this has created a Catch-22 for the federal government and defense contractors in that critical skills are retiring and leaving the federal agencies, and replacements can't be hired without an existing clearance.)
After further discussions with my wife, I also decided to focus my geographic preferences on five areas Virginia/Washington DC/Maryland, Arizona/S.California, Colorado, Illinois/Wisconsin, Europe/Italy.
Don't get me wrong. We still need to be open to opportunities that our networking and automated search efforts may produce. In fact, that is why I initiated my job search with these tasks first, since networking and automated searches tend to have the longest lead times. Even with an updated resume and base cover letter done, it takes a few weeks to warm up your network, contact known executive recruiters, and create and update career websites.
To prevent yourself from wasting time on e-mail blast sales pitches for positions you haven't done in 10 years or for positions that aren't related to anything you've ever done, I recommend setting up spam filters to capture those nuisance e-mails. If those messages manage to get through to your inbox in spite of the filters, have the self-discipline to ignore them. They'll only distract you.
With those industry and geographical changes I made to my plan, I've found over the past few weeks that I am better able to prioritize my search efforts. This is saving me time when reviewing opportunities, which has had a direct positive impact on my sleep patterns! Of course, I make exceptions for exceptional opportunities.
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