Simplified Steps to Job-Search Success
Great resumes are the beginning of job-search success! Through the process of resume writing, you will also be empowered to do the following:
Set and articulate professional goals.
Create or update a goal-directed resume.
Develop a target list of potential employers and a network of advocates both through one-on-one contact and through the Web.
Respond to job postings in all mediums, as well as apply directly to desirable employers.
Submit your resume, cover letter, and any appropriate supporting materials by the employer's preferred method (Web posting, e-mail, fax, or snail mail).
Follow up, assess strategies, follow up, enhance competencies, then follow up again and again.
Interview using your resume for guidance.
Receive offers and accept one.
Set and Articulate Professional Goals
Your resume does not have to state your lifelong goals. But it should express the aim of your immediate job search, and you should understand how this goal fits into your long-term career plan. Preresearch is the key to goal setting. Before you officially kick off your job search, take an inventory of your achievements and qualifications. Use your inventory to update your resume and other important documents. A successful, goal-oriented resume projects focus and mirrors self-knowledge. The most powerful resumes make clear statements of the job hunter's objectives.
Preresearch, the time before putting your resume together when you investigate your chosen job field, is conducted using four techniques:
Paper and pencil or eyes to screen (using printed and Web resources)
Person to person (conducting information conversations)
Exploration by academics (taking courses or seminars)
Exploration by experience (including internships or special projects)
An objective like, “I'm looking for anything, anywhere” is not focused enough to be effective. As you create and update your resume, focus will become easier, and it will be easier to project the confidence you gain from self-assessment. Goal setting often begins by assessing yourself and identifying your values, interests, and skills.
Next comes research into careers, job functions, and academic options. When you write your resume and other job-search documents, you project the knowledge you've gained about yourself and your chosen field, creating a powerful self-presentation. The interview, at that point, is your opportunity to flesh out in person the image you've already created on paper or onscreen.
The list on page 5 spells out eight steps to a successful job search. You must be able to articulate your goals and qualifications in order to complete all eight — in other words, to get the job you want. Career counseling is available from a variety of sources that can help you with your self-assessment.
Looking in the mirror is self-reflection for some, but it's not the kind of assessment you need for job-search success. Don't confuse introspection with assessment or active exploration. Meditation rarely yields goal articulation, but reading a book or two might help. Printed and online resources also help. Reference librarians and Web search engines are excellent and often underused resources.
If you are a college student or graduate, your college career center may provide services to address your needs. There are also private counselors or career coaches who can work with you one-on-one to help you personally manage your job search. Many career guidance books include do-it-yourself assessment exercises designed to help you find your chosen career. Some Web sites also provide assessment exercises.
One of the best and simplest ways of focusing your career goals is to read the trade magazines and other publications of a few industries. In as little as a few hours of reading, you can learn enough about job requirements and your own skill set to contribute to a powerful and clear statement of professional objectives.
Goal-Directed Resumes Your Way
Not coincidentally, the steps for creating or updating your resume run parallel to the steps you take toward identifying and articulating your professional goals. In turn, a strong resume inspires you to write dynamic cover letters and follow-ups. This chapter prepares you to complete a fast, effective resume. (Chapter 6 provides more guidance and inspiration for painless resume writing.)
Develop a Target List of Potential Employers
Just as important as your resume is your target list of people, places, and organizations that might be potential employers. You develop this list starting with professional directories and other printed and online resources. Online resources especially can provide a wealth of contact information.
Your colleagues, friends, family, faculty, and fellow graduates can also help with preresearch, networking, and actual job-search efforts. When you ask around for assistance and job referrals, always include a copy of your resume with your request. This is a good way of both projecting your potential and inspiring continued support from your advocates. Go online. Read a prospective company's home page.
Explore opportunities listed under “Employment” or “Careers” on Web pages. If there is a “Media” section, review current and archived press releases, particularly those that reference department heads or corporate leadership. Once you've collected some names and numbers, it's time to do some detective work online. Use a search engine like Google to see if your contact's name appears with any helpful information. You should also see if the individual is listed on social networking sites like LinkedIn, MySpace, or Facebook.
Then take a deep breath and pick up the phone. Telephone calls are your best way to confirm the proper contact people and, if possible, to clarify the nature of any jobs available. Keep updating your list, and maintain clear records of your contacts. Know whom you've talked to, when you talked to them, and what you talked to them about. Follow-up is critical, so you must always know the status of your interactions with those on your hit list.
What is a job-search advocate?
Job-search advocates are those people who actively support your efforts to find your ideal job. They offer ongoing advice and regularly refer you to postings and, when possible, to prospective employers. Advocates are most often nurtured, not just found. Some people call them career mentors. Often, they are simply regular people in your life who are well connected to the career, industry, or company you seek. Tap into your resources!
Talking to people is the best way to gather, analyze, and prioritize information regarding employment options and referrals. Initiate the networking process with a call or an e-mail. When you e-mail, introduce yourself and state that you will soon follow up with a call. Always be courteous and clear about why you're getting in touch. You can ask for specific referrals or informal information dialogues. Conversations like these are a good way to learn about the careers of people in your chosen industry and to solicit their help in your job search. These contacts can act as advocates within their organizations, offering direct referrals and providing recommendations. They can also introduce you to associates in other companies, thus increasing the scope and power of your network.
Building Your Network
The purpose of networking is twofold. First, you want to know as much about your chosen field as possible. You network with as many people as you can in that field to get all of their input and points of view. Second, you want to become known in your chosen field. The more people you meet, the more your name and your qualifications become known. Networking is a powerful component of any successful job search.
Professional groups and online resources like field-focused Web sites or mailing lists are good ways to begin networking. Go slowly. Instead of introducing yourself right away as a job seeker, ask for a business card. Then, in follow-up communications, you can identify your career goals and ask for guidance. Once the person has responded to your request, share your resume as an effective way of presenting your goals and qualifications.
Today's job seeker should also explore social networking Web sites. Some popular ones at the moment include LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace, particularly with Gen X and Gen Y candidates. These sites allow you to create a personal profile and to opt in to one or more of the many networking groups on their sites, some relating to shared pursuits such as schools attended, employment/industry, or personal interests. By doing so, you are able to communicate with members, read public profiles (or blogs), view photos, and meet people you might never have come into contact with previously. Your contacts might be able to assist you in your quest for your ideal employment. Additional information about social networking sites will be discussed in Chapter 5.
End each networking conversation by getting guidance on what you should do next, whom you should contact, and, of course, with a resounding, “Thank you!” Keep communications current by dropping a line every now and then to keep your contact informed of your progress.
Successful job seekers often cite networking as one of the most important factors in their success. Most polls of experienced job candidates rank networking as a top tool. Even in this Internet age, person-to-person networking is still important, yet few people do it effectively.
Finding Job Postings and Advertisements
Many people fool themselves into thinking they are conducting a comprehensive job search just because their resumes are uploaded onto a few of the big-name job boards. It's true that Web-based job postings are part of an effective job-search strategy. But answering these ads is a reactive effort — that is, a reaction, rather than an action — and that's just part of a comprehensive campaign. An effective job search must also include proactive strategies, including networking. In later chapters, you will learn some effective proactive strategies. You will also be directed to some excellent Web sites as well as more traditional resources.
Comprehensive job-search campaigns include proactive as well as reactive strategies and resources. No matter how proactive you are, you should still be prepared to maximize your reactive efforts. Newspaper classified ads can't be discounted as a good source of information about potential jobs. And don't forget about postings printed in general and subject-specific periodicals or niche Web sites. Professional newsletters and journals are also too often ignored.
Get Your Resume into the Marketplace
Your goal is to inform as many people as possible about your goals. Keep the flow of communications persistent, but make sure they're appropriate, too. Here are some communication tips for strengthening your network and approaching others effectively:
Don't ever wait to communicate! First, call to confirm your contact person. When possible, request detailed information regarding available positions and posting methods.
If you are told not to contact someone directly, respect this request.
Submit documentation as instructed, confident that it will be processed and forwarded appropriately.
After making the initial call, submit your resume. Attach a resume to your initial correspondence as well as any future follow-up e-mails, faxed notes, or printed correspondence.
Don't worry about how your initial inquiries are interpreted; it's okay to ask for basic information. In fact, if you fail to take those courageous first steps, you will be unlikely to succeed at all. Typical first contacts might sound like the following.
Be prepared for the employer to tell you to apply online or to review the firm's current openings on their Web page. If you have seen a posting that interests you, you might ask if it has been filled, or if you can submit your resume to a manager directly, rather than generically applying online or to an anonymous e-mail address.
The best way to view your job search is to think of it as a communication process. You initiate the communication reactively when you answer postings; you are proactive when you contact the people on your target list. Don't hesitate to communicate, and be polite and respectful when doing so.
Use the Web as a navigational tool to identify employment opportunities. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 90 percent of employers prefer to receive electronic resumes via e-mail or on their company homepage instead of print versions through the mail.
Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
There is always an appropriate way to follow up. E-mail has become the most widely acceptable format. It's usually easier to be clear in writing, and you can send your message after hours, when you have time to clearly pose questions or convey your appreciation. You can also e-mail a thank-you note, but don't fax one. However, a hand-written mailed note shows a personal touch and attention to detail. Continue to build your relationships with prospective employers, and reinforce your existing networking relationships via a well-crafted series of e-mails or phone calls.
Enthusiastic and upbeat questions and comments are obviously much more effective than impatient and demanding inquiries. Be sensitive and creative in your follow-up communications. Be persistent, but don't pester.
It's sometimes difficult to pick up the phone or compose yet another friendly follow-up e-mail. But remember that each follow-up effort increases your chances of reaching your goal and getting that job. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your follow-up efforts (did your follow-up lead to another conversation? a return letter? an interview?) and refocus if you need to.
Be polite and persistent. Always call to confirm whether materials were received. This gives you a chance to ask your contact what will happen next and when you should take your next step. You can ask whether you should communicate again within a designated time period. If the answer is, “Be patient,” don't make a pest of yourself by calling back anyway. However, others in your network — particularly your job-search advocates — can support you with calls or e-mails to a potential employer.
It is your responsibility to communicate effectively during your job search. Don't expect prospective employers to follow up with you, and don't expect your resume to get you in the door all on its own. Your resume is a crucial part of your job search, but it is the personal follow-up that fuels a job seeker's success.
“Phone-a-phobia” can be fatal. E-mail may be state of the art, but the telephone is still a powerful communication tool. In fact, it's essential to your job search. Decide what you will say before you call. Your call can offer you a distinct advantage over your competition since many job seekers never think to go beyond hitting the send button.
Chapter 8 provides detailed preparation for interviews, with specific questions and answers. The first and most basic thing to remember about interviewing is to project confidence, whether the interview is in person or over the phone. To be confident, you need to be prepared.
Your resume is the focal point and foundation for interview preparation. Be confident in the abilities you describe in your resume and in your qualifications to perform the job. It is best to know as much as possible about the interview situation.
In preparing for your interview, don't memorize answers to typical questions, and don't practice too much or else your responses might sound false or canned. Role-playing is a good way to become familiar with topics and build confidence, while still improvising as you go. Use your resume as a checklist, but be prepared to talk about other topics and concepts.
Offers and Acceptance
You are going to get a job offer, and you will need the skills to analyze and appropriately respond to it. Remain focused. Comparative salary data is available online and in books.
Here's where your network comes in really handy; ask around to see what kind of offer you should expect and how to negotiate, if necessary. Try to get a sense of salary range for the position you seek and determine if your target number falls within that range. Once you accept an offer, stop your job search. Period. Do not take another offer and renege on the first one.
If you need to know about the validity of an offer, conduct your research before you accept. If you are wavering between two companies and have an offer from one but not the other, you can always try to leverage the opportunity to your advantage. With an offer in hand, it is much easier to call other prospective employers and talk about your chances of their offering you a position to determine if an offer might be forthcoming. Don't hesitate to make those calls if you think their input might help you make a good decision.