I get asked all the time for advice about job searching. Where do I start? Where are jobs listed that are “nontraditional”? I want to change my industry but my resume makes me look inexperienced; how do I fix that? Etc. Etc. Etc. This is a lot to ask, but not without answers! The problem is…
Job hunting is a very person specific process. There’s no answer to all of these questions that will satisfy every person nearly as completely as an answer should. Below are some tips that apply across the board to this process; if you or someone you know needs more personal advice, I can dive a little deeper.
1. Get The Framework. Write down all aspects of your current job. Everything, from the place you sit to the style of communication to your daily tasks to the workplace culture to the HR benefits to the sector you’re working in. Reflect on each aspect over several days or weeks, and hone in on the three aspects that are most important to you – either to change or to keep as they are – and use those as guiding lights as you search and interview.
2. Clean Up Your Image. Find a job description that you generally like, anywhere, and review your existing cover letter and resume. Think about what a person who didn’t know you would learn from these items, and if it’s the image you would like to portray. Adjust your resume, cover letter, and anything google-able about yourself to reflect exactly what you want to show. I often have a friend or two and sometimes a professional acquaintance read mine over. If you don’t think your experience ties at all to the job description that you pulled, don’t change your experience (you can’t!), but consider what words you can change and different aspects of your positions to highlight. If you can show the soft skills needed for a job are ones you already have plenty of experience with, directly related experience becomes less important.
3. You Can Always Learn More. Be humble and realize that even if you think you know about a position or industry, you can still learn more. Find people you admire in your own network or in friends’ networks and ask if you could learn about their career path. Always offer to buy them coffee, and don’t expect too much of their time. Go armed with thoughtful questions that you can’t find on the internet, and remember that your job is to listen, although you should be prepared to talk about yourself. Follow up with a thank you note, not a request for a job unless something was specifically discussed. This is often called an informational interview, and it will well-inform the next two job hunting steps. Plus, you now have a new professional contact.
4. Find The Right Positions And Apply. Jobs are posted on companies’ websites, monster.com, idealist.org, membership organization websites (like Council on Foundations or MediaBistro), craigslist, LinkedIn, and yes, even in the newspaper. Look for those and apply to ones that pique your interest. Given all of these places to look, it’s still not enough. You need to use your network to put out feelers and ask for recommendations. Most jobs are posted internally before externally, so if people are keeping an eye out for you, you will have more opportunities cross your desk. You never know who might be that key connector, so treat everyone with courtesy and gratitude, and I guarantee that this will help you. Various studies report 60-80% of jobs as being found through networking, so keep your eyes and ears wide open. And, if your network is poor in a geographic area or industry, start building!
One more note about applying: If the only thing holding you back is years of experience or not knowing a type of software, try to think outside the box; if you would still be otherwise comfortable in the position, apply. People tend to talk themselves out of a great position for small reasons that ultimately might prevent them from getting their perfect job.
5. Ace The Interview. If you get called in for an interview, a company is interested in you for some reason; nobody wastes time on people who aren’t interesting to them. Don’t lose their interest! Be thoughtful and pull from unique experiences in answers, but don’t say too much. In almost every interview, people ask me about my experience in radio (listed under hobbies on my resume) because it’s different. Think: how can the ways in which I’m diverse give me a leg up? Pause often to leave room for followup questions, make eye contact, and avoid ‘having it all figured out’. Do your research on your interviewer and the company beforehand, and ask a few thoughtful questions of them. Follow up with a thank you note.
With these five tips in mind, you’ll be well-armed to tackle the job hunting process. My framework is obviously very socially and people-driven. Others may advise you to think about what a job will give you to prepare you for advancement in an industry, or to think about what will give you job security over the next several years. Obviously, both are completely valid; however, we’re in an age where more people than ever are quitting their jobs to pursue happiness over monetary riches. If feeling valued and fulfilled is becoming a more driving force in what people want out of a job, then a people-focused lens feels like the most appropriate method for the hunt.
Throughout all of this, please remember to be yourself. Do not try to be someone else, or hide your hobbies if they are important to you, or wear clothing that makes you cringe. Yes, there are certain professional adjustments that we all make, but if you can’t be yourself in a position, you will not be happy and you will be on the hunt within months.
Please feel free to share these tips with whoever might benefit. If someone would like to discuss further, do feel free to refer them to me recognizing that I’m not an expert in most industries but am confident and well-versed in the process.