Looking toward the New Year, we wanted to get you started with your job hunt right. Getting to the next level (or any level) can be frustrating. We see it often–job seekers aggravated because they aren’t seeing results quickly enough. We get it. If you’re out of a job and you need a job, the only thing you are thinking about is how badly you need to get a job.
You’re thinking about it the wrong way round. If you approach job hunting the same way you approached your job, you’ll have better, faster and more satisfactory success. It’s rare that while at work you sit there fixated on how badly you need to get a project or function done. Generally we just do them–right? That’s because there are processes in place that get us from point A to point B. Even in creative jobs, there are set steps that you have to take in order to get your ideas in your head to become presentations or finished products for your business or client. Let’s break job hunting down into workable steps, into a process, so that you can approach your job hunt in the same no-nonsense, logical way that you would approach any job.
Here are a few things to know as you are job hunting:
- Job hunting is a job. Don’t expect to put an hour in a day and get results. Approach this with the same seriousness and intention as you would your job. If you’re only putting in an hour a day at work then you probably aren’t a very good candidate. Be the kind of worker for yourself that you would be for an organization. Think about 20 to 30 hours a week if you are fully unemployed, and 10 to 15 hours a week if you are currently employed. No those hours aren’t spent solely shooting out resumes, but we’ll get to that in a minute…
- Finding a job takes time = Your time put into the process + HR’s and other stakeholders’ time to assess you as a candidate. Neither side of the equation is going to happen over night. Expect your job hunt to take upwards of 1 Year (yes, one whole year). Preparing yourself for the long haul helps you orient yourself to the task. And if you find a job before then, it’s like getting a bonus!
- Specifics work better than generalities. Here’s the deal: resumes are vetted by machines. Computers generally “read” resumes before they ever get to human eyes. HR feeds into the computer the qualities they want in a candidate in the form of “keywords”; computers then scan resumes for these keywords. If you don’t know what kind of work you want to do, if you are general in your resume, you won’t have the keywords needed to get your resume into the Human Review pile. Be specific or you will waste a lot of precious time.
2. The Process
Establish your Goal
Yes, we know your goal is to get a job. But be more mindful in your intention. What kind of job? What kind of company? What kind of culture? What do you want your future to look like? How much money do you want to make? What parts of your skillset do you want to utilize? These are the kinds of in-depth questions you should ask yourself so that you aren’t just going for “a job” but the “right job” for you.
Establish your Professional Brand/Identity
Your resume shouldn’t just tell hiring reps what you’ve done, it should tell them who you are as a professional. If all you’re doing is listing your job functions from now to year zero, you are missing the point and a HUGE opportunity! Your resume is your place to shine. Be mindful of how you present yourself–this is your brand, your professional identity.
Once you have established your professional identity in your resume, the cover letter is your introduction. The cover letter is the first impression potential employers will have of you. Make it a lasting and positive one.
Forget the templates (unless you want to look like a cookie cutter employee). Forget job functions. Focus on the experiences that make you unique: your talents, your accomplishments, your contributions.
Establish a Schedule
Work out a schedule. All schedules are tedious at first, but the more you sit down and work at them, the easier they become until they are second nature. Plan five to seven hours a day (if unemployed, 1 to 3 if employed) to work on your job search. But you won’t be doing the same thing for the entire time.
Break your activities into three primary tasks:
1. Position, Company & Stakeholder Research:
Position: Understand the kind of job you are looking for, figure out the qualifications necessary for the job, establish how your skillset satisfies those requirements, ensure that is reflected in your resume.
Company: Search to see which organizations offer the kind of position you want, find out more about the company including size, organization, and corporate culture, figure out if those are the conditions under which you will excel.
Stakeholders: See who works at these companies, do you know any of these people? If you do, proceed to step 3. If not, are there opportunities for you to be introduced? What are these people doing in their professional lives? Can you help them? Figure out if you have connections or talents that would make you a positive asset for these individuals.
Work your network. And we all have networks. Start in your family and friends circles and work your way out. How often does it happen that you don’t even know what your family members of friends really do for a living? All the time. Ask small questions that will get you to a better understanding of what they do, what companies they work for and who they have connections to.
Feeling shy about that? No problem. Get online, start your LinkedIn profile and simply start linking with everyone you know. No questions necessary for this step. You will discover a web of connections you never even knew you had. Then, work it!
Use the research you’ve done in step one, to target people you know at companies you are interested in, or people you know doing the job you want to do or related to it. Build your knowledge and talk with people to get them familiar with you and what you can and want to do.
3. Resume Distribution & Follow Up:
Most people assume you should take the most time distributing your resume, but you shouldn’t. Research and networking should take up more of your time than distribution because if you’ve researched and networked then you will have narrowed down your options to the most optimal targets. The goal here is to work smart, not hard, and not long. Once you’ve done your research and reached out to those in your network, you will be armed with the information that will get your resume in front of motivated and interested eyes.
If you distribute your time evenly for each of these activities, you’ll wind up 1. enjoying the process more, 2. with a better idea of what it is you are hunting for, and 3. better odds for success.
Work Your Schedule
Don’t get lazy. But don’t do make it an all day every day affair. Try a normal 5 workday schedule, giving yourself lots of healthy time away from the job hunt to reset your mental space. Having said that, be consistent. Start the same time every day; take breaks and lunch; make lists and check off accomplishments; schedule times for follow up and follow up.
3. Tricks and Tips
- Attitude: Your mental space matters. People can smell desperation and frustration a mile off. No one wants to pollute their work environment with your negative energy. Take the time to establish a safe, quiet space in which to work on your job hunt. This will help dissipate some of that bad mojo. This can sometimes be difficult but try the best you can. The solution may be to go to a local library or to hook up at a location outside of your house with free wifi. The point here is that you want to make your physical location as calming and motivational as possible to get you in the right mindset.
- Preparation: Informational interviews will help you do research and become more comfortable with the interview process. Informational interviews allow you to interview people doing jobs that you think you might be interested in. Many professionals are happy to assist you in your job search if you approach them with tact, respect and an earnest interest in what they do. Any time you take to talk to people about your professional future will help you in the job interview process later on.
- Perseverance: Job hunting is stressful. Often times we are working against a clock in terms of financial considerations and constraints. Added to this may be feelings of inadequacy, self judgement, and severe blows to confidence and self-esteem. None of these are simple hurdles. But three things that will never help are panicking, self punishment, and general negativity. Think toward the future. Envision where you are going, and put the past into a box and lock it in your mental attic. Job hunting is about the future.
Approach job hunting as a job and start bringing home the bacon sooner. When in doubt, get help! Happy job hunting!
Kate E. Stephenson is a freelance communications specialist whose business encompasses content writing, comprehensive editing, and career coaching. Lexicon is her brainchild, a blog all about Language—insight into today’s job market and hiring tips, book releases and reviews, and general folly concerning the many mysterious facets of the English language and human communication. Be sure to read more about Kate, check out a full listing of services, and enjoy her columns here on Lexicon and on Kate.Book.com!