By: Jim Lotz
Looking for your next job, new job is like exercise, you need to be an active participant. Watching someone exercise on a video isn’t actually exercising. Just as, posting your resume on a job board isn’t actually looking for a job. You might be straight out of school, having a midlife career change, looking for that next step in your career or decided retirement isn’t for you. You need to understand that looking for a job is quite a bit different than it was a decade ago or even last year for that matter.
Begin with a clean slate
To help you clarify your goals and get energized for your upcoming search, start by assessing what you’re looking for and why you want to do that type of work. After you identify your ideal job, there are several other factors to consider: What size and type of company is appealing to you? What kind of people, environment, workload, and salary are you aiming for? Are you looking for a foot in the door of a new industry, or are you looking for a comparable role in a similar company, but with a different culture? This may sound basic, but it’s something that people often overlook when they’re stressed about their job hunt.
Start with your Resume
There are many that say the resume is being phased out. While I somewhat agree, it will be awhile before it’s gone for good. Start with a general resume, which is somewhat like your LinkedIn profile. But for every job or submittal you will want to customize your resume to give you the best shot.
The average resume is chock-full of sorely outdated, essentially meaningless phrases that take up valuable space on the page. Eliminate them, and you’ll come off as a better, more substantial candidate—and your resume won’t smack of that same generic, mind-numbing quality found on everyone else’s.
Every word—yes, every word—on that page should be working hard to highlight your talents and skills. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be on there. So grab a red pen, and banish these words from your resume for good.
Here are some pointers:
- Two – three pages maximum (nothing drives recruiters and managers more crazy than the 10 page resume)
- If you are a current grad use your GPA, after that nevermore
- Have a summary at the top of the resume. The top of your resume is prime real estate, and it needs to grab a hiring manager’s attention with a list of your top accomplishments, not a summary of what you hope to get out of your next position.
- Keep copious notes about where and when you apply for positions
- You can be “experienced” in something after you’ve done it once—or every day for the past 10 years. So drop this nebulous term and be specific. Give the reader a better idea of where exactly this so-called experience lies, with some actual results attached. Also eliminate: seasoned and well-versed.
If you’ve ever created an online dating profile, you know that you don’t just say that you’re nice and funny—you craft a fun, witty profile that shows it. Same goes for your resume: It’s much more effective to list activities or accomplishments that portray your good qualities in action than to simply claim to have them. Instead of “team player,” say “Led project team of 10 to develop a new system for distributing reports that reduced the time for managers to receive reports by 25%.” Using a specific example, you show what you can actually accomplish. But simply labeling yourself with a quality? Not so much. Also eliminate: people person, customer-focused.
While resumes are meant to highlight your best attributes, some personality traits are better left to the hiring manager to decide upon for herself. There is a difference between appropriately and accurately describing your work skills and just tooting your own horn. Plus, even the most introverted wallflower will claim to be “dynamic” on a piece of paper because, well, why not? When it comes to resumes, keep the content quantifiable, show tangible results and successes, and wait until the interview to show off your “dynamism,” “enthusiasm,” or “energy.” Also eliminate: energetic, enthusiastic.
References Available Upon Request
All this phrase really does is taking up valuable space. If a company wants to hire you, they will ask you for references—and they will assume that you have them.
Focus on Social Media
Hopefully you’ve heard of this little thing called social media. You know on the interwebs. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter? Well, a lot of companies and recruiters are now using these platforms to recruit and find top talent. So get your profile up and running or clean it up. That’s right, clean up the college party pics or your political rants and get it looking professional. Start following companies you would like to work for. Be a part of the community. Research how companies recruit employees. Be active in participating and communicating with other industry professionals. Don’t be a one-sided job seeker.
Start a Blog
If you are passionate about a certain industry — fashion, art, writing, marketing, etc. — consider starting a blog to publish your work. This is a great way to showcase your portfolio and expand your network. Blogging can be a great way to network with others in the community and build your online presence. Plus you can include the link on your resume and recruiters will most likely click on it.
You don’t have to be a web genius to do it either. Try simple platforms such as Blogger or WordPress that have easy to understand templates that will get you started.
Build and Use Your Network
As you dive into your search, you’ll be spending a lot of time tailoring your resume and writing cover letters. But keep in mind that human beings hire human beings. So, instead of solely submitting resumes to the online abyss, create and take advantage of opportunities to meet as many people as possible, both in your field and out.
- Talk to your friends, ex-colleagues, and previous bosses. Most job opportunities will come through your extended network of colleagues. That’s why it’s so important to nurture your networks all the time, not just when you need it. Once you’ve decided to make a change, write down all the people you know and contact them. Let them know you’re open to exploring new opportunities, what you would be interested in hearing about, and how they can help—without sounding like you’re begging.
- Make a list of your top 10 companies. First, sit down and decide what type of opportunity you’re looking for. Then draw up a list of companies where you’d like to work. If you’re considering relocating, make two lists: one for local companies and one for companies based elsewhere.
- Check LinkedIn for people with similar background for the types of job you want. This will give you a sense for the background and experience your target companies look for in new hires and how to position yourself. LinkedIn’s Companies feature is an interesting tool to research companies on your target list. You can check out statistics on the employees at the company such as charts that show job functions, years of work experience, degree type, and universities attended by the company employee population. You can also see which companies those employees used to work for or leave to work for, which helps you discover other companies with similar interests.
- Check your profiles online. Update all of your social network profiles. Updating your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles will show the people in your network that you actively participate online, which means you’ll be in the forefront of their minds. Make sure your LinkedIn profile in particular is complete so prospective employers can find you easily.
- Research and contact recruiters in your field. Again, it’s most helpful to build these relationships before you need them, but now is better than never. Find out which recruiting firms work in your field and make those contacts. Even if the recruiter doesn’t have an opportunity that’s an exact fit at that moment, just letting them know you’re open to hearing about new opportunities keeps you on their radar. Check in occasionally.
- Stay organized. Keep a spreadsheet or use a tool like JibberJobber to track of your applications. A disorganized job search can make job searching more difficult and more frustrating than necessary. Keep a log of each application, date, contact, and progress. You don’t want to apply to the same position multiple times, and you’ll want to refer back to it for follow up. If you get a request for an interview, the company is going to expect you know which position they’re calling about when you answer the phone.
- Start with the basics: professional associations, conferences, and industry hang-outs. But think outside the box, too, and look at any social opportunity—parties, coffee shops, kids’ soccer games, volunteering—as a chance to network. By simply striking up conversations, you’ll help your new contacts get to know you, what you’re good at, and what you’re looking for. The more conversations you have the better able you are to articulate this clearly and enthusiastically, which will make it easier for them to introduce you to the right people.)
- People hire people. So get out in the community and meet your Twitter and Facebook friends in person. Figure out what meetings they are attending, attend a few industry conferences and join groups they are involved in. Figure out what the hot topics are in your industry and discuss them. Build relationships with people. Offer to help other people. You can also, offer to help someone with a side project. This builds your credibility and gets you a connection to that person.
Optimize Your Best Hours
Conventional wisdom says that looking for a job is a full-time job—but I beg to differ. It’s unrealistic to think you can spend all day searching for listings and submitting resumes without getting burnt out pretty quickly. (This is especially true if you’re currently employed and can’t dedicate a full eight hours per day to your hunt.) The key is to hone in on your search when you’re at your best and won’t be interrupted—and make the most of that time.
In fact, four super-charged hours can be far more productive than eight, if you spend them the right way. Use your lower energy times to research companies, organize and update your application materials, and prepare for interviews. Then, take advantage of the times when you’re most alert to network and make follow-up calls.
Use Downtime to Your Advantage
The time you spend job searching is important—but your downtime matters, too. The healthier and better-rounded you are, the better you’ll come across to contacts and potential employers. So, as you start on your job-hunting journey, make sure to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, too.
Start by creating positive routines—like exercising (not watching the video of someone exercising), preparing healthy meals, and spending time with friends and family. You can also take advantage of your extra time to gain new skills or pick up new hobbies.
And finally, it’s important to approach your job search with enthusiasm, even after you’ve written your 25th cover letter. So, try using unconventional ways to get excited about it. Take a cue from Olympic athletes—who often picture scoring a perfect 10 before their performance—and visualize landing your ideal job. Getting into this mindset will help motivate you to do whatever it takes to actually become part of that world.