My niece’s roommate was a miserable, depressed, unemployed, self-absorbed wretch of a recent college graduate. Slept till noon, never left the apartment, never saw friends. Then a couple weeks ago she “caved” and took an unpaid internship in her field. Got up early, got dressed, went out in the world and did some work. Within days, her mood brightened, she made some new friends and reconnected with old ones. She reengaged with life. So yeah, work matters. And while you are looking for work, you need to find ways to engage and connect with others . . . and there are A LOT of new ways to do that.
I’ve been there. Looking for work is scary, lonely, emotionally draining and can feel much harder than actually working. It’s inefficient, uncertain, and there is no guarantee of success (just like, you know, having a job in these turbulent times).
But if you are a job seeker listen up. I talk to A LOT of you. And almost all of you make at least two serious mistakes when you look for work. You either expect recruiters to find you a job, or you expect your friends to sympathize with you and agree with you that your approach to job hunting is fine. Both expectations are wrong.
First, please realize that search firms don’t exist to help people find jobs, we exist to help companies find self-reliant people. Heck, even career counselors don’t exist to help you find a job – they exist to teach you the skills you need to find a job on your own. Most people are simply terrible at looking for work, and even if you did it before, the way to look for work now is different than it was before. It’s not just about resumes and cover letters and meeting people for lunch and coffee to network – you need to do MORE.
Your approach to job search is NOT fine, and I won’t tell you it is. I will, however, happily share with you some tools and resources you need now, to help you on your path toward self-reliance. If you take these actions, I will be terribly impressed with you and absolutely delighted to help you in any way I can. So here are my top 10 suggestions:
- Write a great resume full of tangible, specific accomplishments. There are lots of good resources for this, so I won’t go into detail here. But when you ask people for feedback on your resume, don’t ask them “What do you think?” Instead ask them this question “Are my accomplishments clear, concise and tangible? Do you get an immediate sense of what I can do for another employer or should I reword the resume?” Then quietly listen to what they say without defending what you did. Then rewrite your resume and ask someone else the same question – this always takes a few tries, so please be willing to be wrong a few times on your way to getting it right.
- Find yourself online. If recruiters are going to be able to find you, you first have to be visible online. You have to make your online profiles look a lot like that great resume you now have. (After you do this, drop a thank you note to Kelly Dingee for doing so much to pay it forward for the job seeker).
- LinkedIn is non-negotiable. You can no sooner job hunt without LinkedIn as you could job hunt without a resume. Get on there. LinkedIn traffic is through the roof.
- Give to get. Once you are on LinkedIn, get yourself some recommendations, and start by giving some. Already savvy in social media? Then please don’t forget to do some online reputation management.
- Set up a search agent on Indeed and/or SimplyHired, and also track the niche boards specific to your areas of interest. When you find a job you want, you can apply directly right away, but first you should look in your networks (see item 1 -3) to see if you can get yourself referred instead of going into the resume black hole.
- Make a list, check it twice. If you don’t have any connections to get in to a company, but you really like what you see about them, write it down. Later when you are networking face to face with friends over coffee, bring out your list of target employers. Make it a practice to ask for help in this way. “I’m looking for X type of job at Y type of company, do you know anyone at any of these firms?” People love to do this for you, it’s fast, it’s easy to say “yes” or “no” and an employee referral is always preferable to simply answering an ad.
- Job search while you sleep. Learn how to set up an RSS feed from multiple job boards. Trust me, this is not that difficult to do (see Google Reader) and it is well worth the trouble – you can track job openings from multiple boards in a fraction of the time, and you can be among the first to apply – a critical advantage.
- Now that you have your Google Reader set up, start reading the blogs for your industry. Keep current, find who the thought leaders are, track them on Twitter. Yes this is a lot of work. Much of it may appear to be unproductive, and certainly unfamiliar. But remember, learning how to use social media is a useful skill, so don’t shortchange it. Engage, contribute, share your opinions, get yourself known to influential people in your area of expertise. Doing this will help you now, it will help you in your next job, it will help you in your next search.
- Check out JobAngels on Twitter. Yeah, I know Twitter might make you uncomfortable, or even seem like a waste of time, but it’s time to get in the game. Twitter is considered one of the Must-Use Social Media Tools for 2009, so take advantage of this golden opportunity to come up to speed.
- Help someone else. Volunteer. Find a way to share the resources you have found with others - practice your newfound social media skills. You can start right now by leaving a comment right here on this blog with your best tips and resources for future readers. Pay it forward.