17 Job Search Tips to Help You Land Your First Job
A job search is something you do until you get a job, or so it goes. The reality is that you can benefit from always being in job search mode. This is especially true when you’ve not quite landed that first lucrative gig.
What we’re going to be talking about in this article is a real job. Something where you see yourself hanging around for a while, climbing the ladder, making a livable wage. That rules out many summer jobs and entry-level service industry jobs.
But you never know. Those can be parlayed into something bigger if the structure’s in place for it. Regardless, following the tips we lay out here will give you a leg up on the competition. Let’s start the search.
1. Do a Skills Inventory
Doing inventory isn’t one of the jobs you’ve probably looked at with goodwill if you ever worked in retail. That’s when you take stock of every item, no matter how insignificant, that exists within your store and you enter it into a database along with a quantity for safekeeping and future orders.
In the jobs search sense, inventory is a little more fun than that. This is where you look back over your school subjects, your summer jobs, your daily responsibilities, and all of your accomplishments — athletic, academic, extracurricular, or otherwise.
Be liberal with what you decide to track as you take stock of your skills inventory. You never know when something seemingly insignificant will prove valuable down the road.
2. Create a Skills Wishlist
Don’t stop with what you’re good at and capable of doing. Envision the ideal you. What are some things you’ve always wanted to be good at but aren’t quite there yet (or aren’t anywhere close to there yet)?
Activate the dreamer side of your brain. Do it by extending the inventory activity that you did in No. 1. Instead of taking stock of the things you already have in your arsenal, focus on the things you would like to have or the things you’ll need in order to arrive at the life destination you’re intending.
When you do this activity, don’t think in broad strokes. It’s fine to start that way. But you want to go deeper. If “become an airline pilot” is the objective, start by Googling degrees or certifications you would need to become an airline pilot. Immerse yourself in the jargon. Before long, you’ll see those dreams are supported by a clear, achievable pathway to accomplishment.
3. Field Trip!
We do way too much learning through books, television programs, or Internet videos. While these are useful for high-level theory or tips for overcoming challenges, they’re not quite the same as getting out in “the field,” wherever that field may be, and experiencing life for yourself.
Figure out some job-related field trips that might make for good use of your time. If you’re unsure of where to start, search some career fairs with a specific focus on the niche where you’re hoping to work. These are great networking opportunities, and they can place you in direct contact with some valuable career advice that’ll help guide you in the months and years ahead.
All from one day, one event. The caveat is that it may cost something to register for the event or to travel to it. But the life experience you get in return is nothing short of amazing.
4. Describe You, Inc.
Imagine yourself as a company. For this, you’ll have to jump several years into the future and think about the size, scope, customer served, and level of notoriety. Start with your mission statement. Then, try backwards-engineering it to figure out how you got to where you are today.
Did you have to buy out smaller companies? What was it they offered to get you from point A to point Z? What was it that set you apart from the rest? As you start to really dive into this exercise, you’ll learn something about what it takes to sell yourself as well as the political maneuvering and strategizing that it takes to get ahead in practical terms.
5. Seek Real-World Experience, Even If You Have to Work for Free
Too many people overvalue their contributions when first starting out. That’s not to say that you should automatically deem yourself worthless. Your time is certainly worth something. But you’ve got to know when to swallow your pride and set aside that time for something beyond monetary reward.
Yes, you could happen into the ideal scenario of a job that pays well for limited experience provided the skill set that you can employ creates real value to the people hiring you. But more often than not, they have more to give than you do at the entry-level stages. That’s why, when you get an opportunity to work with someone important and build your network beyond what it otherwise would be, you should be ready to take it.
And yes, that means even if you have to work for free. Many companies, fair or not, refuse to pay their interns. That’s often true even if the company is a particularly prestigious one. They do this for a number of reasons. Mainly, they do it because they know the experience and resume-builder you take from that position will pay enormous dividends for you down the road, if not for their company than for another. They also do it as a way of letting you get your foot in the door so they can come along and hire you later.
Either way, it’s a winning scenario. You just have to know when to take that leap of faith.
6. Improve Your Note-Taking
Note-taking seems like a skill better confined to the classroom. But when you start honing your note-taking skills, it starts to spill over into other aspects of your life, and that can prove especially valuable during a job search. Allow us to explain.
When you employ your note-taking skills to the job search, you not only make note of the skills and educational requirements important to the company, but you also learn to spot other peripheral opportunities you might otherwise have missed.
Since one job can lead to a better job down the road, you might be more inclined to seize on those opportunities. But you’ll never know until you start to notice them.
7. Drill Deeper
Don’t just stop with application instructions and job title. Get into the guts of a job posting and start learning the nuts and bolts that are required to be hired into that position. The more you drill into a job and a company, the more opportunities you’ll become aware of that you might not have before.
8. Turn Solutions on Their Heads
Examine the way that an industry addresses its most common problems. Ask yourself, what if we did this a different way? To help with this thought exercise, turn the solution 180 degrees on its head. How would we solve this problem if we had to do the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to do?
You may not always arrive at a workable solution. But it’ll give you an “outside the box” way of thinking about the industry and jobs you’re looking to break into that someone will appreciate and, eventually, take a chance on.
Best of all, when you learn to work this “opposite” thinking to your advantage, you’ll be exponentially more valuable within the industry than if you did nothing but constantly play by the rules.
9. Make an Admiration List
Who are the people in your life whom you admire more than any others? These do not even have to be people that you like. They can be people you’re jealous of, so long as that jealousy stems from a place of professional accomplishment.
Try to make the list as long as you can. Shoot for 20 names. If you fall a few short or if you can go beyond that, have at it. For each one, ask the following questions:
- What are they good at?
- What makes me want to be good at that, too?
- Is there any particular quality that stands out from other people? If so, what is it?
- How do these people spend their time?
- What subjects did they study in school?
- What was their breakthrough point?
You can probably think of several more. If you don’t know the answers to all these questions right away, that’s fine. Just resolve yourself to finding out, whether that means private research or meeting them and discussing it with them personally.
10. Be More Helper-Minded
Ask not what your admired list can do for you. Ask what you can do for them. A great way of getting to know the people in No. 9 is to find a way you can help them accomplish something, even if it’s in some small, minuscule way.
If you can’t think of anything, don’t worry. There are lots of people who might be in the position where you can help them, and as long as you adopt a service mindset, you’ll be able to connect with them, build your network, grow your experience, and get noticed.
11. Tap Your Network
Not sure about where you first job opportunity is going to come from? Why not go back to the basics? Brainstorm a list of the people you already have access to. They could be friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, existing employers. Think about the relationship you have with each in a new way.
View it through the lens of what you’re trying to accomplish. What value proposition could you use to approach them about a possible job or gig? By employing some of the mindset you used in Nos. 10 and 11, you can tap into some of your closest relationships right away and put them to work for you.
You never know until you ask. And in some cases, they might not know until you ask. Most of the good jobs out there are never advertised on a job board. They’re the results of harnessing your existing relationships.
12. Commit to the One-A-Day Email Plan
Does your professional network feel a little anemic? That’s not uncommon. We all go through spells where the pipeline has run dry and it feels like we’re starting over. You can wait until you’re in a crisis mode to do something about it, or you can start doing something one day (and one email) at a time.
Work ahead of time on your approach. Think of some boilerplate things that you can say. Make sure they feel natural and they adequately describe why you wanted to reach out. From there, look to personalize.
It’s important everything sounds natural. Therefore, don’t try to do too much in a short amoutn of time. Take time to research what the person is in to. Then, take your existing approach and adapt it to include a personalized outreach approach. Focus on emailing one person a day and make it as good and as personalized as you can.
You might not see the results in job terms right away. But you’ll be laying seed that can bear long-term fruit. In fact, it’s not unusual for a well-thought-out email sent today being the catalyst that creates your first six figure job years from now.
13. Email Friends About Your Job Search
Before you take on No. 12, or, better yet, while you’re doing No. 12, think about peppering in some emails to your existing community of friends and family. This will help with the personalized approach, and it’ll let them know that you’re on the prowl and to keep an ear open for job opportunities that might fit into your strengths and education.
If you’re choosing the right friends, this can pay enormous dividends. It also can shorten the time it takes to go from jobless to career.
14. Attend Three Events
Just pick any three events that are relevant to your industry or to networking in general. Get out there with your best clothes and best elevator pitch. Meet people face-to-face. Shake their hands. Follow up with emails after the events or over without giving them too much time to forget about you. Don’t be overbearing about it, but do stay on their radar.
15. Get Organized with Your Job Search
Start tracking where you’re sending out warm emails or applications. Keep them in a spreadsheet or note-taking app that you’re a big fan of using. Some of you may just wish to keep a handwritten to-do list. Find a mode of organization that gets you energized about the forward momentum you’re creating. Keep using it until it stops working for you.
16. Stay Balanced
One of the most important things you can do for your job search is to not be all about the job search all the time. That is, you have to find time for the things in your life that bring you joy or feed the mind. You have to pay attention to your physical health as well, exercising regularly and eating the right foods day-in and day-out.
Only by striving for balance across the board will you be able to endure those uncertain times when the offers aren’t coming. Daily improvements on self can go a long, long way when everything else is stalling out on you.
17. Start Your Own Thing
In other words, create your own luck. Don’t feel like you have to have permission to get started in the field of your choosing. Sure, you may not have all the knowledge and education that you need to compete with the big dogs. But you can choose some low-hanging fruit adjacent to the industry you’re hoping to work in and create a side hustle around it.
Whenever you start having successes in this regard, two things can happen: 1) you can get onto the radar of the big dogs and get that first big opportunity, and 2) you can stumble onto a lucrative side business that gives you the confidence and strength to grow within your field. Either way, you win.
Your Job Search Is All About You
When you realize the job search is not about the jobs that are available and being advertised, it really opens up a lot of possibilities. That’s because it forces you to look inwardly and figure out the ways to make yourself a more attractive candidate for the jobs of today and tomorrow. What are some things you’re doing to jolt your job search along? Sound off in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by The Blue Diamond Gallery]