9 Things I Wish I Had Known at the Beginning of My Job Search

26 Apr

After months of job searching, below are some very valuable lessons that I wish I had known from the beginning of my search:

1)Things have changed A LOT

If you haven’t really looked for a job in many years, be prepared for a whole new world. I hadn’t done an extensive job search since 2004, when I finished grad school, and I wasn’t prepared for how things had changed. You can no longer just send a resume and cover letter. In many cases, you’ll have to spend hours completing an application in the employer’s online system which often involves repeating things that are on your resume. And, you should be prepared for new types of tests, screening interviews, group interviews, and other new things. I had one employer who invited me to a “speed interview” which was to be an in-person 10 minute interview with managers. If you can afford it, you may want to consider a job coach to help you navigate this new world of job searching.

2) You’ve Got to Sell Yourself

Gone are the days when just being a smart and well-educated candidate is enough. The competition for every job is fierce and you’ve got to sell yourself to your potential employer. It’s not just about what you have done in the past, but how you can help them in the future.

3) Don’t Waste Your Time on Jobs You Don’t Really Want

When you are unemployed for an extended period of the time, the tendency is to want to apply for all types of jobs to increase your odds of getting one. You may apply for things that are remotely close to what your experience is even if you think you would hate the job. The moment of applying for these types of jobs come on the “panic days”. Don’t give in to the fear. You would be better served by spending more time pursuing the positions or companies that you are really interested in.

4) Start a Side-Hustle Immediately

I remember early on in my job search talking to a friend about how much I would love to start a blog and do some freelance writing, but that I couldn’t really afford to not have a full-time job. The irony of this is after months of (unsuccessfully) looking for a job, I started a blog, and I started doing freelance writing. I wish that I had started these things from the beginning. If you are unemployed or underemployed, start your own side business right away. There is something really empowering about being able to make money with your own business, regardless of the amount, and who knows where it will lead you.

5) It’s Not You, but it Might be Your Resume

If you haven’t landed a job yet, it has nothing to do with your skills, abilities, and what you can bring to an employer. There simply aren’t enough “good” jobs right now and it’s possible that some employers are discriminating against the unemployed, especially the long-term unemployed. Unfortunately, if you are in that camp, you are going to have to work even harder to get a job. I can think of many things I would rather be doing than updating resumes, and writing cover letters, but unfortunately its part of the process. The better you are at it, the more chances of success in your job search. Ask several people to review your resume and give you feedback. Seek out friends, and contacts who do a lot of hiring or are in HR, for feedback on your resume. And, as cumbersome as the process is, you absolutely need to revise your resume for each position that you apply for. The prospective employer should be able scan your resume and see that you are the perfect fit for the position. Use the employer’s language and tailor each resume to the job description.

6) Connect with the Hiring Manager

It isn’t enough to have an outstanding resume and cover letter, you’ve got to also make a connection with the hiring manager. Thanks to a loyal blog reader (you know who you are), I have learned how to find and contact the hiring manager for a position even when it isn’t listed on the job posting.  This step is crucial in your job search as you are ensuring that your application will make it past HR, and you are establishing a personal connection with the hiring manager.

7) Networking Can Be Fun

I admit that I am not a professional networker, and the thought of networking always felt a little bit like pulling teeth to me. When I think of the word networking, I think of standing around in a room full of strangers trying to make small talk, while each person is trying to sell themselves.  But, in reality networking is a lot more broad that just networking events. I love doing informational interviews, meeting new people, and learning about their career paths. This type of networking gives you great insight not only into the careers of others, but also into your career aspirations. Pay attention to which meetings get you excited and energized, and which meetings leaving you thinking that would rather do anything but that job.

8) Your Contacts Go Beyond Your Professional Circles

When I started job searching, I connected with former co-workers, old bosses, and other professional contacts. But, I really didn’t realize that my friends would also be very valuable in my job search process, not only for their emotional support, but also in making connections. Friends have connected me to hiring managers on more than one occasion to give me a better shot at getting an interview and landing a job.

9) You’ll Be Stronger Because of This Time

I honestly had no idea how difficult the job search process would be. I really thought I would find something quickly, and I had not idea how emotionally difficult the process would be. You’ll have days of panic, but these days will be followed by peaceful days. It is an emotional rollercoaster, but you’ll be wiser and stronger for having gone through this time. The moments of peace, even when your circumstances haven’t changed, are priceless.

What have you learned during your job search? What tips would you give to others who may just be starting this process?

photo credit: Adam Foster | Codefor via photopin cc

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17 Responses to “9 Things I Wish I Had Known at the Beginning of My Job Search”

  1. Kelly April 26, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    Nice summary, Lisa! You’ve covered most of the main things a job seeker should know.

  2. Vishnu April 26, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Thanks for sharing this post. As you can imagine, I have a lot of thoughts on this awesome list 🙂

    I think #2 is most important and #6 is key in the job hunting process. You do have to sell yourself and not just like a product of the shelf. You’ve got to the product that hiring manager is looking for! Your unique skill sets, experience and background should be aligned with the needs and pain points of the employer. Once you position yourself to meet their needs, the job is essentially yours.

    And 6 – yes, you’ve got to know the hiring manager. Even if you don’t know them, get to know them because they are usually the MOST important person in the hiring process. Getting to know them may include calling them, networking with them or finding someone who knows them to put you in touch with them.

    You’ve covered all the most important points here – you’re going to have change the theme of your blog soon with all these insights: ‘how to get (employed) and then survive employment’ 🙂

    • Lisa M. April 28, 2013 at 8:14 am #

      Thank Vishnu! Yes, let’s hope that I will need to change the theme of the blog soon! With the expert advice that I have received, it should speed up the process!

  3. Jane Forry April 26, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Lisa, your points are right on target! I have also found it of great value to regularly meet with those in the same ‘search’ mode as I to share ideas, networks and opportunities. I find great satisfaction in helping and supporting others, and I keep a positive attitude, as hard as it is some days! Thank you for your blog. I find myself saying, “Yes!” to all your points!

    • Lisa M. April 28, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Hi Jane,

      Thanks for your comments and your tips. Do you belong to any job search groups?

      • Jane Forry April 28, 2013 at 11:50 am #

        Hello Lisa,
        Yes, I do, the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group. It was formed by two career coach experts who wanted to share their expertise on a broader basis. Each month there is a expert speaker in an area that the members suggest. We network, trying to help each other in various ways, not just career leads. It has been a great place to seek advice, find a balance and not feel isolated. I’ve met some wonderful new people I would not have met otherwise since we come from a variety of employment areas of expertise.
        Jane

  4. gene mueller April 27, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    Very good one……..I’m proud !

    On Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 8:17 AM, Savvy Career

  5. David Adler April 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    I do agree with many of the points you

    The one point that I really agree with is to contact decision makers directly. I don’t believe that you should send out your resume. I do believe that we need to get that executive on the phone. You need to sell your accomplishments in relationship to the position you are seeking. You are the product and you know yourself better than anyone.

    I started my consulting practice in 1981. I market candidates directly to decision makers.

    If you have any questions I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you.

    Thank you

    David Adler
    619-6newjob

    • Lisa M. April 28, 2013 at 8:16 am #

      David,

      Thanks for your comment and your tips!

  6. mpwilson May 14, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    I’d definitely be interested to hear how you got into doing some freelance writing work.. that’s something I’ve been wanting to do while being unemployed, but haven’t an idea where to start. Any ideas would be great 🙂

    • Lisa M. May 16, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      Thanks for your comment. I actually found a freelance opportunity on inedeed.com. I have also looked at opportunities on Elance.

  7. Matthew Taylor May 16, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Do tell how to find and contact the hiring manager for a position even when it isn’t listed on the job posting.

    While I was looking for work, I desperately wanted to connect with the hiring managers and not just the HR gatekeepers, but these online hiring management systems prevent you from learning anything about the open positions beyond what is in the job description.

    Do you have a way of hacking the system? If so, please share!

    • Lisa M. May 16, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Matthew, thanks for your comment. It is true that often the hiring manager is not mentioned on the job posting. I don’t have any secrets for hacking the system other than trying to research the company online andusing any contacts that you may have at a company to try to find out who the hiring manager is. Somtimes you have do do cold calls to try to find out who the hirking manager is.

      • Matthew Taylor May 16, 2013 at 11:38 am #

        OK, thanks. I’ve actually been told by the HR gatekeeper that they were not allowed to provide me with the name of the hiring manager. Not allowed, as in forbidden.

        As far as contacts at the company, I’ve had close to zero luck with that (mostly because I’m trying to change careers). And fellow alumni? Forget it. They’re all running scared too.

  8. pwross June 3, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    Thanks for stopping by on my site Lisa. I’m LOVING yours, plenty of great reading here, I’ll definitely be recommending it!

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