iPhone 6 Plus with LinkedIn on the screen

Suddenly, you find yourself on the hunt for a new job. Do you have the tools on hand to start the search right away?

They’re good to have ready at all times, like a life preserver on a boat. Why waste precious time getting your job-search act together?

I see evidence of that need all the time. A human resources executive confided to me that his group has been moving functions out-of-state. While his job is supposedly staying put, he’s not sure. A communications consultant was happily working part-time but her spouse unexpectedly got downsized, causing both of them to jump into a full-time quest for new employment. In a recent post, I mentioned eight reasons why you might find yourself in an unexpected job search.

Here are five job tools to have readily available so you can jump into a search at a moment’s notice:

1. Clean, concise, chronological resume. Ideally, you update your resume thoughtfully, using the keywords your target employers will look for, and including tangible results and metrics from your career. At the very least, you want a resume that has all of your experience to date in an easy-to-read format, free of grammar and spelling mistakes.

If you keep this basic document updated for each role, you will always have something you can share that won’t embarrass you. You can make more substantive changes as you get deeper into your job search.

2. LinkedIn profile with photo, tagline, summary and chronology. Your LinkedIn profile can be a multi-media platform, designed to sell you. Its elements include video, publications, and presentations. Status updates keep it dynamic. At the very least, your profile should have the basic chronology to match your resume, plus a professional-looking photo, a tagline to describe your expertise, and a summary that explains your skills, expertise, and experience.

Remember that your LinkedIn profile is used, not just by prospective employers, but by all of your networking contacts. If you need to jumpstart your networking, you want a working profile so people agree to meet with you.

3. Your “tell me about yourself” story. There are lots of interview questions you want to prepare for, but this is the one that you should be ready to answer at all times. If you unexpectedly need to find a job fast, you’ll want to rally your friends, former colleagues, and other lifelines to help you. They have to know what you do, what you’ve done, and what you want.

Even if you don’t need another job, you may unexpectedly get a moment with senior management, and you can use your story to make a connection. If it’s been a while since you’ve interviewed, you probably don’t have a current story. If you don’t practice this, you’ll likely get mired in the details, rather than present a crisp, focused pitch.

4. The two- to three-line description used to recommend you. You won’t only be presenting yourself person-to-person. You’ll have friends who will offer to make an email introduction or walk your resume over to their HR group. They’re not going to write up your whole story or memorize even half of it.

People who recommend you need a two- to three-line cheat sheet of who you are and what you offer. Don’t assume people know. Don’t make your allies do the prep work for you. Help them to help you.

5. Your compensation history and targets. Just like we don’t regularly tell our story, we certainly don’t regularly share our compensation figures. Money is an uncomfortable topic for many. But in a job search you’ll find yourself asked about your pay history and expected target again and again. Have your latest numbers readily available to ensure you don’t short-change yourself (forgetting to quote your bonus or an above-average benefits plan) and also appear confident.

It takes time, attention, and energy to actively look for a job, so you don’t want to do it until you need to. However, in today’s volatile market, you may not have much notice that your employment is in danger. By having some of the tools already in place, you position yourself to be productively searching from day one.

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