Leia O'Connell


By Leia O’Connell, LMSW, GCDF
Corporate Recruiter

You’ll often hear how important it is to have a targeted career goal. Having a clear objective helps focus your job search and create measurable, achievable goals. However, a narrow focus on one type of job or industry may cause you to miss out on unexpected opportunities.

By expanding the job title search terms you use when you’re looking for open roles, you may find yourself on an unforeseen career journey. Developing a broader job search is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when fewer companies are hiring and the unemployment rate is so high. Here are a few tips to help you find new jobs that align with your skills and experience.

Repeating the Same Job Title Search Terms Limits Your Search Results

When you’re looking for jobs online, do you find yourself using the same search terms over and over? It’s likely you have a particular role in mind and a specific set of keywords you use when looking for open positions.

While there will be commonly used terms, private-sector companies can call a position whatever they like. As a result, job titles with similar responsibilities can vary wildly. Avoid limiting yourself to the job titles you’ve held previously or ones you’re familiar with.

A common issue job seekers come across is not knowing what job titles to search for. So how can you search for alternate job titles?

Use O*NET OnLine

O*NET OnLine, a source of occupational information overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration, is an efficient resource for finding alternative titles. Here’s an example of how to use their “Sample of Reported Job Titles” tool.

Visit their site, and in the Occupation Quick Search located at the top right-hand side of the page, type “Security Management.” When you select the first link, “Security Management Specialists,” you’ll find a list of similar job titles at the top of the page. Make sure you keep a running list of these job titles.

Now that you know how to use this tool, start by entering in your previous and current job titles. Take stock of what sticks out to you, and add those to your master list of search terms.

While you’re on O*NET Online, take some time to use their other tools for the same purpose. In the “Career Cluster” section on the homepage, you can browse through occupations that require similar skills. If you’re interested in business, you could select the “Business Management & Administration” section, and find job titles ranging from “Compliance Managers” and “Compensation & Benefits Managers” to “Business Continuity Planners” and “Sustainability Specialists.”

You can click on each of these titles to find even more job titles that relate to you. For example, I clicked on “Sustainability Specialists” and found roles like “Campus Energy Coordinator” and “Sustainability Coordinator.”

Think of O*NET as an exploration tool, allowing you to travel down different and unexpected paths. This site also lets you search by expected growth, industry, job family and STEM-specific roles. Each of these filters will help in your search.

Browse Positions with Your Ideal Organization

If there is a specific company with which you’d like to work, take a look at their career page and browse their jobs by category. What job titles align with what you’re looking for?

Review the descriptions carefully, and be sure you either meet the qualifications or have a plan for meeting them before applying. Once you’ve found a position you’re interested in, sign up for a job alert right on the company’s site or through LinkedIn’s job alert feature.

Pro tip: While you’re on their site, take some time to see if they have a Talent Network where you can add your resume. I’ve worked with many recruiters who asked to have their Talent Networks promoted. This is often an easy step to put your resume out there to recruiters. If you decide to publicize your resume online, be sure to read my article on resume safety.

Research Job Titles on LinkedIn Profiles

LinkedIn is not only for networking, but also for research. LinkedIn puts limits on how many profile searches you can perform in a month. This number depends on the type of account you have, and if you pay to use LinkedIn, you can perform more searches.

If you’re using the free version, you can still search through their database. Just know that at some point, LinkedIn will prevent you from making searches if you’ve gone over their limit within a particular timeframe. I can’t tell you what the limit is, as they leave that specific information a mystery.

Start by searching for users who have desirable job titles. Now look through their job history. What are their previously held roles? Do any of those interest you? Or maybe those positions are stepping stones to consider when you’re thinking about your end goal.

Another tip: Turn your search settings to private if you’re looking at multiple profiles, especially if you return to the same person more than once.

Make Meaningful Connections for Research Purposes

There are many approaches to using LinkedIn, but I recommend a steady method where you focus on meaningful connections with users. Making connections is a key part of long-term research.

When you’re connected with a LinkedIn user, you’ll have better access to that person’s profile. You may also receive a notification when he or she has changed jobs. This is another opportunity to learn about new companies and job titles, as well as build rapport by congratulating the newly hired candidate.

Keep in mind that it’s important to make sure you’re sending connection requests to individuals in your current field or the one you hope to move into. If you’re unsure about sending LinkedIn connection requests, you can take two minutes to read up on commonly asked questions about LinkedIn messages.

The Ideal Formula for Finding a New Job

The hands-down best way to secure an interview is through an employee referral for a job in which you fully meet the qualifications. The ideal formula for finding a new job is to:

  • Find a position for which you meet the qualifications
  • Tailor your resume to illustrate to a recruiter that you meet these qualifications
  • Apply online
  • Have an employee who works for that company provide a referral to the recruiter or hiring manager

Ideally, avoid applying online anonymously as your only method for your job search. As you expand your list of job titles, ensure you develop your network of connections as well. Organization is also a key step here.

Create lists of job titles, networking contacts (even potential ones), company names, job alerts you have open and jobs to which you’ve applied. If this process becomes overwhelming, reach out to your Career Coach for support. All services through our department are free for students and alumni.