Job search is tough for a lot of reasons. It’s hard on the brain, challenges your pride and comes with significant financial challenges.

But many of you are making it harder than necessary. You are inefficient. Spending time on the wrong things. And wasting vital opportunities to differentiate yourself.

Here are 10 secrets to a more purposeful job search. Things you can implement right away. Or build into your strategy for a great start in 2011.

1. Build a network starting with the obvious people

Start with those who are built to care. Your family, friends, neighbors and former vendors are examples. Anyone who has a built-in interest to help should be on this list. This is your starting point. But how many of you skipped this step? And forgot to enlist the help of those who know you best. If pride is holding you back or embarrassment, get over it. And start reaching out today.

2. Identify clear job search objectives

“What are you looking for?” It’s an innocent enough question. Helpful even. A great opening for you to educate your network. Yet so few answer it with specifics. So you leave those you meet wanting more. Wanting more tangible data to help them connect you with jobs, people, companies. If you cannot quickly share a list of your job search objectives including target companies, function, industry, geography and level then you will not stay top of mind with those who would like to help.

3. Create a permanent reminder of your objectives

So how do people remember your objectives? Since we are all meeting so many people each week, you need to make it simple. So include them on your networking materials. A one-page bio and a business card with your objectives are essential. Make these documents working tools. Living documents that can be referred to days after your first meeting. Give people a reason to keep your materials out in the open instead of tucked away in a bottom drawer.

4. Create a target career and social networking profile

So now you have objectives and can communicate them. Great. Now how do you go about identifying the best people to meet? Who are the people that can best help you arrive at a job that meets your objectives? Create a target career and social networking profile that matches up with your objectives.

5. Pick the right networking events to attend and have a purpose in going

Why are you going to certain events? And what are you there to accomplish? If collecting business cards and exposing your brand to a new crowd get top billing, you are not acting with a purpose. Sit down with a list of all the events in your area and rank them on your ability to meet the types of people on your target profile. Make a list before you go to the event of those you will seek out and how you will introduce yourself.

6. Actively begin to engage people that match your profile

You now have objectives and a specific profile of the people you need to engage. Now it is time to engage. Social networking is a great way to do this. In fact, in a recent study on career and social networking, revealed that LinkedIn (along with e-mail) was the top method preferred for a first contact. But not everyone is engaged on LinkedIn. So you have to look at other tools like Twitter or Facebook. And, importantly, find target companies and their executives in the traditional world (trade shows, charity events, alumni mixers).

7. Become an opportunistic extrovert

Of course it is not all about your target profile. It is also about engaging with the community around you. People you meet at the doctor’s office, car dealer, local bank branch and sandwich shop. Start coming out of your shell to meet new people. And one day, the right one might have a lead for you. Create a version of elevator pitch that is friendly. And less formal.

8. Be relevant

Give people a reason to pay attention. Be talking about your industry via a blog, on the local speaker circuit or via social networking. Relevance is a key reason why people follow on Twitter. And it is likely the reason why someone will decide to return your call, respond to an e-mail or read your resume.

9. Stay in touch

You do all this work to create an impression with a new contact. And then you let them go. Instead, create an e-mail database and send your growing network a monthly update. Keep it light and fun, but also make sure you reinforce your job search objectives. This helps you stay top of mind and will complement your in-person and social networking efforts.

10. Be a connector and a helper

A key way you become and stay relevant to others is help them in some way. Forwarding a targeted job lead, introducing people to others who can help, providing warm introductions to people in target companies. You can also help with proofreading, mock interviewing or by being an accountability partner. You will be remembered by those you help long after your job search is over.

How are you being purposeful in your job search? What ways can you suggest people become more purpose-driven? Please let us know in the comments – we would love to hear from you.

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Photo is 10/10/10 by Cordey.

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