Before I graduated business school in May 2014, I spent six months looking for a full-time job. I had invested a lot of money and time into getting my MBA to further my career options; therefore, I had to do my due diligence to find the best job out there.
In addition to being in school full time and working at the Associated Press part time (where I later landed a full-time position in business development), I spent many hours a week researching jobs online, writing cover letters, updating my resume, and sending out applications. I fit in networking too and would reach out to people in hopes of making a meaningful connection. The whole process was exhausting, but even worse it took a toll on my confidence when I wasn’t seeing results. More recently, I witnessed a few of my close friends and colleagues go through a similar experience. After some observation, I realized finding the right job is a culmination of several factors.
In this post, I’d like to share with you four tips to make the job search more successful.
Be On Your A-Game
Let’s start with the obvious. You need a powerful application because it is competitive out there. Your application consists of the following: a resume, a cover letter, a LinkedIn profile (a professional social media presence), and a personal story. These are just the basics. I can spend hours talking about each one, but I’ll call out some key points for each.
Resume: A clean format, good writing and good spelling go without saying so I won’t elaborate there. However, the resumes that stand out the most are the ones that are results-oriented. For example, if you work in digital marketing, what were the budgets you managed? How many campaigns did you work on, and what were the success rates for those campaigns? Listing out the specific results which you contributed paints a great picture for the person reading your resume…and it will make you memorable. And, unfortunately in some cases, you do need to tweak your resume to meet the job description. Here’s a great article that highlights some ways you can better-tailor your resume to the job.
Cover Letter: These are such a pain to write, right? They are difficult and frustrating to put together, but right now, this is all you have to show your best self to your employer. Your cover letter should not be about you and what you want to accomplish. Rather, it should focus on how you can help the employer. What skills do you bring to the table that will directly address her needs? Learn her challenges, make it about her, and she will want to hear more.TheMuse.com has a great step-by-step guide on writing a cover letter, which you can download for free.
LinkedIn Profile: We all need to have a social media presence today. It’s critical for our personal brands and a great way to share our areas of interest and expertise with others. I was recently inspired by this article on spicing up your LinkedIn summary. Having a fun and engaging summary is a great way to stand out from the competition.
Personal Story: I’m so over the term elevator pitch! Rather, let’s get a little deeper (in 30 seconds or less). Who are you? Where have you been, and where do you want to go? Your story is an opportunity to be vulnerable and to share your BIG dreams and vision with employers. This is scary, I know. It took me years to say out loud “I want to run my own company!” But once I said it, I felt genuine, relaxed and even excited to see how this goal could translate to the job position for which I was interviewing. It can open more doors and allow you to really connect with employers. (More importantly, it sets things in motion for you to make that big dream a reality…more on that later.)
As I mentioned in my intro, you can do all of the above, and still not land your dream job…or even A job! So there’s more…
Know Your Purpose
I’m not necessarily talking about your life purpose, but the purpose you have in your career. This is not easy, especially when you are new to the career world or only have a couple of years of experience. Finding your purpose in your career takes time, self reflection and may include some bumps along the road. If you’re not there yet, be honest that you’re working on figuring out your long-term vision. But, make sure you verbalize your passions and interests.
For example, what drives you? Maybe you don’t know you want to be a marketing director, but you know you want to be a leader. Or, perhaps you know you want to be in a creative role. Speak about what you’ve done so far and how that’s helping you to figure out what you love to do.
Another great way to figure out your purpose is with Simon Sinke’s Golden Circle. Break down what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. Focus on the WHY. That’s your big purpose and your true driver.
One thing I learned from my painful job search process in business school is that in the end the whole experience is a lot less painful if the job to which you’re applying aligns with your values and what it is you really want to do. Let me explain with a personal example.
When I was in graduate school, I was applying to brand manager positions at large packaged goods companies. I didn’t have experience in brand management, but my applications were strong, I understood marketing, and I had many years of experience working with packaged goods brands like Wrigley Gum. Deep down, however, I did not want to work in brand management, nor did I want to join a large packaged goods company. At the time, it seemed like the ideal job to get out of business school because it guaranteed a nice paycheck and a fancy title. So, when I was out there networking and trying to make meaningful connections, the connections could only be so meaningful. My heart wasn’t into it, and it was harder for me to genuinely connect with people.
Now, one year and a half later, when I talk about business and entrepreneurship, it’s a whole different story. I’ve made some incredible connections because it’s truly where I feel I belong. My values and my passions are finally aligned with the work I am doing.
A Little Extra Outside Of Your 9 to 5 Can Go A Long Way
We’re already super busy, I know. But, there was a time when we would come in to the office at 9 a.m., leave at 5 p.m. and the work that we did within those hours defined our careers and success. However, those days are over, and we need to think bigger to elevate our careers. Furthermore, a resume tells your story (usually not in the most exciting way), but how can you show your story? How can you show that you have leadership skills, or that you’re a great communicator?
We have so many online platforms at our fingertips. If you have an opinion on a topic or you’re simply passionate about it, start blogging. Put your ideas out there. Show that you’re an expert or that you’re a great writer. You can use Facebook, YouTube, or WordPress to start.
Immerse yourself in the right industry. Attending events where you can meet people with similar passions will also increase your exposure to influencers. For example, if you’re interested in social impact, Be Social Change hosts some incredible events that are educational and inspiring. Not only will you expand your knowledge, but you’ll meet some amazing people, and if you’re interviewing for social impact positions, your passion will be clear from your involvement with such groups.
Set yourself up for success two or three years from now. Even if you are happy at your job today, it’s likely you’ll look for your next move sooner than later. When you’re ready to look for a new job, you’ll already have a strong foundation to make a transition.
Remember, You Are Not Your Job
I’m all about creating a career you love. However, let’s keep things in perspective. If the job search has got you down, and the experience has taken a toll on your confidence, remember that your value does not come from recruiters or employers hiring you. You’re amazing and unique, and you don’t need anyone else to validate that.
Furthermore, you’re not alone. Many of us have experienced this same exact thing at one point or another. If you aren’t getting anywhere, take a break, clear your mind and reassess. Or, seek out a career coach. There’s nothing more powerful than personalized help to help you get unstuck and get moving in the right direction.
I truly believe we all have great potential, and we’re all meant to fill that potential doing work we love – whether that’s running a business, being a stay-at-home parent, working in academia or working in tech.
I recently started to follow the late Wyatt Neumann’s work. An extremely talented photographer who recently passed away, he posted this very inspiring photo and caption on his Instagram feed awhile back.
If you’re not moving forward in your job search or even in your career, maybe it’s time to look for a new path. Either way, your value is not defined by your career. – Tweet It!