Job searching can be dreadfully mundane, heartbreaking, and exhilarating. Whether it’s submitting resume after resume after resume, losing out on a great job, or getting a good lead on your dream job, it’s a roller coaster ride, for sure. I’ve been deep in the trenches of job searching twice since I graduated college in 2011. The first time, I was searched for about four months (while working part-time at a day care) until I landed a full-time marketing position. It didn’t pay well, but it was more than I was making at the time and got my foot in the door.
About six months into that job, I decided to start looking for something else because I didn’t love what I was doing. The office environment was volatile, the work was killing my soul, and I knew I deserved to make more money. So for a year and a half, I was job searching. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do next, but I knew I wanted to explore my options, make more money, and do something more creative. Finally, after many resumes sent out, bad interviews, and lost opportunities, I landed my current job, which gave me a significant increase in salary, a much better office environment, and a chance to do what I’ve always wanted to do: write for a living.
Through these two job searching, shall we say, adventures, I’ve learned a few tips that I thought I would share with you all today. Let’s get this party started!
Make your resume stand out and please, please, please, for the love of everything holy, create an original cover letter.
Your resume has to shine. It needs to stand out and make the hiring manager take notice. The second time I job searched, I didn’t want my resume to look like anything I had ever seen before so I set to creating one that was a bit out of the box. I used new fonts, colored boxes, and reorganized the placement of my experience, education, and proficiency’s. This may not be an option if you’re looking for a more corporate-type job, but if you’re looking to get into a creative field (which includes, in my opinion, marketing and public relations), play around with your resume and make it different.
And yes, you always need to attach a cover letter unless the job posting specifically states not to. Make it fresh and do not, under any circumstances, create a form cover letter you send to every job. (Just the thought of that makes me cringe!) The bottom line is that your cover letter may be the one thing, even over your resume, that gets you in the door. Make it interesting, make that first line stand out (My favorite cover letter I ever wrote started with this line: “I’m not going to lie to you – I’m probably not the best candidate for this job.”), and talk about how you specifically will help the company.
Don’t get sucked into the world of job search engines.
Here’s the deal: job search engines like Monster, Career Builder, and Indeed are the main places people go to look for jobs. So you’re competing with thousands of applicants. It’s hard to stand out from such a huge crowd. (And with many of these jobs using resume screening software that kicks out any resumes that don’t have specific buzzwords, your carefully crafted resume and cover letter may never see the light of day.) One of my favorite job search engines is none other than Craigslist. I would say I probably got a request for an interview 5-10% of the time when I used a big job search engine, while Craiglist yielded me requests 30-40%. It’s a great hub that smaller companies use. It’s where I found my marketing job and got a handful of interviews last year when I was job hunting. I’m not saying to never use the big job search engines, but don’t forget to branch out and try something new if that way isn’t working.
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
So you’ve landed an interview. Yay, congrats! Now comes the hard part: preparing. You need to come prepared with questions, you need to study up on the company, and you need to do as many mock interviews as you can. For the interview I had with my current job, I spent hours reading through their website, making notes, coming up with questions, and making sure I knew the in’s and out’s of SEO. In addition to all this, grab a friend, a parent, a boyfriend, a wife, a child, your dog… whatever, to give you a mock interview. Have them ask the hard questions so you can prepare yourself. It’s never more awkward or scary when you’re sitting in a big conference room with a potential employer and have no idea how to respond to a question.
Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
I get ridiculously nervous about job interviews. Stomach cramps, sweats, shakes, all of the above. I have a love/hate relationship with them. So one mantra that gets me through it is knowing I am interviewing this company, as much as they are interviewing me. I want to know more about the position, the company, the culture of the office. I want to picture myself working at this place. It’s sort of like a date, right? You think you like this person (job), you have talked before and seem to mesh well (job description seems right up your alley! You’re so excited about the potential!), and now you have to meet for that first date and see if it translates to real life (dun, dun, dun – the interview!). Go into it with an open mind. The world won’t end if you don’t get the job and remember that you, too, want to be impressed by the company.
You have to be super crazy dedicated to the search.
Lackluster effort isn’t going to yield great results. If you want a new job, you have to go after it with your entire soul. You have to spend hours searching, applying to as many jobs as you can, and spending your free time in job search mode. This includes going to job fairs, perfecting your resume and cover letter skills, and maybe even gaining some experience through classes or volunteering. My first time around, it was a bit easier to really put all my effort into job hunting because I only worked part-time so I had more free time. I was applying to at least 20 jobs a week, desperate for anything that would get me out of the day care. My second time around, I wasn’t as hardcore, applying to about 10-15 jobs on a good week, but I still forced myself out of bed early to apply for jobs. It’s not fun, it’s a lot of work, but the reward was completely worth it.
My only other advice is to be patient. Continue to apply for jobs, hone your interviewing skills, and perfect your resume. Don’t give up. It can be very defeating and overwhelming and even heart-wrenching at times, to be passed over again and again for jobs. But your time will come. You will find that job you’ve been searching for. You will receive that glorious “We want to offer you the job” phone call. Hold tight. The work is worth it.
What job hunting advice would you offer?