Why do so many people find the process so daunting and exhausting when looking for a job? As a career coach I work with individuals to identify their personal and career values. We discuss resume writing, cover letters, interview techniques and job search strategies. There are also many books and articles available in the bookshops and on the Internet on how to find a job. There are plenty of steps you can take to market yourself, however, there is nothing more invigorating and positively motivating in this process than maintaining a curious mind.
What happens when you don’t have a curious mind? You assume that you know it all. Are any of the following phrases familiar to you? ‘It’s been done before.’ ‘There is nothing out there for me.’ ‘I’m not willing to give that a try as it won’t work.’ ‘I don’t want to talk to that person as he/she won’t be able to offer me anything.’ Those are the comments from one with a closed mind. Negativity breeds easily with this mindset and makes the job search process that much harder.
Just as an experiment, whatever stage you’re at in your career or job search, use the words, ‘How’ ‘Who’ and ‘What’ when approaching each stage of your career management or job search process. Think like a detective, be curious enough to gather new information and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you uncover. When you are curious, your focus improves. If you focus you will be more effective. Here are 5 areas to curiously consider:
How can I conduct an effective job search? What do I need to do?
A number of my clients find the process of job hunting challenging and at times can put a dent in their ego. You can’t control the process however you can control your reaction at each step of the way. If a series of interviews leads to nowhere, keep a curious mindset and ask yourself, ‘What did I learn from this experience? What can I do differently to get a different outcome?’
What is your approach to networking and do you enjoy the process? If not, take a different approach.
- Ask yourself, ‘I wonder whom I’ll meet at the next meeting, networking opportunity or social event? What can I learn about each person I meet?’
Rather than focusing on networking to find a job for yourself, focus on networking to learn something new. You may uncover something fascinating about the next person you meet or, through your curiosity to learn more about the other person, you may uncover a potential job lead. If nothing else you may gain a new friend!
How does my behaviour affect my job search? What will make me more effective and more productive?
In the same way you can control your reactions to events, you can also control your behaviour for a more effective job search. Once you identify the strategies you need to take (networking, target marketing, working with recruitment agents, using the online job boards) decide how many hours per day you will focus on each strategy.
- Ask yourself, ‘What and how much can I get done in 30 minutes or in 60 minutes?’
Set a timer and see how many phone calls you can make to reconnect with those in your industry and how many appointments you can set. Or see how many recruiters you can reach for a discussion or how many tailored job applications can you make. Or, perhaps, how much information you can gather on a specific target company.
See how much gets done before the timer goes off. Then give yourself a break and set the timer again. You can control your productivity and it will be a lot more fun if you are curious to see how much you can get done during each set timeframe.
How can I make my cover letters for job applications more effective?
When I was in recruitment I was amazed at the number of candidates who would send in generic cover letters. My immediate impression was that those candidates were lazy, didn’t really care about the role and consequently not the ideal candidate for the job. Screeners are looking for candidates who are impressive in their resumes and also in their written communication. The cover letter is the opportunity to demonstrate effective written communication.
- Ask yourself, ‘How can I make my cover letter stand out?’
In today’s economic climate, it’s an employers market and you face a lot of competition. One way for recruiters to screen in potentially suitable candidates quickly is to see if their cover letter states the position the application relates to and their specific skill sets that relate to the role. Generic covers letters don’t. They are generic and therefore a waste of time to read.
What do you need to do to personalize your cover letters? How effective can you make each and every one of your letters?
How can I make sure my resume is read and is impressive to my target audience?
What is your target audience seeking? Tailor your resume to fit those requirements if you have the relevant skill sets. There is no point stating what a ‘hard worker’ you are in your resume. The employer wants to know if you are qualified to perform a specific role, have the relevant experience and personal traits to enable you to get the results they require.
- Ask yourself, ‘How can I make my resume stand out?’
If the reader has to scour your current resume page by page to find the relevant information, think how can you make the right skills, experience and qualifications stand out immediately? Analyse the job description for clues as to which key words will pop out at the reader.
What do I need to do to prepare for the interview process?
The major fatal flaw for most candidates when interviewing is lack of preparation. Given that most candidates are provided with a certain amount of time before the interview, lack of preparation is unforgiveable and indicates a lack of interest in the role.
- Ask yourself, ‘What are the skills I need to highlight during the interview to demonstrate my competence in this area? What are my key relevant strengths that will impress the interviewer? What examples do I have to demonstrate my capabilities and results orientation?’
Think about what you can do and what examples you can give to prove your efficacy and professionalism. Analyse your experience and behaviour, practice verbalizing your responses. Gain feedback from a trusted friend, preferably one who knows the way you work and act upon areas that need improvement. How can you present your most competent, capable and professional image?
By having an open, curious mind at all stages of the job search process you will find you maintain momentum and continually learn. Use what you learn. If things don’t seem to be working, analyse what does work and what doesn’t then brainstorm with your support group or with a career coach to uncover new ways to approach your marketing efforts.
Photo by: Evelyne Leveke