If you ever speak to anyone who has run a marathon they will tell you that it’s all about endurance; you need to keep pace, take a breath when you are tired, and remember that you may still have a ways to go. The job search is similar, if you start in a full out sprint by sending out your résumé, exhausting your network, and applying to every job under the sun you will eventually exhaust yourself. Like a marathon the job search has important check-points that you need to pass so you can stay on task and keep pace on your way to success! Here are a few important checkpoints for your job search marathon:
Before you even think about searching jobs online, reaching out to your network, or applying, you need to have your résumé in order. Although it is tempting to scramble to get an employer something as fast as possible take a breath and ask yourself: if I rush through this will I really be sending out a product I am proud of? Sprinting through your résumé usually means spelling errors, having experiences out of order, or forgetting a piece of information that could help you secure an interview.
A great piece of advice is to have a “master copy” of your resume that lists all of your information: every job, all of your volunteer work, professional affiliations, etc. This way, when you see a job you cannot wait to apply for you can pull together a resume specific to that job by just copying experience from your master résumé and pasting it into your job specific one! Instead of rewriting a new document every time you have a strong foundation and can focus harder on including key buzzwords that tailor your experience to the job.
If you do not have a LinkedIn profile start one before your start your job search. This website is an amazing resource for connecting with leaders in your field, joining professional groups of interest, and building a strong network. Past supervisors and colleagues can also endorse your for skills related to your field and provide recommendations on your profile. LinkedIn provides a forum where you can display your experience and recruiters can actually search for you! Having a strong LinkedIn profile can make a phenomenal difference in your job search and can help you remember to stay in touch with your network even when you are not searching.
While I will admit that finding opportunities on job boards is tempting, it may not yield many results. Applicants usually begin their job search this way only to eventually feel as though they are sending their résumé out into the abyss. This is where your network comes in handy; having someone at a target company hand your résumé to a hiring manager with their stamp of approval of you as a candidate can carry a great deal of weight.
You might be thinking, but how do I do this? Now that you have LinkedIn at your fingertips you can search individuals in your network, let them know you are looking, and ask for introductions to people you may not know. Another great way to network is at professional conferences, which usually allot time for networking and an opportunity to meet others in your field.
4. Targeting companies
Find companies that are of interest that you would be excited to work for. Your application will always look better when you can share why you support the company’s mission statement or comment on an article they were just highlighted in. Targeting companies also allows you to utilize LinkedIn and your network to see if you know anyone there that is willing to pass your résumé along or recommend you to a hiring manager. Most importantly, by showing a company how interested you are in them you may be considered for other positions beyond the one you applied for.
5. Cover Letter
Although there is great temptation to avoid writing a cover letter in order to apply faster this may actually hinder your chances of being called in for an interview. A cover letter is a great opportunity to showcase your writing abilities and highlight your experiences that align with the job you are interested in. Even if you are e-mailing someone your resume directly think of the body of the e-mail as a cover letter opportunity.
Remember: 2-3 experiences are more than enough; your cover letter should never be an explanation of your résumé. Also, a cover letter should never be more than one page.
Once you have utilized your network and have secured an interview you know you have made it pretty far along on your job search marathon. Now is your time to really make an impression and try to close in on the finish line. Prepare for the interview ahead of time by researching common interview questions, preparing concrete examples to demonstrate your abilities, reviewing the job description, and learning everything you can about the organization. Also, remember that professional attire is a must!
The interview is also a time for you to ask questions about the company culture and assess if they are a good match for you. Make sure you take note of the company, what you can gather about overall employee morale, and ask key questions of interest to you. Remember: you may be near the finish line, but there may be more than one way to get there!
7. Following up
After you have interviewed remember to send a thank you note to EVERYONE you met with. Ask for business cards at the end of the interview if you do not have contact information ahead of time and add something into the thank you note that you spoke about with the individual. Most importantly do not forget to thank your network, especially if they were instrumental in passing your résumé along or supporting your candidacy. Even if you are not hired or accept a job at another company remember that your network was willing to help you and they deserve your appreciation.
8. Job offer
Welcome to the finish line! Remember to ask about benefits and negotiate the position! You made it! Now you can enjoy your success and that feeling of accomplishment from all of your hard work.
Although a job search and a marathon may not be exactly the same they do both require endurance and persistence to cross the finish line. Unlike a marathon, sometimes in the job search you need to loop back to a check point and re-evaluate where you have been, and that is completely understandable. The most important thing to remember is to pace yourself and keep your focus on the finish line even if you cannot see it yet, it’s there!
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