Beginning Your Job Search
Before you go swimming, it’s important to know what you’re jumping into. So while you’re tackling your job search, it’s good to look at the data first. Know who you’re up against. Take some time before that big interview to study the stats, learn the ropes of your industry, and understand its past, present and how you can improve its future.
It is inevitable that at some point in your job search you will be asked for references, and when you are, you’ll want to be sure you have a great group of advocates who are prepared with answers that will help rather than hinder your chances at landing the position. References are something you should think about at the beginning of your interview process and not just at the end when you are under immediate pressure to provide them.
Start by making a list of all the possible people you can use as a reference. Be sure to think about:
- Former employers
- Former Clients
- College professors
- Family friends who have seen you in a professional setting
- Association leaders
It is fine if a reference no longer works for the company where you were employed together or if they live in another city. It is more important that the individuals you choose know you well enough, have experience working with you, and are willing to vouch for you. In short, you are looking for anyone who can communicate your experience, skills, integrity, professionalism, and can-do attitude to any potential employer.
Once you have a list of approximately five potential references you need to:
1. Ask them for permission. Be sure to keep thorough notes of when you contacted them and what their response was.
2. Ask for their preferred means of contact whether it is by personal or office phone, or if they would rather be contacted via e-mail.
3. Discuss the following likely questions with your potential references, so that you know what they are going to say and there are no surprises. You can tell them what points you are aiming to reinforce with the employers who might contact them and more than likely they will happy for the input.
- What was your relationship with the candidate?
- What responsibilities did she perform in her position with the company?
- Why did she leave that position?
- What are her strengths?
- What are her weaknesses?
- What was her approximate salary?
- Would you hire or work with this person again?
It is also a good practice to keep a folder of references and commendations for a job well done that you augment throughout your career. Get into the habit of asking for a letter of reference from someone who you have worked with who might be moving on and ask that person if they would be willing to serve as a verbal reference as well. This is certainly something to keep in mind if you are or have worked as an intern where the big payoff is more likely to be in experience gained and contacts made than money earned.
Step 1: Clean Up Your Digital Dirt!
Do you or your kids have digital dirt? Digital dirt is the information about you – your hobbies, your photos, your rants and raves – that’s available on the Internet through personal Web sites, profiles on popular social networking sites, and comments on blogs. What you – and certainly your teenagers – might not realize is that employers are reading what’s out there and in many cases it can derail your job prospects even before you’re called for an interview.
This all started with Google. The popular search engine enabled all of us to become “private eyes” who can look up anyone and anything on the Internet with the simple click of a mouse. This is a great tool for jobseekers. They can Google an interviewer to learn something about that person in hopes of using it to establish a rapport in the hiring process.
But there’s a flip side: those same employers are checking out prospective hires. With basic online searches, they’re finding risqué photos posted on personal websites and social networks, for instance. They’re reading brags about excessive drinking and promiscuity. And there’s plenty more.
Pay attention, parents.
With the high costs of recruiting, training and retaining top talent – from entry level to senior executives – employers must be cautious about who they’re hiring. As a recruiter, if I’m considering two college seniors for the same position and I come across an online profile for one of them that brags about rowdy parties and drunken escapades, I might think twice about that person – and I will likely lean more toward the candidate who has a clean online profile – or none at all.
Clean up online profiles.
Why would anyone want the contents of a silly social site to be held against them in the job search process? The safest, smartest option is to clean up online profiles. Instead of ordering your teens to remove their profiles, which won’t likely go over too well with them, you can encourage them to have fun expressing themselves – within reason. Nobody has to lose all of their personality and creativity, but you should suggest that they remove questionable material so they don’t jeopardize potential employment opportunities.
Several college career service offices have begun aggressively warning students that their online stuff is being monitored by recruiters. In a competitive job market, students need all of the ammunition they can get. And a head’s up on this growing trend has enabled many students to clean up their profiles
(Incidentally, many college admissions offices are now reviewing online profiles of high school seniors when determining their eligibility for admittance. Ask your son or daughter if he or she would want to miss out on the college of their dreams because they’re boasting about skipping class and underage drinking.)
Prepare a response.
Some teens and twenty-somethings are hesitant to sanitize their online profiles. Many I spoke with say, “No employer owns me 24/7 – I’m entitled to have a social life. Just because I like to party, doesn’t mean I’m a lousy worker.” For those people who refuse to budge on the racy photos or salacious contents of their profiles, my best advice is to prepare to address profile contents if asked.
An interviewer might say, “So I saw your MySpace profile and you certainly like to have fun, don’t you?” Instead of saying, “Hey – that’s none of your beeswax,” you’ll want to take a less defensive approach. “Yes, I enjoy being with my friends. I’m also a great student and I’ve worked very hard to maintain a strong grade point average. I believe that it’s ok to relax and have fun too. That’s never affected my performance on the job, nor will it.”
But again, keep in mind that you might not have the chance to defend yourself because someone might nix you from the running without even asking you to explain the online profile.
Implement safety controls.
Many of the popular social networking sites allow users to post comments about fellow members. This means that friends and strangers can comment on you, your photos and other content. To avoid having such comments work against you – especially if they’re off color – activate the features that block such comments. You can also manually delete anything you find objectionable.
A senior executive at a top company shared with me a recent example of how such comments spiraled out of control for one new employee. She had photos of herself in a bikini during spring break posted on her online profile. What she didn’t realize-because she didn’t check her profile frequently was that visitors to her Web page had posted the equivalent of lewd cat-calls. That proved to be embarrassing to this young woman among her new co-workers. She could have prevented this by implementing comment blocks or by frequenting her profile and deleting such comments.
Not limited to the college crowd. All of us – regardless of age or position – are subject to online searches by current and prospective employers. Many companies have ruled out candidates – and even rescinded offers – because of what they found online. Digital dirt includes: misstated academic qualifications, radical political views, objectionable jokes posted on personal web pages, and even negative comments about former employers submitted to blogs.
Do some “narcisurfing!” It’s a term that’s cropping up relating to Internet searches that we conduct about ourselves. Not only can you Google yourself, but you should go to dogpile.com too since it retrieves information from multiple search engines and gives different results than Google or Yahoo will.
If you have an online profile on any of the social networks, carefully review its contents to see if there’s anything that would make an employer wince. If there’s information on your personal webpage that you wouldn’t want your current or future boss to see, then change it. If the objectionable information about you is on another site, you can contact the webmaster about having it changed or removed. And if that’s not possible, you’ll have to be ready to explain it if asked.
Step 2: Create a Professional Online Identity
If you’re an employee or entrepreneur looking for a job, a promotion, new clients or better business opportunities, there are several smart ways to create and enhance your digital identity. Take a few minutes to use technology to your advantage in the workplace.
Set up electronic profiles
Everyone should Google their name to see what comes up…hopefully good stuff. But many people find that nothing came up when they searched for themselves. In this Internet age, it’s smart to have an online presence and there are easy – and safe – ways to do it.
One of the best sites is LinkedIn with more than 16 million users in the U.S. You can create a free professional profile where you control the content. Then your name and a link to your profile are indexed on the search engines like Google, Yahoo and others. So when someone Googles your name, this profile will appear in the search results. This is an ideal way to showcase your skills and expertise. Recruiters are now using professional networking sites like LinkedIn to look for new talent. And because it’s known as a professional networking tool – unlike online job boards – you don’t have to worry that your boss will assume you’re job searching if or when they find your profile there.
Three tips for maximizing your success with LinkedIn:
1. Select “Full View” of your “Public Profile”
By selecting “Full View,” you will enable more information to be shown from your profile even when a Web user is not logged in to LinkedIn. The more content you display, the more likely your profile will show up in the search results on sites like Google or Yahoo. This is a great way to control what people can learn about you if they Google you. (Don’t worry: personal data, such as your contact information, is never made public by LinkedIn.)
2. Claim a “Vanity URL” using your name
When you create a free profile on LinkedIn, you can opt for a customized uniform resource locator (URL) using your full name instead of using the default URL assigned to you. For example, Tory Johnson’s LinkedIn public profile URL is www.linkedin.com/in/toryjohnson .
3. Invite friends and/or desired professional contacts to link to you
The power of LinkedIn rests with the ability to use your connections to connect with other people. Think of the business world as having “six degrees of separation.” In other words, the people you really want to reach are just six steps away. When you invite people to be one of your LinkedIn connections, you then have access to their connections and so on. This helps people find you, and of course it helps you find someone at the company of your choice or in your field of interest.
Other resources You can also create a free profile at ZoomInfo.com , as well as look for people and companies of interest to you. Professional women and entrepreneurs can create free profiles on the Women For Hire Network at network.womenforhire.com . This is a source used by employers to find new hires and for women to help other members to make introductions to the business associates and decision makers they’re trying to reach.
Definitely get your professional profile on networking sites like Twitter.com and Facebook.com. Twitter allows you to keep your network of contacts updated on what you’re doing right now. Facebook helps you connect and share specifics about yourself with the people in your life. Used professionally, these tools keep track of your skill development and career advancement as they occur. Remember to keep your profile clean and respectable, and only link to friends and family who do the same.
Subscribe to Google alerts
Since being an expert in your chosen industry is important for anyone who wants to advance, it takes only a minute or two to set up Google Alerts . You can indicate the desired key words – perhaps specific companies you’re interested in working for or an industry or particular trend you want to keep abreast of – and Google will send you links to news articles and relevant items as they’re posted throughout the Internet.
You can choose to receive them as they happen or once a day. It’s fast and free – and it’s a fabulous way to stay up to the minute on news as it happens in your field. And then you’ll showcase that new found knowledge to your peers or managers.
For example, if you’re eager to know everything that’s happening on Good Morning America, you’ll want to set up an alert about the program. You could also sign up for alerts about ABC News so you’re up on what’s happening within the whole news division. Google alerts will send that information right to your Inbox.
Create a blog
Creating a blog sounds intimidating because we think it requires extensive technical expertise or a commitment to typing away all day, every day. Neither of these impressions are true. Blogging is a fresh way to get noticed – and to put the knowledge gained through those Google alerts to good use.
Technology companies have been scouring blogs to find new talent for a while, but now recruiters in other industries – retail, hospitality, sales, marketing, advertising and so many more – are checking out blogs to find talented people who are passionate about their skills and knowledge.
Among the popular sites to set up your own blog include Blogger.com, Vox.com, WordPress.com and LiveJournal.com . (Check each site before settling on one so you’re comfortable with the format and requirements.) Follow the easy-to-use instructions on how to create a blog on the topic of your professional expertise and then decide on your content. You can offer your opinion and expertise on current hot button issues in your field or you could go the opposite route and use the blog to dissect obscure aspects of your field. Link to articles and other blogs of interest, and then ask those bloggers and writers to link back to your stuff too.
Your resume is the document that states what you claim to know, and a blog is an in-depth forum showcasing or proving what you know.
Just like company websites have an “About Us” section, you should create an “About Me” section, including details on your education, work experience and skills and interests.
Be sure to use “public” not “private” forums so your content is searchable and accessible by everyone, not just those you designate. This enables recruiters and hiring managers to find you.
Submit your blog at no charge on Technorati.com , which is a search engine of thousands of blogs searchable by category. Be proactive about promoting your blog by sending links to your musings and work to people in your field who would likely be interested.
Above all, pay particular attention to your writing skills. Even if your thoughts are great but the spelling and grammar leave a lot to be desired, you’re not delivering the right impression.
Post expert opinions
Get your name and your knowledge out there by posting reviews to books on Amazon.com or other similar sites related to your expertise. You can also post comments on industry blogs and message boards that showcase your knowledge. All of this content becomes accessible by other people who are interested in the same topics. And they’re becoming a primary source for recruiters.
In this section:
- Confidence is Key
- Speak with Affirmation
- Get Energized
- Be Your Best Supporter
- The Search: Guidelines to Get Started
Confidence is Key
Positive thinking can be harder than it seems. Most of us let “reality” squash our career dreams before they’ve even had a chance to develop. You think of how nice it would be to go for your master’s degree, but before you can even envision yourself in a cap and gown, you come up with a million reasons why you can’t do it. Maybe you don’t have enough time or money. Or you think you should wait until the kids are grown. Or you can’t afford to cut back on work hours. Instead of listing all the reasons you can’t do something, list all the reasons you can, and should. Maybe this degree will increase earning potential or open up exciting new career options. Maybe it’ll help you to feel better about yourself.
Positive thinking takes practice.
We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but it’s possible to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones by following these simple guidelines:
1) Identify your negative thoughts.
Negative ideas can spring into your mind so fast and so often that you are hardly even aware of them anymore. Consider the last dream or idea you rejected. Maybe you thought about asking for a new assignment at work. Write down all the excuses and problems you came up with to reject the idea. For example, perhaps you didn’t ask for the new assignment because you’d never done anything similar before, didn’t know if you could handle the extra workload, and you weren’t sure if it was already assigned to someone else.
2) Weigh each excuse for validity.
Take each item on the list and think through whether they are really obstacles that could block you from achieving your goals…or just excuses based on fear or procrastination. In the example above, not having enough experience could potentially keep you from getting the assignment. But fears about handling the extra workload or wondering if it has already gone to someone else will not prevent you from getting the assignment. Let’s face it: they are simply excuses not to go for what you want.
3) Think of ways to overcome your obstacles.
So you don’t quite have the experience to take on the project. How can you overcome this? Maybe you are willing to cooperate with a coworker who does have the experience, so you can learn what you will need to know on this project and you can work independently the next time. Or maybe you can take on a smaller project until you build up to the one you want. If your dream assignment has indeed gone to someone else, try to develop a few main reasons why that person had the advantage over you. Perhaps there are areas for you to focus on going forward to improve your chances for the next opening.
4) Reclaim your dreams.
Speak with Affirmation
Take a look at the following negative statements that we often hear from women who are filled with self-doubt. If you’ve ever found yourself making similar claims, make it a priority to banish that negativity from your mind because it can hold you back from success. Review the positive statements as inspiration on how to spin things to your advantage.
Negative: What others think of me is more important than what I think of myself.
Positive: I’m proud of my own values and definition of success, which help guide me in all I do.
Negative: I find myself apologizing, even when I’ve done nothing wrong.
Positive: Instead of constantly saying, “I’m sorry,” I’ll listen and say, “I understand.”
Negative: I never forgive myself for mistakes.
Positive: I acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are part of growing.
Negative: I bend over backwards to please other people rather than myself.
Positive: It’s not up to me to make everyone happy. My happiness is important too.
Negative: I never think I’ve done enough, or done it well enough.
Positive: I’m satisfied knowing that I did my very best. I work hard and deserve credit.
Negative: Deep down, I know I am not as good as other people.
Positive: I’m very good at what I do and I know my own worth.
Negative: I’m afraid people will find out I am a fraud.
Positive: My successes are genuine. If I value them, I know others will value them too.
Focus on what you are good at and give yourself a break on the rest. For example, don’t measure your value based on the fact that you’re not the best at designing PowerPoint presentations. Instead, focus on what you do have to offer the team: top-notch speaking skills and a great sales record.
Surround yourself with positives: positive friends, upbeat music, happy thoughts, and your favorite memories. Don’t let your environment drag you down. Call your best pal and ask her to list her favorite things about you. Call a relative and ask him or her to remind you of how far you’ve come. Put on your favorite soundtrack, start dancing, and feel your energy return.
Nobody’s perfect so stop expecting yourself to be perfect. Forgive yourself for your imperfections. Write down all the little things you have “done wrong” lately, and then put them in perspective. In five years, will they be that big of a deal? Probably not.
Remember that failing is honorable too. As long as you can pick yourself back up and as long as you’ve learned something from the experience, failure is okay. Everyone fails at some point.
Examine your goals. Make sure that what you’re aiming for is what you really want. Maybe your fears are trying to tell you something, that you are going down the wrong path or that you need to look before you leap. Don’t sabotage yourself by pretending you want something you don’t or by ignoring your fears.
It happens to all of us at one time or another. Even the smartest, savviest, hippest women have to job hunt once in a while. We know that looking for a job is hard – most of all on your self-esteem. But don’t let yourself get depressed: there is light at the end of the tunnel.
But seriously, depression can indeed creep up, and it’s crucial to stay energized and focused. Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous line: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Easier said than done? Here’s how to keep your spirits up if the job hunt starts to get you down:
Freaking out over your inability to find a job only causes more stress and headache – two things you really don’t need. It’s important to stay calm and in control of your emotions because a levelheaded jobseeker is more successful than a frantic one.
Rise and shine, baby.
Don’t fall into the trap of sleeping late and lounging around in your pajamas. Wake up early and start your day as if you were reporting in for a full-time job – because job hunting is your job now. Waking up on a regular schedule – even if it is an hour or so later than normal – will keep you motivated and feeling like your time is valuable.
Don’t become a hermit.
Socializing, also known as networking, is a critical piece to your success. Tell everyone you meet that you are in a career transition right now and ask if they have a good connection for you. Remember the old cliché: it’s who you know, not just what you know. Your friends and acquaintances can be the best source of job leads.
Find a partner in crime.
The best way to feel like you’re not alone in your job search is not to go it alone. Go out of your way to find other motivated women who are in the same boat and commit to doing this together. Impromptu brainstorming sessions with this support person or group can lead to new ideas and new opportunities. If you don’t know anyone who’s looking, try attending job search seminars and lectures at local colleges, libraries, and community organizations to find simpatico souls. Just like having a gym buddy, a job-seeking pal helps keep you going.
Do it daily.
It’s important to schedule job-hunting time into your calendar, especially if you are working full time or part time or you tend to procrastinate. We recommend working the job hunt at least three hours a day – whether it’s working on your résumé, making networking calls, scanning online job boards, or meeting potential connections. By giving your job search the same, if not more, importance as any other activity in your routine, you are more likely to accomplish your goals.
Let’s get physical.
Pounding the pavement shouldn’t be the only exercise you get. This is definitely a great time to start or step up your physical exercise regimen. Lifting weights can lift your spirits too. Exercise is a great deterrent to depression. From an hour at the gym to an extra walk for the dog, the message is “keep moving,” because an adrenaline boost can do wonders for the psyche.
Keep it together around your parents, husband, partner, or children.
Concerned family members want to know why you aren’t having much luck in the job market. Parents have spent a pretty penny on your education or they know you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, maybe even both. Perhaps an unfeeling significant other grouses about the piling bills. Their anxiety and pestering can drive you nuts. Instead of screaming at your loved ones, enlist their help. First have a calm conversation in which you explain how difficult this transition is on you, and while you appreciate their concern, it’s also distracting to deal with. Then ask them for contacts and suggestions. You may be surprised at who they and their friends know.
Don’t be ashamed of part-time work.
It’s completely acceptable to take a part-time job while you’re looking for your next big move. Even in an interview you can give part-time work a positive spin. If someone asks what you’re doing, try this response: “Actually I’m working as a waitress right now, which is great because I can’t afford to be without any income and the schedule is quite flexible, so I can focus a lot of time on my job search. And you never know who I might meet!” Part-time work in a job environment that you are interested in might also lead to a full-time position. Don’t be shy about considering any position that will get you back to work, even if it’s not quite at the level or in the industry you want. Not only would that provide some income, it is also good experience to list on a résumé. Plus it can be easier to find a job when you have one because employers want someone who is “in demand” and who has up-to-the-minute experience on their resume.
Don’t focus only on one particular position.
It’s a natural tendency to aim all of your energy in one direction. But in a job search it is a huge mistake to set your heart on one job or even one company. You cannot count on any single opportunity working out, no matter how perfect it seems. If you see a listing screaming your name, it may be filled internally before you even apply. You may have wanted to work for IBM your whole life, but this may be the season they have a hiring freeze. Cast a wide net, and do not let one position consume too much of your search time.
Don’t let one rotten apple spoil the bunch.
A smart, highly educated pharmaceuticals industry executive was looking for a new position with a bigger company. She got in touch with the alumni association of her Master of Business Administration (MBA) program and asked for a contact name from each of the companies she was interested in. So far, so good. But when the job seeker made her first phone call, introducing herself and mentioning her connection with the person on the phone, the MBA colleague rudely rejected her and said, “Just because we went to school together doesn’t mean I have time for you.” The woman was horrified (and rightly so, there’s never a need to be so rude)! She vowed never to make another cold call, deciding only to look for jobs on the Internet and through close friends. This fear of cold calling probably cost her many good opportunities. Rejection is going to happen. It’s an inevitable part of job searching. Rejection from others, particularly other women, can be very upsetting, but you have to get over it and move on. The next phone call could be the winner.
Looking for a job can be a long and arduous process, so it’s important to enjoy small achievements along the way. Set goals and assign an affordable reward for getting things done. How about a manicure for every ten résumés sent? Or a night at the movies for each informational interview? No cheating!
Be Your Best Supporter
No matter what your industry or level of experience, job searching is about sales and the product you are selling is you. During your search you will be asked to sell yourself over and over again. The very mention of the “s” word makes many women’s skin crawl – we cannot help but picture used-car guys and overzealous commission-crazed department store clerks harassing you in the dressing room. Erase these stereotypes and revise your image of what it means to sell because during your job search you will be selling yourself ’til you are blue in the face. You may as well learn to embrace it.
Why is the concept of sales particularly unappealing to women? Perhaps it is because we have been conditioned to act reserved and polite in public. We don’t want to appear to be too pushy, overly aggressive, or money hungry. Many women shy away from careers in sales for these reasons, but remember that sales drive all businesses. You cannot have a company if you can’t sell your product, and you can’t have a job unless you sell yourself.
Selling oneself is both the hardest and the easiest form of sales. It is hard because it feels immodest and self-promoting. But think about the positives: you know the product better than anyone else, you can answer any questions about it, you can adapt it to various situations, and you are in control of its future performance. Also remember that you have sold yourself many times before: from selling maturity and trustworthiness when negotiating curfew with your parents, to selling ambition and aspirations when applying to college, charm and affection when accepting a first date, and skill and passion when going after previous jobs.
How can you get over the negative issues you may associate with selling yourself?
Our best advice is to practice on friends and family. We all know that the cold call – selling to someone you have never met before – is the most challenging form of sales, so start with an easier audience. Next time you meet your best girlfriend for coffee, tell her about your achievements, your ambitions, and your experience. Tell her why you are the best person for the job you want. Sell yourself with words, enthusiasm, and specific facts. Then ask her to critique your sales pitch. Would she hire you on the spot? What aspects of your “product” are most convincing? Least convincing? Professional salespeople make hundreds of sales calls a day – they know their pitches backwards and forwards and this constant repetition makes selling less scary. The more you practice, the better your pitch and the easier selling becomes.
The Search: Guidelines to Get Started
When unemployment is high and the average job search lasts about 6 months, it’s easy to lose momentum. We’ve compiled some tried-and-true tactics to help keep your spirits and motivation up even when looking for work has got you down.
1) Set mini daily goals.
If you wake up every morning saying, “Today I must get that job,” you will go to sleep most nights feeling like a failure. Finding a job takes longer than you’d expect, so pace yourself. Break it down to manageable daily goals such as making five cold calls, setting up a coffee date with a former colleague (it’s much cheaper than lunch), combing through new online postings on 10 different job sites, following up on previous applications, etc.
2) Submit a customized resume.
Never use a one-size-fits-all document; customize it for the position to which you’re applying. Make sure to check for typos and spelling mistakes carefully. Click here for a resume template.
3) Include a professional summary.
Always include two to three sentences at the top of your resume that explain instantly to the reader what you offer and what you seek. Avoid generic or vague phrases such as “looking for a position at a well-known company with room for growth.” Instead, use the space to tout specific goals and accomplishments, and to tout your desire to work in a specific field. For example: “Retail associate with five years of exceptional experience in sales and customer service. Extensive product knowledge in electronics and home furnishings. Seeking management role at specialty retailer.”
4) Drop weak language. Never start your resume bullets with “Responsible for …” Just go right into your key points. For example:
WRONG: Responsible for generating sales and providing customer service.
RIGHT: Generated sales that consistently met quarterly quotas and provided exceptional customer service.
LinkedIn analyzed 26 million online profiles/resumes and found the most “over-abused” phrase: “proven track record.” If it’s in your resume, replace that phrase with action words such as: generated, arranged, improved, saved, created, implemented, led, etc.
5) Don’t rely exclusively on the Internet.
The Internet is a great source for finding leads – various job boards, your local newspaper’s Web site, Craigslist, niche sites, LinkedIn – and everyone knows they have to apply online, but they usually make the mistake of stopping there, which gives a false sense of accomplishment. If you’re telling yourself, “I just sat in front of my computer and fired off resumes to more than 50 openings. Surely someone will respond … surely something will pay off,” then you’re really kidding yourself.
6) Pick up the phone.
Once you apply, don’t wait for them to call you. Take additional steps to minimize the chances of your resume disappearing into the big black hole. People hire people, so invest time in finding an internal referral who’ll help get your resume in the right hands. Use your online social networks, alumni contacts, neighbors and so on. When a job posting says “NO CALLS,” that’s really designed to prevent people from calling up to say, “So, did you get my resume?” Nobody has time to sort through the pile to give you that answer. Instead of making a cold call in this situation, try to find an internal referral: someone you know who has access to the hiring manager. Or, send an email directly to the hiring manager as a follow up measure. If you’re applying to the HR department for a sales position, call the sales manager of the organization to make him or her aware of your interest and qualifications. Or cold call the department you’d be working for and schmooze the person who answers. Instead of asking, “Are you hiring?” you can say, “I know you have an opening for sales associate and I’m exceptionally qualified for that position. I would love the chance to get my resume to the decision maker. Might you be willing to tell me who that is?” If you’re interested in retail work, walk into a store and befriend the other sales associates who can often put your application at the top of the pile for the boss to read before all the others.
7) Don’t say, “Know anyone who’s hiring?”
With many people unemployed or worried about their own positions, that phrase is now met with yawns and rolled eyes as if to say, “Yeah, so what else is new?” Mask your pessimism and frustration – it’s nobody’s business that you’re in debt or can’t pay the mortgage. Those things, believe it or not, don’t lead someone to help more. People usually retrench when they hear pessimism because they worry that it’s contagious. So when you’re leaning on people for help, help them to help you. Have your pitch down: “I’m looking for new opportunities in retail. Do you know anyone who owns or manages a shop?” “I’m actively pursuing a position in technology and I have six employers on my top target list – might you know someone connected to one of these companies?” “I’m interested in joining a small public relations firm and I know their positions are usually filled through word of mouth. I’m looking to make connections in the industry, and I’d welcome your suggested leads and contacts.”
8 Maximize social networks.
Join LinkedIn and Facebook and get connected on groups. In the Women For Hire group on LinkedIn, thousands of members exchange ideas, leads and advice on the job search process daily. There are also thousands of other online groups for you to join where you can connect with people in your industry who are willing to help friends and strangers alike.
9) Get out of the house.
If you don’t step away from that computer and make face-to-face contact with the outside world, you’ll delay your success. Use multiple sources for job leads and introductions: join an association, professional group, or career club in your area – and then get involved.
Attend career fairs and company open houses. Women For Hire, has produced career fairs for ten years and through which thousands of people get hired – not just by the companies that participate, but also through active networking with the other attendees. Career expos work!
Go listen to a lecture at a bookstore by an author who intrigues you and you might meet like-minded people. Volunteer one afternoon a week for an organization that draws an interesting crowd. One woman I heard from started a walking club in her Michigan town where a group of people meet three mornings a week to energize one another as they start their days. That’s networking!
You have to keep your spirits up when the job search gets you down. Have a realistic sense of accomplishment, know that you’re doing all the right things, and don’t be isolated all day, every day.
We spent time over a holiday weekend creating a career vision dish for her desk. It took several hours to find all of the right words and put them all together, but the exercise allowed her to reflect on what she most wanted professionally in the New Year.
No, it’s not going to make her work any easier or solve the challenges any faster. But starting out in the right frame of mind – with a daily reminder of the attitude and values that matter most – is a key to short and long term success.
You’ll see some of her hopes below: from an end to feeling guilty when she occasionally has to leave her family to travel for work – especially since she knows she’s a great mom – to a promise to keep the joys (not the hardships) of work at the top of her mind. Tory hopes you’ll spend time this week to create your own career vision board – and send us a copy to post on WomenForHire.com to serve as a public reminder to you and an inspiration to everyone else.
Will an art project get you hired? No. But will the positive frame of mind each and every day get you one step closer to achieving your goals? Absolutely!
Get started now.
1) Write down 3 career goals, along with the adjectives that describe the attitudes and attributes you value.
2) Select an object to decorate. It should be something you can look at daily. I used a large glass dish. For less than a dollar you can buy a wooden door hanger or box at a craft store. You can also use poster board. The larger the object, the more time you’ll invest in creating the perfect finished product and the more your career vision board will reinforce your objectives for the year thereby helping you achieve your goals.
3) Buy Modge Podge craft glue or use watered-down Elmer’s glue. (Optional: Mix in a small amount of glitter for a fairy dust effect.) Grab a paintbrush too.
4) Cut out words, photos, sentences, quotes, designs and more from magazines, newspapers or other documents that speak to the points you listed in #1 above. You can also print similar stuff from the Internet. There’s no wrong word or wrong source for collecting materials.
5) Start gluing it all together. Since I used a glass dish, I attached the paper to the bottom side, which meant putting glue on the front of each image. If you’re using a box or poster board, you’ll put glue on the bottom of each image. Be patient as you fill in all blanks.
6) Put the finished object in a very prominent place where you’ll see it daily. Ideally it’ll go in a place where you’ll see it for a large chunk of your day such as on your desk or on your kitchen counter – you get the idea.
7) Invest just two minutes a day – come on, even the busiest among us can spare two minutes – holding your project and reflecting on one or two of its messages.
Send us a digital photo of your career vision board. Email it to [email protected] along with your name and we’ll post it on our site for everyone to enjoy.
View these Vision Boards and Get Inspired!
Founder, Wellness Coach
Pathways to Vibrant Health
GRACE Full Self, Inc.
I have achieved:
- The scale on the bottom left
- I have come to love my body
- I believe that ‘what I think, I become’
- I make time to find my inner peace
- ‘Grow, lead, succeed’
- ‘Sweet spirit’
Wanda Bun Bee
“I created my Purpose/Career using Quadrants as in ‘Feng Shui'”
Here is my art project for 2009 based on a water color painting I did some time ago. The theme is “Lucky Guards In”.I picture it in a peaceful place.
-Beauty does not make women, women make beauty.
-I want to be that support that women need to achieve their dreams.
This is one of the many ways that I can make a powerful difference. This reminds me that nothing is even given to me. I, myself, have to pursue, make and intend for my happiness and success to become realities.
Everything will come together by placing my total faith and trust in God.
Together, we can be a force for nature; We share the earth, we share the future. We can help to save our pets.
My mom has always taught me that it doesn’t matter what you do or what you are going through, or what other people are going through, always remember to have compassion for other people. Always keep your head up!
Having faith, my kids and the support from my mother inspires me to want to take control of my life and better myself. I have HOPE!!!
I need to make a change and find a career that I can enjoy. I love fabrics and colors, why not make a career out of it. I know I can do better and stick to my dreams. I have to prove to my kids, and especially myself, that whatever you put your mind to, you can achieve it!
If you’re just starting your job search, there is a lot of soul-searching to do. If you’ve been looking for several months and nothing’s clicking, this is a good time to rethink your approach, which requires the same kind of self-assessment. Ultimately, knowing what your skills are and determining exactly what you want to do will make all the difference in your job search because you won’t be wasting precious time going after jobs that just aren’t for you.
When we ask recruiters at our career fairs to share the biggest mistake they see in job seekers, their answer is “lack of focus.” While being flexible is fantastic, it’s easy to blur that line with indecision. Recruiters are never impressed by someone who says they’ll take anything, that they just want a job. It’s a sign of desperation. Recruiters are most impressed by a potential candidate who comes in with a clear objective and focus. They may secretly have 18 other career possibilities they’re pursuing, but they mask it when talking to each employer.
The best way to determine what your interests are is to write them down. Spell out your wishes on paper. What is your dream job at this moment? (It’s okay to have a few possibilities.) Sit down with a highlighter and the Sunday “Help Wanted” section of your local newspaper and mark all of the jobs, companies, and position descriptions that hold any interest for you, even if you are not qualified for them. Go with your gut – mark even the smallest word or phrase that speaks to you. Then make a list of everything you’ve highlighted and search for patterns and repetitions, answering these questions:
- What position titles attract you?
- What industries attract you?
- What size company are you naturally drawn to?
Do some serious soul-searching to assess your genuine strengths and weaknesses.
- What do you consider to be your biggest strengths?
- What are your biggest weaknesses?
- What developmental opportunities might help you overcome those weaknesses?
- What skills are you most proud of?
- What skills would you most like to develop in your next position?
- How can you add value to an organization?
Ask at least five people who know you well what specific jobs, industries or companies they envision when they think of you. Jot down the responses and then look for overall themes. You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself. If your mom always says you could sell ice to the Eskimos, then maybe you should consider a career in sales. If pals constantly call you for advice when they are shopping for the perfect gift, you might think about being a buyer or merchandiser for a retail store.
Figuring out what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want. Answer these questions to assess what tasks, job functions and companies you want to avoid.
- What were your least favorite aspects of the jobs you’ve had?
- What were your least favorite subjects at school?
- What tasks would you want to avoid doing at all costs?
Are you an individual who can multitask and one who enjoys being in the eye of a tornado, or do you prefer a calm environment doing one thing at a time in a predictable manner? In what environments (large, small, rural, urban, loud, quiet) do you produce your best work and feel the happiest?
Once you’ve developed a better sense of what you like and don’t like, make a list of the specific careers you’d like to explore. Include the dream job(s) you listed at the beginning of this exercise, and then add new ones you’ve discovered through the process. Try to put the jobs in order of your interest level, given what you know about them already. Then use this list, and all of the above activities, as a guideline for resume writing, networking, and interviewing.
In this Section:
As graduate degrees are becoming the new bachelor’s, there’s little doubt that the competition for positions is stiff. Anyone looking for work must step up her game in the job search.
It’s no longer just who you know. Now, you must focus deliberately on who knows you. That means aggressively marketing yourself to hiring managers and the people who influence them. Start by doing an honest assessment of your efforts to determine if you’re doing everything you possibly can to secure an offer.
Ask yourself these seven questions:
1) Am I looking in the right places?
If your industry is in trouble now, don’t sit around waiting for things to improve. Transfer your skills to another industry. If you performed marketing duties in the hard-hit construction industry, try seeking a marketing-related position in health care administration, which has added jobs. If your small employer is cutting the hours of its sales staff, look at competitors that could benefit from your expertise. If your airline is pink-slipping flight attendants, shift your focus to an opportunity in tourism, public relations or hotel concierge services. The idea is to think of at least three to five ways to apply what you know to a totally new line of work and then go after it.
2) Am I top of mind?
Make a list of the people who know that you’re looking for work. Then, make a list of the people who should know that you’re looking. That second list should be your primary focus because it hopefully includes decision-makers at the employers you’re targeting. Take the necessary steps to make your name and interest known to them. You can accomplish this through: internal referrals, alumni contacts, professional associations, industry blogs, online social networks, local career fairs and open houses, peers within the same field, and even old-fashioned cold calling. Map a strategy that includes three different ways of reaching out to each person on that list.
3) Am I memorable?
Standing out from the pack in a positive (not hokey) way will improve your chances for being considered. Showing up dressed like a clown or mailing inappropriate gimmicks to catch the attention of an employer will likely backfire. One college student created a magazine about herself that caught the attention of a recruiter who hired her. That tactic would work for a professional at any age – creativity shouldn’t be limited or defined by age. An event planner could put together a packet with photographs of her best functions. A sales professional can bind copies of reference letters from impressive clients who can vouch for his or her expertise and service. Don’t wait to be asked for such collateral – be proactive about producing something that’s neat and brings your passion, your personality and your professional skills to life.
4) Am I casting a wide net?
Even though one or two job postings might scream your name, do not rely on too few positions. You need many, many sticks in the fire because you have no way of knowing which will catch. Even if one opportunity looks promising, don’t slow down the search until you receive a firm offer. Apply to positions on your own, submit resumes through multiple job boards, and register with placement agencies in your area (big and small). Remember, these agencies don’t work for you; they work for the company that’s paying them for the best hire. This means you must treat agencies with the same professionalism and respect as you would an employer.
5) Am I interview-ready?
In the past, you might have gotten away with interviewing with one or two people and shaking hands on an immediate offer. Today, you should expect to go through more interviews with more people than ever before. Treat each one as if it’s the most important because even one person in the process can nix your chances by raising doubts about your candidacy. Research the employer and its competition thoroughly and practice every possible question you think you might be asked. While you might not be grilled on the company, your knowledge demonstrates an interest in this particular job and field.
6) Am I being flexible?
Offer to freelance or accept contract work if that’s what it takes to get your foot in the door. You can also negotiate working from home part of the time as a benefit to both parties. Don’t hold out for the most perfect opportunity if it means passing up one that could work well for you right now. Generating an income and closing a gap in your work history can be beneficial on their own. Be selective about the kind of work you want, but not unrealistic, given the current economic conditions.
7) Am I actively following up?
You may find yourself frustrated from submitting dozens of resumes online – and getting no response. Don’t rely on applying online and waiting for the phone to ring. It won’t ring. It’s up to you to follow up once you’ve applied.
Cold call to find out who the decision-maker is and then use all of your connections – or make new ones – to figure out how to get your name in front of that decision-maker. Be ready to make a smart, strong, succinct case for why you deserve to be considered for the job you’re after. When you interview, don’t leave without asking about the next steps: when they expect to make a decision, and when you should hear from someone.
Brag a Little
All of us have career highlights that deserve to be recognized but so rarely are. That’s why you should set aside time at some point to assemble a list of your own achievements, your personal greatest hits.
Many of us, particularly women, are uncomfortable with self-promotion, especially in the workplace. We’re great at talking up our kids and our best friends, but the idea of tooting our own horns or claiming credit for our accomplishments makes plenty of us uneasy. We don’t want to come across as conceited, showoffs or braggarts.
If this sounds like you, remember that when it comes to your career, an unwillingness to share your accomplishments may cost you the positions, pay and promotions you deserve.
Employers don’t have a crystal ball. They can’t look into some magical orb to determine what kind of employee you might be. They must use your past performance as the best possible indicator of your potential for future success. And unless you point out your own achievements, they may never notice.
Make Lists of Your Skills and Accomplishments
Ask yourself the following:
What have I done exceptionally well on the job in the last three years?
Force yourself to pinpoint at least five areas where you know you’re really great. Focus on your core capabilities. Is providing top-notch customer service your forte? Are you the best negotiator in your department? Do you ace the essentials of event planning? Are you a meticulous organizer? Are you a strong manager and mentor who brings out the best in others?
Which three career accomplishments am I most proud of?
While the first question focuses on capabilities, this one is about how well you performed in those areas. Did you apply those sales and customer service skills to generate business? Did your management skills improve morale? Did your ability to organize lead to the creation of new systems and implementation of great programs?
Do I have a “me” file?
If you don’t already, you should start one today. This is the place to store hard copies of e-mails from colleagues or clients thanking you for a job well done. It doesn’t have to be a formal note; even a quick e-mail saying you saved the day deserves to be printed and stashed in this file. You’ll refer back to all of this when you’re preparing for your annual review, since the examples will serve as great ammo for a well-deserved raise.
Tory Johnson Reflects on Her Own Professional Accomplishments
I’m proud of my work assisting evacuees from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina stormed the southern states in 2005. On Labor Day that year, I traveled to the Astrodome in Houston to offer career advice to men and women who were displaced by the catastrophe, thereby helping them get back to work quickly.
Another proud moment came in October 2001, just one month after the historic tragedy of 9/11. That month, we held our biggest career expo ever right in New York City. Nearly 70 companies committed to recruiting, which was no small feat given the economic beating New York took. This event was about hiring and hope, and for that reason we received some great media coverage.
In the midst of the normal chaos of finalizing every detail the day before the 10/01 career fair, I received a surprise phone call from President Bill Clinton. After I got over the initial shock that it wasn’t just my husband playing a crazy joke, I listened as the former president congratulated me on Women For Hire’s success. He reminded me that, as Americans, the right to work is at the core of our freedom and financial independence in this country. He encouraged me to keep up our efforts in helping people secure employment. All that in under a minute!
When I share that anecdote to groups I speak to about career advancement, there are always two distinct reactions. Half the people say, “You go, girl! Regardless of your political preference, a call from any U.S. President is a pretty cool thing!” Of course I’m thrilled by that response.
The other isn’t as kind. They look at me as if to say, “Tory seems quite pleased with herself to brag about a call from Clinton.” I’m always stunned by that reaction.
The fact is, I should be proud of my accomplishments in helping other people find jobs and advance their careers. I have to be willing to tout those small and large kudos and feathers in our cap whenever I can because they fuel my future success.
Everyone has these moments in their professional history – big and little things that they’re exceptionally proud of, but don’t always feel comfortable sharing.
You Have Choices
For a generation, workers would decide on a career and stick with it until retirement. Today, it’s very common for people to change their careers as many as four to seven times in a lifetime. And as many as half of all employees in this country say they’d love to make a job change if they could.
The reasons for changing careers vary from displeasure with initial choices and boredom to new values and dreams for yourself or just the desire to make more money.
When people ask me to help them get a job, my first question is, “What kind of job do you want?” The most common answer: “Tell me who’s hiring…I’m interested in all sorts of things.” The job-seeker thinks it sounds flexible, which can be a good thing, but in reality, it looks desperate and unfocused.
Ask yourself, “What are my strengths?” And when answering that question, it’s important to get beyond the basics – I often hear the phrase, “I’m a people person.” That’s too generic and doesn’t speak to your knowledge, skills and abilities. You want to ask yourself: “What am I really good at?” “What do I love doing?” “What excites me?”
Ask your friends and colleagues for their opinions of your strengths. Sometimes friends and colleagues think of you as the “go to” person anytime they have to write a letter because your writing and editing skills are exceptional. Or maybe you’re a computer whiz who can fix any bug. Those could be cues for a potential career pat.
So What Are Your Options?
Sometimes it’s easier to figure out what you want by seeing what other people have. There are a few easy ways to do that: ·
- Talk to other people about what they do, which can open your eyes to a myriad of possibilities. Ask for an informational interview – even by email if it’s not possible to meet in person. You can pose a few key questions about their career and the skills required to be successful in a particular line of work.
- Window shop at career fairs. Many attendees to Women For Hire career expos are very focused on what they’re looking for. Other people, however, attend to get a basic sense of who is hiring and what’s out there.
- Scan the Sunday “Help Wanted” section of your local newspaper. Use this section to identify key words that grab your attention on a first impression. This helps you identify potential areas of interest that you might not have thought about. For example, maybe you’re a poetry writer who can’t find work – and you’re drawn to positions that reference writing skills…public relations, copywriting, editing, fact-checking, etc.
Make Your Dreams Real
Think of people or positions that cause you to say, “Wow! I’d love to do that!” – and then scale it back to something obtainable. Maybe you dream about being the next Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming just like Janet Evans or Michael Phelps, but you’re a terrible swimmer. How about working in sports marketing or for a major league team or stadium instead? Your dream job could be found in working as a sports agent or event organizer.
Maybe you can’t be a ballerina, but that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a career in the arts. With a passion for ballet, perhaps you’re well-suited for a position in administration at a performing arts center or within a company that manufactures or sells dance gear or memorabilia.
Narrow it Down
We can almost guarantee that finding a job will take longer than you think or you would like. Knowing that you’re not alone often helps make the process a little more tolerable. If times are tough, expect a long, arduous job search effort to carry on for six months, sometimes longer. It’s best to set goals and deadlines for yourself – you know your budget, your career goals, and your tolerance for uncertainty better than anyone else. Yet it is essential to remember that hiring managers do not work according to your schedule. You may send in a résumé that no one views for weeks, not because you aren’t the most fabulous candidate but because something else is more important to them at the moment.
It’s the Little Things
Sometimes smaller companies – even start-ups – are doing well when the big corporations are experiencing layoffs. America’s 25 million small businesses employ more than 50 percent of the private work force and are the principal source of new jobs in the U.S. The trend of corporate outsourcing has created tons of jobs in small- to mid-sized businesses. The trick is finding the opportunities; small businesses often don’t advertise their openings but prefer to hire through referrals and personal connections. Network and call the local Chamber of Commerce and local Small Business Association office for information about small businesses in your community. Look to local association websites where many small business members will list their job opportunities. You might even look to large companies that interest you and find out who their vendors, consultants, and advisers are – all of these smaller companies are great prospects. Find this information on the company’s Web site or through an informational interview with someone in their purchasing or supplier diversity departments.
Work for a Cause
The non-profit sector offers opportunities for job candidates with endless interests. There are organizations serving almost every “good works” cause from children to AIDS, music, sports, economic development, education, mental illness, the elderly, the environment, and the arts. There are a variety of national non-profits such as the American Red Cross or the United Way that are as large and bureaucratic as corporations. Then there are thousands of smaller, community-based organizations that offer a more intimate work environment. If you are passionate about a certain issue, research organizations – small and large – that serve your cause.
No matter what the size, non-profits need marketers, accountants, fundraisers, publicists, secretaries, researchers, event planners, and human resource specialists just like any other industry. Of course the challenge of non-profits is that they raise their operating budgets through donations, foundations, membership charges, and program or service fees. While you can help society at a non-profit, it’s no secret that you will often sacrifice a high salary to feel good about helping your cause.
Many industry and trade associations are also non-profits. If you’re having trouble breaking into a particular industry, why not apply for a job at that industry’s trade association? For example, many associations employ administrative assistants, event planners, accountants, marketing managers, and grant writers. On that note, don’t overlook the organizations that fund non-profits. Private foundations are another industry sector off most people’s radar screen.
Uncle Sam Really Does Need You
According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, as of 2006 a whopping 20 million people worked for the local, state, or national government in the United States. Full-time and part-time jobs exist at all levels. Just like non-profits, the government employs specialists in all job functions at every stage of experience. Think national parks, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, tourism offices, embassies, public schools, post offices, as well as offices of elected officials and judges. Though some of these jobs change with each political cycle, many government positions are incredibly secure and offer the best benefits available.
Government job listings can be found on several websites including www.govtjobs.com . Government agencies are regularly represented at career fairs. You can also network for government positions at the government’s own events. If you are thinking of a career in the public sector, start attending meetings of your local town or city council and make yourself known. And when you are not out schmoozing, keep your television tuned in to CSPAN or cable news so you’re up to date on changes in legislation that might create more job openings.
In the federal government, your application and résumé play a far more significant role than when applying for private sector positions. Because government agencies are accountable to the public, job descriptions for these positions are very specific in terms of requiring a certain amount of experience or specific skills, leaving little room for leeway. Be sure to match your résumé precisely to these requirements. Applications are also standardized so be prepared to list all of your previous positions, contact information, and skills. There’s no cutting corners when applying for a public sector position.
Some positions require interested candidates to apply through automated procedures. Follow all the instructions carefully because an incomplete application or resume often knocks you out of the running. The majority of federal jobs are filled under a merit system. You’re competing with similarly qualified applicants and must be found among the best qualified in order to be referred for further consideration. Depending on the position, testing may be required as well. It’s a time-consuming process, but usually worth the wait for the right spot.