The Pulse #02: Reactive vs. Proactive Job Searching

The Pulse #02: Reactive vs. Proactive Job Searching

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One of the most frequent questions that I receive from clients at the conclusion of our work together is: Where should I be looking for job opportunities?

My response: Use every tool in the job search tool belt. Spread your job search eggs across many, many baskets.

Here are some of the most common methods of job searching that my clients have used to land jobs. Some are proactive and some are reactive:

  • Applying on a job board (Indeed, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Monster, Craigslist etc.)
  • Applying through a company website
  • An introduction from a personal or professional referral
  • With the help of a third-party recruiter
  • Cold messaging on LinkedIn
  • Cold messaging via Instagram DM
  • Capitalizing on an internship, temporary, or volunteer experience
  • Attending a job fair or networking event

These are all real-world methods that have actually worked for my clients.

In fact, I personally have landed long-term jobs using the following proactive and reactive methods of job searching: Craigslist, Yahoo! HotJobs (LOL), Instagram DM, and by cold messaging a recruiter on LinkedIn.

Here is a screenshot of my opening LinkedIn message from a few years ago that resulted in 3 interviews and ultimately a job that I remained in for 2 years. The position at hand was a PT resume writing position with a very large, international talent solutions provider and provided steady income while I worked to build up this business.

The best part about the example above is that when I cold messaged Caitlin, her company was not advertising a job opening. They had hiring needs, but they were not broadcasting all of them for one reason or another. The opportunity only came to fruition because of my proactive outreach and willingness to put myself out there.

Unfortunately, most job seekers I speak with are purely reactive job seekers, meaning they only engage in 1 or 2 methods; typically applying on job boards and/or company websites. Reactive meaning a company posts a job opportunity, and the job seeker reacts by applying.

This is unfortunate, because so many competing job seekers are also doing this. The odds of standing out are quite slim. And there is no personal touch…no voice or personality to accompany the resume. No real sense of initiative.

Actually, depending on the study, only 20-40% of jobs are found by applying online. And frankly, I would bet that number is probably closer to the 20% figure.

20-40%, yet so many folks spend all of their time applying to jobs online and obsessing over the dreaded ATS (which isn’t even really a thing, but that’ll make for a future newsletter).

No human contact. No proactive approach. Overthinking a keyword here or there. Filling out redundant applications. Fearing robotic gatekeepers. To what end?

Point being, don’t abandon online applications completely; a 20-40% success rate is not insignificant. I just don’t think it’s significant enough to put all of your eggs there.

So what should you do?

I am encouraging you to dabble in all methods of job searching because you just never know which method will ultimately lead you to the promised land.

Break outside of your comfort zone and get proactive. Don’t completely abandon the more reactive avenues, but sprinkle in some cold messages on LinkedIn. Connect with reputable agency recruiters. Engage with former colleagues. Go to a networking event. Meet people.

You want an extraordinary job? Put in an extraordinary level of effort.

Not all methods will produce results at the same level, but that’s OK and you can always adjust where you choose to devote your time and energy. 50% here, 15% there, 35% over here.


Don’t box yourself in to just 1 or 2 ways of job searching.

Push yourself to be more proactive in your search. Take on some healthy risk.

The worst possible outcomes are typically silence or a cordial rejection, but the potential upside is absolutely massive.



The Pulse is a bi-weekly newsletter providing 1 tip, observation, or tidbit related to all things job searching and careers.

The Pulse will come out every other Sunday evening and will generally take less than 3 minutes to read.

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See you again on Sunday 9/10.


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