This post started festering in my brain when I realized college graduations were on the horizon. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed talking and working with people in their early 20s who are trying to enter the workforce and preparing for a bunch of job interviews. It’s an exciting time, and every decision feels so monumental at the beginning of a person’s career.
However, as I thought more about the topic, I was reminded that interviewing and applying for jobs isn’t specific to college graduates. People job hunt and career hop through their 30s and even into their 40s these days. Whether you’re fresh out of university or you’re moving on from a decades-long career, searching for work is exciting, stressful, and everything in between.
No matter how old you are or what it is you want to do, I firmly believe your dream job is out there, waiting to be found. Now, finding that perfect position takes a lot of effort, and at times your search will feel like pushing sand into the ocean. If you have the determination to keep at it and fight through the discouragement, I’m confident there’s a happy career waiting for you on the other side.
Where do you start and when do you take action? These questions depend on your ideal profession, background and training. The best way to get hired is always to show why you are uniquely qualified to fill an open position, and there’s no standard formula for displaying uniqueness (duh). Nevertheless, there are some general ways you can go about creating opportunities and setting yourself up for success.
Ready to find the job of your dreams? Let’s start at the beginning.
Finding job posting sites takes approximately zero time or effort. While it’s an admirable mission, there are way too many companies trying to connect employers with applicants, and the usefulness of these services got diluted a long time ago.
That’s not to say you should stay away from job boards. In some cases, your dream company won’t post hiring notices anywhere else. Continue checking the obvious and popular listings, but also make sure you take more proactive measures in sniffing out a new job. Some tactics you can try:
● Follow a company you like on social media
● Visit the physical office or storefront
● Connect with customer support
I’m willing to bet the majority of your friends who found jobs that make them happy put in a little effort to earn those positions. For those of you who are about to complete your graduate studies, that might be the effort that gets you hired. For anyone trying to switch careers midstream, you might need to figure out another kind of proactivity.
I’ve got half a mind to put the word “proactivity” in size 72 font, italics and bold. Every employer wants workers who take initiative and get things done. Even if your job is to be on call and only speak when spoken to, you should still be able to infer certain things and take charge when necessary. When you start looking for a job, doing so proactively immediately improves your chances of getting noticed by a hiring manager. And that’s in addition to improving your chances of actually finding a job you can apply for.
When you take this initiative in your job search, you create your own opportunities. Let’s look at the social media example. Following a big company on Twitter or Instagram is a very passive effort, but it’s a step in the right direction. It opens the door to see job postings before they end up on Indeed or Monster, and it can also inform you as to the future plans for a company, and what jobs might result from upcoming changes.
Pretend you’re the employer for a second. You need to hire a new digital marketing associate and you currently have no leads. One option is to post on a job board that gets a tremendous amount of traffic from all sorts of people. The other option is to present the opportunity to those already connected via one of the many social media apps. Existing followers already know what your company does and seem to have some interest, so why not start there?
If you want to work for a specific company, the least you can do is connect with them on all the available platforms. After that, you have a few other ways to get first crack at any open positions. If it makes sense to you, stop by and say hello. If you want to work at a certain restaurant, a school, a music store or a doctor’s office, go ahead and pop on in. Maybe they aren’t hiring and you drop a resume that gets tossed out or filed away; maybe they are hiring but it’s for a position you aren’t qualified for; maybe, just maybe, the timing is perfect and you start your dream job within a few weeks.
We live in an age where the first step for anything starts on the internet. That’s not an inherently bad thing, but it creates an environment where everyone gets boxed into uniform, digital profiles. It’s hard to set yourself apart when you’re just another email in an inbox or just another response to a Craigslist posting. Employers want to hire the best people, and showing your face can go a long way in distancing yourself from all the other digital applicants.
To be in the running for a good job, you have to do more than click submit and hope for the best. You have to put yourself out there, go the extra mile and inspire the best to come to you.
Found your dream job: check. They’re hiring: check. Submit resume and cover letter: MASSIVE PANIC ATTACK.
I’ve certainly been there. Searching for a job takes time and resolve, but you don’t really have to put yourself out there until it’s application time. Once you start crafting your resume and thinking about how to pitch yourself as a future employee, tons of insecurities and a strong dose of imposter syndrome take hold, making you feel like there’s no chance you could be so lucky as to land this job. Fortunately, most people experience these feelings. Unfortunately, you have to get past the self-doubt if you want to become the employer’s top choice.
You have to approach a job interview with a good deal of confidence. If it seems like you doubt yourself, why should an employer place their trust in you? Of course, appearing confident when you’re wrought with nerves isn’t easy. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to overcome your insecurities and present yourself in the best way. And since this personal presentation starts with a resume, that’s the first place to display your can-do attitude.
Career prep courses lay out all kinds of rules regarding resume structuring and writing. You’ll hear all sorts of reasons for these guidelines, but I think most of them come back to having a self-assured presentation. When you write proficiently and illustrate your accomplishments proudly, you come across as a person who can get the job done.
Without putting on a full resume seminar, let me throw out a few tips I find really useful.
When you have phrases like “I was in charge of numerous projects” or “I am a diligent worker,” things get too wordy and the sentences carry less weight. Stop wasting time with pronouns and get to the point. “Diligent worker who takes charge and gets things done.” Faster, stronger, better.
This ties into the issue above. Whenever you say “I,” you almost always have to follow with a state-of-being verb, like am or was. We get used to these verbs in everyday writing, but employing active verbs makes a big difference when it comes to showing your professional capabilities.
No: Was responsible for coordinating multiple schedules for high-volume firm.
Yes: Coordinated multiple schedules for attorneys in fast-paced, high-volume firm.
Skip those unnecessary verbs, get to the meat of it, and then you might be able to use a few extra impressive adjectives. And, to the best of your ability, vary the verbs you use in the work experience section of your resume. If you write “coordinated” over and over again, it’ll stop feeling like an active verb.
If your resume spills onto a second page, it doesn’t suggest you have too much relevant experience for just one sheet of paper. Instead, it makes the reader think you’re using extra words to compensate for missing training. Who appears more confident: the person who gets a point across succinctly or the person who rambles on and on?
I think it’s great if you recertify in CPR every year. However, if I’m looking for a marketing director and I see that on your resume, I might wonder if you meant to apply for a different type of job that requires CPR training. As valuable as some accomplishments seem to you, they might not make sense when included on your resume.
If you want more guidance for creating a strong resume, search online and find one of the many companies that provide this kind of service. As for your cover letter, the same general rules apply. Use active verbs, don’t write too much, cite relevant experience and make sure you check out the company website to get a feel for the language they use. The cover letter is a great place to show you understand the style and culture of a company and will make a good fit there.
If all goes well with the presentation of your confident-sounding resume, you’re on to the next step - the interview where you and 50,000 other people vie for a single job.
That’s a gross exaggeration, but it often feels that way when you realize there’s still plenty of competition at the interview phase. As discouraging as this may feel, you have to stay positive. It’s astounding how many people lose job opportunities because seeing a bunch of other applicants makes them feel defeated. Confidence, remember? Whether you’re fresh out of college and the youngest in the room or your kids are in college and you’re the oldest in the room, you deserve to be there.
When you sit down for an interview, you have to bring more to the table than what’s on your resume. Essentially, your resume has already done it’s work by getting you in for an interview. At this point, you can lean on your work experience a little bit, but your main objective should be to show some personality and broader appeal. No matter how nervous you feel, you have to try and present the best version of yourself. Some people sit through interviews so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they choose to say virtually nothing at all. That’s no way to introduce yourself to a potential employer.
Be interested, tell stories, listen and ask questions; have a conversation and discuss common interests; tell a joke and have a sense of humor about the situation. A lot of potential hirees go into interviews worried they won’t know enough, or they’ll give a wrong answer to a question. While you need to show you have the right training and a certain amount of knowledge, most employers expect applicants to be on a learning curve. The interview serves more as a way to find someone they think will be a good fit and help move the company forward.
If nothing else, try to relax before the meeting. If you didn’t lie on your resume - please, please don’t ever lie on your resume - then the hard work is already done. You just need to show up and talk about all your excellent qualities.
I don’t like typing this, and I wish it weren’t true, but… you might not get the job. It’s a frustrating, unfair reality. But you know what? Sometimes not getting the job is the best thing that can happen.
Naturally, getting rejected by an employer won’t feel like the best thing that can happen. If it does end up being a good thing, you probably won’t know that for a while. But if you learn from the process, gain a little bit of confidence, and commit to pressing on and finding your next dream opportunity, you’ll almost certainly be better for it.
Even before an interview goes south, you have to show lots of resolve and determination in your job search. You might not have the chance to interview for months before finally getting a call; it might be months before you even find a job worth applying for. It doesn’t matter if you have the savviest job searching skills and the most immaculately formatted resume – you probably won’t be successful 100 percent of the time.
In my opinion, surviving those failures can lead to the greatest successes. It wasn’t until I dealt with a bunch of financial struggles that I learned how money worked and got on the right track. You’ll appreciate a good job more if you’ve knocked over a few hurdles on your way to getting that position. When times are tough and it seems like no one will hire you, you have to keep the faith that better days are ahead.
Above all, learn from these trials and failures. Rework your cover letter, fix your resume, and make sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. After you send in an application, keep on searching for other opportunities. You’ll be a more confident applicant if you don’t feel like each interview is your only chance for employment. The more applications you send, the better your odds. Just like a stock portfolio, your job search will be more successful if it’s diversified.
No matter your age or industry, hard work and the right approach can deliver the career you’ve always wanted. It might not happen right away, but good things are worth waiting for, right? When things finally start to break your way, you’ll look back on the effort you made and feel very proud.
Whether you’re thinking about switching things up or trying to find your first job, start taking concrete steps to push yourself closer to a goal. Think of how you can present yourself as a confident applicant and what type of work you’re most qualified to do. Using your past experience, your career aspirations, and the traits that make you uniquely you, you can find the best path forward.
It’s never too late to find the job of your dreams, and it’s never too early to start looking.