Job-hunting tips

After getting laid off a year ago, I’ve been supplementing my unemployment with freelancing. My most regular freelance gig is a monthly supplement on higher education for a local free newspaper. The topic for May: “Career placement: tips on lining up the first [post-college] job.” (Yes, I do know what “irony” means, thank you for asking.)

Anyway, I talked to several different career placement pros and got some good tips, and thought some of the (way too many :() job-hunters hereabouts might find them of interest.

(Not sure whether to hope these will be helpful, or that they’re all stuff that everyone had already implemented.)

Tip-top Tips from Pros

We asked three college career counselors for their three best tips. Here’s what they said:

Nick Schaefer, Associate Director of Career Services, Gwynedd-Mercy College

  1. Make sure your resume is perfect. Have three different people review it: a career counselor, a professor or someone working in your field and a friend. All three will find different mistakes or weaknesses. Cover letters and reference sheets should be perfect as well.
  2. Be professional. Clean up your Facebook page — recruiters will be looking at it. Ditch the music in your voice mail message. Get a new e-mail address if you’ve currently got a jokey or obnoxious handle — firstnamelastname is much better than partydood4ever.
  3. Emphasize networking. There’s more to looking for job than visiting Monster and Careerbuilder.

Trish Shafer, Director of Career Services, Philadelphia University

  1. Articulate what you’re looking for and what you have to offer. You’ll be talking to a lot of different people during your search: Be ready to explain clearly and concisely what job you want and why you’d be good at it.
  2. Be organized. Maintain a list of e-mails and phone calls you need to make, as well as other tasks that need to happen in a timely manner.
  3. Surround yourself with people who can help you. The more people who know that you’re looking — and what you’re looking for — the better.

Nancy Dudak, Director of Career Services, Villanova University

  1. Be confident. You’ve already accomplished a lot and you have a lot to offer.
  2. Be optimistic. People are still getting jobs — good jobs. They may not have five or six offers to choose among, but the jobs are out there.
  3. Be prepared to talk. With today’s technology, people don’t talk as much. Learn how to ask questions, to participate actively in the conversation. Get used to talking about yourself and your ideas.

How do you get a job in this economy?
You’ll need a great resume, of course, but the real challenge is getting that resume to someone who can give you a job.

“Job-hunting is no longer just reading ads and submitting resumes,” explains Trish Shafer, Director of Career Services at Philadelphia University. “Many jobs aren’t being advertised, since the recruiter doesn’t want to have to read 600 resumes.”

Instead, the recruiter puts the word out to people he or she knows and asks if they know anyone. Thus the trick is to make sure you’re one of the people that someone knows. It’s called networking, and it’s more important than ever.

Here’s what, specifically, you should be doing:

  1. Get yourself out there. Join the professional organization in your field and get active in the local chapter. Attend trade shows. Go on informational interviews. Volunteer. Tackle yet another internship, unpaid if necessary.

  2. Talk to as many people as possible. Social contacts are important as well. “You just don’t know when you’ll meet the person who might be the link to your new job,” Shafer says. “Get out of your comfort zone — the more people who know who you are and what you can do, the better.”

  3. Use networking sites. Facebook isn’t just for goofing around with your friends. Take down the pictures of drunken debauchery and add info about your professional goals. Join LinkedIn and your school’s alumni network.

Instead of paying money for job-search help, start by checking with the career services office at you college or university – almost all of them will continue to provide free services to alumni, no matter how long ago you graduated. These services will include:

Job search skills. These start but don’t end with your resume. Staffers can review and help you rewrite your resume – but they’ll also help polish your professionalism, with everything from first impressions (handshakes, eye contact, speaking clearly) to taping and critiquing a practice interview.

Networking resources. These include online job boards, which often include not only full-time jobs but internships and part-time positions. Resources can also include introductions to people working in the field as potential employers or mentors.

Note that you don’t need to still be living in the same town where you went to school to avail yourself of these resources. For instance, you can email your resume to a staffer who can review it then discuss it with you either via phone or via email.

Hi Mom!
“Make sure your parents* have a script for what they should be saying about you,” says Trish Shafer of Philadelphia University. “Not just that you’re looking for a job, but that you’re looking for a job doing X, and why you’re qualified.”

Pick a card
“Have business cards made up with your name and contact info as well as your field or specialty,” suggests Nick Schaefer of Gwynedd-Mercy. “And always have a few with you. That way if you’re talking to someone at a ball game or in a bar, you can use it as an opportunity to network.”

The magic word
“Always follow up with the people you talk to,” advises Nancy Dudak of Villanova. “If you take their advice, let them know how it worked out for you; or just thank them for taking the time to talk to you.” Courtesy counts for a lot.

*and, for those of us who have been out of college for five minutes, add “SO, siblings, best friend, former coworkers, etc.” to this.

I agree with most of these.

Of course I agree the resume must be perfect, but I’m not sure the three people who review it should include a career counselor and a professor. I’ve seen some really bizarre resume advice come from college career counselors. Their role is sometimes too much like marketing for the school, and they drink too much of the academic Kool-Aid. And many professors know nothing about creating a resume that works outside of academia. A 17 page CV is fine in their world. I would say the best 3 people would be someone who works in your field, someone else who works in your field (ideally people who review resumes and hire in your field), and someone who proofreads for a living (or, barring that, the person you know with the most kickass proofreading skills).

Also, college students, the time to begin implementing this stuff is May of your junior year, not May of your senior year.

Another tip for new grads is to network through your friends’ parents and your parents’ friends.

Networking - go into it looking to see what you can do that is useful to others. You usually have to do a lot of that before the networking gold mine pays off. It’s very Zen, IMHO.

This tip is better for those who have been working a while, but may apply to new grads who’ve done some internships: consider your former employer’s customers, competitors, vendors, and regulators as a source of job leads. They will value your experience at company X.

And my top 3 resume tips: quantify your achievements, monetize the benefits from your work, and list awards received for good performance.

One that I’ve heard and found to be true:

Your resume will get you in the door, but they’ll hire you because they like you.

Be likeable during your interview. Create the feeling that the interviewer is your best bud. Laugh. Be personable. When you walk out of the interview, you want them saying “That dude was awesome!” I can tell, with about 90% accuracy, if I’m going to get the job the minute the interview is over. If I had a good time, I’ve got it.

One that I had to find out the hard way:

Fill your unemployed time with something important. Volunteer work, community theatre, whatever. Guaranteed the interviewer will ask about those big gaping holes in your resume. If you can look him in the eye, and without missing a beat say “I conducted three operas”, that will score you far more points than if you say “Uh, I dunno, I watched game shows and stuff I guess.”

I will second the volunteer work - this can help you in these ways:

  1. As tdn says, it sounds much better in an interview.
  2. It can net you contacts for your job hunt, especially if you volunteer to do something similar to what you want to do professionally.
  3. It will help keep depression at bay.

I have mentioned in our other thread that a recruiter has told me to upload my resume to monster each month. He says that recruiters usually only look back one month - if they don’t find what they are looking for they may go back further, but typically they start one month back.

But the job should be a job at a potential employer, not the job the candidate wishes were available. It’s about them, not about you. Monetizing your worth is good, but I doubt many new grads could do it, and it might come out overblown. Effectiveness at doing the job and new ideas might be good enough.

As someone mentioned, recruiters call lots of people asking for leads to fill a job. I used to get called all the time - not so much during the recession. Someone who doesn’t know you are looking can’t reference you. It might be good to touch base once in a while, so that your contacts know you’re still looking - and touch base again when you have a job.

I find this one interesting as I haven’t uploaded my resume to any job networking site since my current job of over 4 years. I STILL get calls from recruiters saying they found my resume online and wanted to know if I was interested in job such-and-such.

Yeah, I am still getting them too - but I get much more if I do as the recruiter suggested.