The job search process can be a total drag. It sometimes feels never-ending and you get to a point where you feel completely lost and disheartened. So what’s a job seeker to do? A lot, as it turns out!
Yes, there may be things beyond your control like the economy, your visa status, racist/ageist/sexist/homophobic interviewer, cat people. But if you’re getting a lot of back-to-back rejections over a period of time, it may be time to shake things up. Unlike what we were taught in school, the likelihood of getting a job doesn’t just depend on your resume, cover letter, or interview skills. Sure, those are important, but there are a number of tools in your toolbelt so it’s good to evaluate each one of those and figure out which ones to sharpen.
1. Your Resume: There are a number of things you need to get right with your resume. Does it tell the right story of who you are, what your strengths are, what you’re looking for? Does it have the right keywords? Does it have the right layout and look? Would it grab a hiring manager’s attention in a few seconds? If you’re not sure, ask a friend, classmate, colleague to take a look at your resume and give you feedback.
2. Your online persona: With so much information available about us on social media and the internet in general, it’s really easy for employers to dig up the dirt on you. So either make your social media profiles private, or clean them up. So no pictures of you being sloppy drunk or making brash political statements. You never know who’s looking, so it’s best to not jeopardize your chances in any way.
On the flipside, you could use social media to position yourself as a stellar candidate. Linkedin is, of course, the best place to do that, like getting to all-star status, being really active, posting relevant content both on your page as well as in groups. You can also use twitter, instagram, or personal websites to get creative and highlight your personal brand.
3. The Interview: There are so many elements to consider here. Start by making the right first impression the minute you walk into the room by dressing appropriately and in line with the company culture. Also, body language is very important. Make sure to maintain eye contact, smile, look confident, practice your power poses. Then comes the verbal part. The actual things you say definitely matter. So how well you answer questions, ask the right questions yourself, sell yourself, and how prepared you are, all make a huge difference. Also, don’t forget to follow up with either a hand-written card or email to thank the interviewers for their time.
4. Networking: The biggest missed opportunity is just relying on online applications and not networking the right way. And no, that doesn’t mean sending your resume to people or going to career fairs. Instead, have a very targeted strategy. Know exactly what type of job you’re looking for, whom you want to meet, what types of events they attend. Work on your elevator pitch -- a 30-second explanation of who you are, what you’re looking for, and why. And then get out there and network, baby! And remember to follow up with people you talk to.
Now remember, the aim is to build authentic connections, so you don’t want to come off as disingenuous and you just want a job out of people -- be natural. It should feel like you’re just there to make friends. Informational interviews are another a great way to make one-on-one connections. And give back -- if you can help someone else with their career, that’s awesome. It’ll teach you a lot in the process and help create some good will.
5. Being Self-Aware: Like Simon Sinek says, it’s really important to know your WHY. What drives you? Is it money, fear, status, etc? What are your values? What are your beliefs? And are any of those limiting beliefs? Is there something you wish you could do, but have always told yourself you weren’t good enough at? And is that really true? Sit down and really think about this -- it may shed some light on what you're doing wrong. Write it down!
6. Taking Risks: Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, landed her first big contract with Neiman Marcus through a series of bold moves. Rather than attending trade shows and hoping a buyer would walk by her booth, she decided to call one directly. She called over and over again until she got to speak with the buyer rather than the assistant. And rather than mailing her product to them, she insisted on meeting face to face. Then, while at the meeting, when she realized the buyer wasn’t impressed, she asked her to follow her to the Ladie’s Room to actually demonstrate what Spanx could do. Sure enough, she landed a deal for 7 stores! How could you think outside the box with your job search? Reach out to an influencer and ask for 15 minutes of their time to chat, walk into an office and ask to speak to an HR person, if you know your idol is giving a talk at a conference, attend and try to get facetime with them at the end. Do Whatever it takes (as long as it’s legal!).
7. Seeking help - When the job search seems to be going nowhere, you sometimes feel like you’ve hit a wall and it’s hard to continue. At times like that, don’t be afraid to seek help, whether it’s a career coach -- someone to help you with your resume, linkedin profile, or interview skills. You could even talk to a life coach or therapist if it’s really starting to affect your mental state. You need to take care of yourself, so ain’t no shame in the game. And it’s ok to invest some money into this stuff if the result is that you’ll get your head in the game and be motivated again to go out there and land that stellar job!
Moral of the story: There are innumerable reasons your job search hasn’t been successful. Rather than focusing on individual elements, look at all the different factors involved and figure out what to improve. But most importantly, keep a positive attitude and an open mind. You can do this!