I’m a planner. I love sitting down with my notebook, coming up with new ideas, writing new headlines, constructing new offers. That planning trickles down to my readers and clients because research, planning, and preparation are as much a critical component of career management as the physical tools (resume, cover letter, bio) themselves.

End of summer going into autumn is a great time to be focused on the research and planning aspect of your search, or preparing to start one in the new calendar or fiscal year. Certain times of the year, like summer and around the end-of-year holidays, hiring tends to be slow-moving. You can take advantage of that time by using this time to plot out your next moves, instead of rushing to get all your applications out the door before these slower times.

Here are a few ideas for using the coming weeks to plan, and conduct some serious job search intel that will put you ahead of the game.

Job Search and Research Tools

1) Setup Google Alerts

…for company names and job titles that interest you, so that you’ll be alerted the moment they’re posted and picked up by Google.

2) Create a top prospect list of your top 10-20 companies

..you’d like to work for. Follow their company pages on LinkedIn so that you’ll be notified of new openings or changes in staff, and connect with them on social media so you can get involved in their conversations and build visibility. Finally, make it a point to check their company website once a week for new openings.

3) Go through your prospect list and use LinkedIn to find any mutual contacts

…you might have at the company, whether it’s former colleagues or supervisors, friends of friends, or anyone else who might be able to hook you up with an introduction. Remember – referrals carry 10x more weight than blind applications since they come from a trusted internal source.

4) Use search engines like Indeed, LinkedIn’s job board functionality, and niche job boards to do research around the different titles

…that might apply to you, but perhaps you’re not aware of. You can do a member search and look at other people’s profiles and get a sense of the language they’re using to describe themselves. The goal is to ensure that you have the best keywords and search terms to maximize your search results (see point #1).

Finally, take advantage of these gratis resources, guides, and worksheets to help kickstart the planning process, from writing a resume summary statement to creating an impactful digital brand presence, to building a financial exit strategy to quit your job.