This post was originally published via LinkedIn, but it reposted here for my folks who visit my WordPress blog.
The job search is one of the most difficult process that we seem to underestimate, yet it could be a much easiest process, if we plan it well in advance. The following are few tips for those in the process of searching for a position that not only pays the bills, but one that we have the passion and love to do and these tips are from someone who is also searching. So, here you go, we are in the same rocky boat floating in an ocean with others furious and competitive job hunters about to encounter potential employers looking for someone like you. As a job searcher, you are an independent business entrepreneur marketing your skills, experiences and values for the next job out there. To the potential employer, you are a customer selling a product (your economic values) to enhance their business plan to increase their human capital. So, be positive, assertive, energetic, organize, on time with communications, respectful, and most of all professional.
At some point, we all search for job and with the right mental attitude and positive mindset, we will eventually land that job, which could make a difference in our lives and that of our families, the new organization we see ourselves working at, people with whom we will be working with and communities or clients we will be serving.
So, if these tips speak into your heart as you continue to search for that one meaningful job, that not only pays the bills, but makes you happy, remember that you are special and you have no photocopy out there. So, don’t give up, remain positive, work harder, take a break from the job search process, refresh on something you like (swimming, running, biking, etc), talk with others and share ideas, and it might surprise you how much you could improve your prospect of landing that awesome job. I hope you enjoy this piece because it is from the heart.
1. Re-exam why you need a job and where do you want to be in the next 5-10 years.
Most of us sometime makes this mistake. If asked why do you need a job, well the straight answer to that question would be to be able to make money and support my family. That is true and there is nothing else that needs to be said about that because that is the simplest answer. However, is having a job much more than making money? Yes. If life was a straight path (like what learned in a geometry class), we would all be working at the jobs of our dreams and that would be an ideal world, which is rarely possible. However, it isn’t always the case. Re-examing your options in your next job search is crucial to landing that job you always dreamed for and one that you feel satisfy. This also involves examining the organizations posting a position that interests you before applying. From what you read out there, is that where you would like to work? Even though the information posted online may not always portray the day-to-day working environment, at almost all cases, those information depict a general picture of the organization posting the job that you are interested in and could assist you make the right career choice.
Once the information posted, which include general information of the organization, vision/mission/values and the job descriptions are aligned with your goals, where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years at such organization? This could be a little hard to mentally conceptualize, but drafting a simple plan could assist you define your objectives and facilitate the process to make the right choice for your next job.
2. Remember, others are searching, so be patient
Remember that you are not alone out there searching for a job. I experienced this first hand few years back when I applied for a position in 2012 at a nonprofit organization within the Boston area. I was selected for an in-person interview by the Director of the nonprofit and during the interview, he asked me what was going on at Clark University? I asked him what do you mean if you could be a little specific and there he said, “well, many of our applicants for this position are from Clark University.” I told him well, it seems like Clark University knew what employers wanted out there and prepared their graduate students for the job market so that they could be employed once they complete their studies and I am fortunate to be one of those applicants. That question opened up a mutual discussion for the position with the Director of that nonprofit and one of his colleagues. Even though I did not make it to the next level of the hiring process, I learned one lesson from that experience, that you are not alone searching for a job because someone you know in your program at university, a neighbor, a friend, etc could be equally searching for a job and viola could have also applied for the position you found on Idealist. So, be patient and market yourself well with respect, dignity and with a positive mindset.
3. Developed a job tracking system before you attempt to search for a job
Initially, I would create a folder on my desktop/laptop with various sub-folders entitle cover letters, job postings, resumes, cv, reference lists, salary history, etc to be able to track submitted applications and cover letters for positions applied to. However, this approach is less effective because you are not able to visualize and track submitted applications based on dates of submittals, applications deadlines, application status to assist you easily facilitate follow-ups and prevent you from just relying on email notifications of your job status or browsing through tons of emails for an application you submitted 2-4 weeks ago to determine if the deadline has expired. This leads me to the next solid point in the job search process that I was hinted to consider by a friend, which is to create a job tracking system by simply using Microsoft Excel or Access. Excel is much easier to use and flexible than Access. But there are now many platforms that you could use out there. Use whatever you feel easier to use and cost-effective. If you are using Excel, it is crucial that you have an Excel Workbook created and labelled “Job Tracking System” and create individual spreadsheets, which highlights specific tracking aspects of the job search process. The below list are just few suggestions with sub-categories for each column in the spreadsheet:
a). Jobs Applied to Tracking System (Sheet 1) [position, organization, contact person/title, email, phone, fax, mailing address, organization website, how did you hear about the job, application deadline, date applied, date application received, Application Status, salary, Follow-up date, Response, Date Replied, Key word task
b). Interviews Tracking System (Sheet 2) [Position applied to, organization, contact person/title, date of interview, interview mode, Time of Interview, Place of Interview, Date thank you sent, Next Step
c). Professional Networking Tracking System (Sheet 3) [Acquaintance name/title, company name, phone number, email, mailing address, date contacted, comments, lead name/title, company, phone number, email, address, comments
d). Career website Tracking System (Sheet 4) [Website visited, date visited, username/ID, password, Resume posted (Y/N), date resume posted, position applied to, date applied, cover letter posted (Y/N), date cover letter posted,
It is essential that you keep track of your job search because it keeps you organize and up to speed where you have submitted your credentials for your next job. Besides, it is mentally a good practice because when you eventually get a job, these organizational skills could benefit you well and demonstrate your professional ability to document, track and manage important project related documents especially when your job has to do with communicating with multiple stakeholders with diverse interests, expectations, deadlines and resources.
4. Don’t give in to jobs that require that you don’t need any specific skill to perform expected outcomes and deliverables
First and foremost, there are lots of employers out there that would attempt to convince you because they might think you are desperately in need of a job by offering you some ridiculously nonsensical offers that a potential position is available at their company that doesn’t requires specific specialize skills. So, the fact that the job doesn’t requires specific skills to perform the anticipated deliverables and outcomes means the hiring managers and or organizations don’t even know what they need and they are just casting their nests out there to capture floating souls.
I am sure there is a reason for your job search and with a little more patience, could land a job that you will be happy to use your skills and experiences and even learn from others. So, don’t waste your time on those useless offers because those offering don’t even know what they want from individuals they are seeking to employ. It is better to know what is expected of my potential, if hired for a job, than going to the job without knowing what is expected of me.
5. Professionally network with friends, colleagues with whom you went to school with, former organizations, and participate in professional events
Professional networking is a crucial recipe for quick recommendations for a potential position or career opportunity. Half the job search battle is won, if you network appropriately and professionally with those you knew at school, worked with in the past or met at professional events. This is why keeping a “professional networking tracking system” is essential because you keep in touch with people you knew in the past. Jobs are occupy by people and people make connections, your next job could be a result of those you networked with in the past, networking with now and may network with in the future through professional associations and connections. Always build a professional network and sustain it.
6. Create a paperless professional portfolio
In this digital world, paperless professional portfolios seem to be widespread. However, it is very important that you are VERY careful of what you post because I can’t tell you how many “Mr./Ms.Mrs. Anonymous” on LinkedIn or other professional and social media would be checking out your pages for any information and some of those searches could be conducted by the lenses of recruiters, hiring managers and your current employers. So, build your professional portfolio such that you are presented professionally at all times.
7. Brand yourself
Branding yourself is important because it depicts that you are a professional, which could tell potential employers a story about what you are able and capable of doing with your skills, if offer a position that would require using them. Branding yourself could be as simple as formatting your resume, CV, cover and thank you letters in a way that it distinguishes yours from other potential candidates. It could be just adding few formatting features in Microsoft Office or other platforms to your resume, CV, cover letters, etc; such that, they look professional when open via email for the first time or during those 5 seconds deciding moments when yours get to be considered.
I hope these tips were helpful. Good luck and Happy New Year as we approach these last few days of 2014.