18 Job Search Skills No One Tells You
The job search can be exciting, scary, and frustrating at once. While it is tinged with possibility, you also find yourself worrying before you send out resumes, query letters, and email back-and-forth correspondences.
You scrutinize every piece of communication that you put out into the world with the fear you are being judged to the harshest of standards.
You wonder if the people talking to you will turn out to be scammers intent on getting your work and then not paying you, or not keeping vital promises.
No one said the job market is easy, and it’s not likely to become more user-friendly. That’s why it is important you start familiarizing yourself with it as soon as possible.
By mastering job search functions early — while you’re still in school preferably — you can always find a way to remain relevant and employed. Let’s look at 18 job search tips many on the other side of the student-teacher divide forget to share.
Job Search Tip No. 1. Schedule time to look, always.
It may seem crazy to always be looking for the next job. That definitely isn’t how your parents learned it was supposed to go.
You were to find the one job that would take care of you throughout a 30-year career and then allow you to retire peacefully with a pension.
The thought of hopping from job to job was career suicide.
Well, the world has changed a bit. No one is telling you to constantly be looking for ways to “stick it to” your employer. You don’t have to jump at the first opportunity that sounds better. But you do need to always be looking for the next best thing.
Because if the job market of the last 10-15 years has taught us anything, it’s that permanence doesn’t exist. Sure, you could find the mythical job that takes care of you forever, but these days, it is the skill set that takes care of you, not the name on your paycheck.
So yes, always be looking for the next best thing. In so doing, you’ll learn where your strengths and weaknesses are, and that will give you the foresight to do more of the former and less of the latter.
2. Keep adding to your network.
“It’s all about who you know.”
How many times have you heard this from people who landed their jobs through a friend or a friend of a friend?
They aren’t wrong. While you will occasionally find a way in through no prior connections, there is a reason sites like LinkedIn continue to grow in popularity. They allow you to more easily piggyback on existing connections and get a leg up in the job search.
Now, that may not seem fair to you, and you’re probably right. But it is, more often than not, the way things work. So rather than bemoaning this fact to anyone who will listen, use it to your advantage.
3. Focus on how your connections connect.
One of the big reasons that you will hear a lot of great things about LinkedIn on this site is that it allows you to see how your connections connect to other people and how their connections connect and so on and so forth.
It’s not enough to just say, “I know Charlie, we’ve hung out.” You want to know what Charlie does, what makes him tick. It could be that Charlie is a mere conduit to the person you really need on your side.
Remember: the person who gets you the job, or at least gets you the best shot at the job, may not be your initial connection. But that doesn’t make the initial connection any less important.
In the example above, Charlie is just as important because without him, there is no moving further in the process.
So get to know your connections in a professional sense, and see how they connect to other people.
4. Drill deep into the niches.
In marketing, there is a popular adage that declares “there are riches in the niches.”
The idea is that the further you dig into something, the better chance you have at becoming an expert at it.
When you’re an expert, people turn to you with opportunities. Opportunities create cash, cash creates wealth, and wealth creates independence.
Notice the word “independence” in place of “happiness.” Wealth doesn’t make you happy, but it does place you into the position where you can move closer to it.
What does this mean for the job search?
Well, there will be more said on it in subsequent entries, but if you take nothing else with you through the rest of this blog, take this: don’t be a generalist in the way that you look for work.
Instead of taking what the job description gives you and following along like a blind zombie, seek out the companies, the people, and the experts that you need to know about in that particular industry. See what opportunities they’re talking about on their turf, not the simple boilerplate they feed to Monster, CareerBuilder, ZipRecruiter, etc.
The way to make the connections you need for the opportunities of tomorrow, is to dive deep into a sector’s culture, not simply cross t’s and dot i’s on an online job listing.
5. Find people who are doing what you want to do.
This could be considered an extension of No. 4, but it deserves its own item because it is an art form unto itself.
Whether you are sure of what you want from life or not, go to the sectors that interest you. Find out who the influencers are. If they are too high up for you to reach them, find a person following them who is working in the same sector, but perhaps at a not-quite-as-successful level. Befriend them.
Keep going until you have built a network of individuals who are doing what you want to do, but who are also somewhat accessible from where you are. Make this a practice, and you’ll be surprised at how high up the ladder of influence you can climb. Along the way you will find job opportunities to get a foot in the door and a path forward.
6. Keep multiple versions of your resume.
There are numerous jobs in an individual sector, and the reality is that you may have to do several of them before finding the one that most speaks to the career ambitions that you have.
Because jobs often emphasize or require different credentials and skill sets, your resume and application package will change depending on position.
It stands to reason that in such a dynamic environment, you should be dynamic as well, creating, tweaking, and saving a variety of resume “versions” that allow you to quickly jump on a job opportunity as it comes to your attention.
7. Work for free when it makes sense.
If you are concerned about how to get more experience in a sector onto your resume, then consider working for free.
Obviously you don’t always want to follow this path. For example, if you’re already working 40 hours per week as a grill technician at McDonald’s, it would make little sense to walk across the street to Burger King and offer them another 20 hours of labor doing the same exact thing in your “spare” time.
They’re the same job. You have nothing to gain. But let’s say you are working in a sector that you enjoy, but it’s on the fringe of something else you’d rather be doing. Only problem: you have no experience working directly in the other sector, and because of that, no one will give you the time of day.
In this case, it does make sense to volunteer some of your time for something that you can put on your resume as legitimate experience in an industry where you want to be involved. In the process, you’ll also likely make a great connection.
With resume credits and relevant references, it’s not hard to see how such a move might aid you in your job search.
8. Create templates.
As with the suggestion to keep more than one version of your resume on-hand, you’ll also want to create other templates that are easy to tweak and adjust.
In my case, I have to write a lot of query letters for three primary subsectors of my industry. Sometimes I write for agencies. Sometimes I do hard news. Sometimes I’m a blogger. Each one of these query letters will share components, but they will also differ.
By creating templates, it’s easier to expedite the application process and get back to the job search in a timely manner.
9. Save and ‘deposit’ your references.
Another add-on to the resume versions and templates idea: references were always one of the most annoying things about the job search process because you had to track down people you hadn’t had direct contact with and ask them to give you a kind word.
Furthermore, job applications often order you to include everything about a reference’s life history, including things you don’t really know about your closest friends.
I have a lifelong friend whom I communicate with semi-daily over text message, and if you asked me to just rattle off his street address, I couldn’t give it to you.
With a reference database, however, you can and should collect that information. I have a simple Word doc where I will list name, phone number, address, job title, and any other personal data that may be relevant.
You do it once, and it’s always there.
Why not use social media for this stuff? Because very few people include EVERY detail a job application might ask for. I know my phone number and address aren’t getting handed out to everyone on these networks. (Sorry, Internet.)
By collecting this information once from your references and safekeeping it in a private document, you will never have to sweat the details when asked to provide references to a potential employer.
10. Use job alerts.
A major part of finding success in your job search is to know what jobs to watch for and how to jump on opportunities as early as possible.
In doing so, you should try a multi-pronged approach. Yes, use job sites. Yes, use social media. Yes, ask people you know in your day-to-day.
But also set up Google alerts for certain keywords in your industry. It doesn’t have to be entirely focused on jobs coming open either. It can just be for certain trends that are relevant to your knowledge and skillset.
By being as educated as possible, you will have a leg up on changes and trends that will give you a head start over others in the job search.
11. Study job descriptions.
Job descriptions — even the ones you don’t get or have no chance of getting (for now) — can be absolute gold to your future search. That’s because you have potential future employers telling you exactly what they want from you.
If you don’t have the qualifications or can’t meet the requirements, don’t get down about it. Use it as a learning guide to direct your continuing education so that one day, you are the candidate they are looking for.
12. Go past the online app.
In looking for a job, you shouldn’t stop at the listing or the company’s website or application. That’s what your competition is doing, and it’s disqualifying them from consideration.
If you can take 10-20 minutes to find accessible current employees on LinkedIn or another social network and reach out to them, you can find an immediate connection rather than getting grouped in with the slush pile of applicants using the standard outreach methods they are instructed to use by the job ad.
How much more qualified will you look than those people, and, more importantly, how much better will your chances be of being seen?
13. Be conservative on LinkedIn.
The LinkedIn social network has become almost a necessity for people wanting to advance their careers. The sooner you can get on there, the better; but do yourself a favor, and don’t treat it like a dumping ground for your private thoughts and political beliefs.
If activism is your field of choice, then it might suit you, but most industries don’t work that way. In fact, most industries don’t care at all what you think or feel or believe.
They just want to know you can do the work and that you will represent the company in a professional manner.
Treat LinkedIn like the site you use when you want to put your best foot forward for your boss or future employer. Because that’s exactly what it is. Do the same for your other social networks, too. Employers are checking them out more and more and more.
14. Don’t be boring.
It may seem a little contradictory to some of you to say, “Be conservative,” and then, “Don’t be boring,” but it’s really not if you dig a little deeper into what makes you unique.
Take the episode of Seinfeld that has long been hailed as one of the best single episodes in television history — “The Contest.”
For those of you who were too young or not born when Seinfeld was on the air, and you haven’t seen it on reruns or streaming, it is important to know the context behind it.
The show dealt with the sometimes still-blush-inducing topic of masturbation. Back when it came out in the early 1990s, you definitely didn’t talk about that sort of thing on network television.
The FCC made sure of it! Or, at least, they tried to make sure of it by banning certain phrases and explicit language. Did the show’s writers — namely Larry David in this case — run from that? Nope. They made it work to their advantage by inventing phrases like “master of your domain” to go with clever turns of body language and simple scene setups.
Example: As “The Contest” rages on, the characters still in the competition are shown in contrast to the ones who’ve fallen out via their sleeping patterns. Active participants are tossing and turning. Losers are sleeping like babies.
The show makes clever use of every moment to address the topic, but they do it in a way that was acceptable to broadcast and social standards of the time.
While it may seem tame now — I would argue it doesn’t — you have to realize how much influence it had on everything that came before it. That’s how it earned its reputation.
What does a Seinfeld episode about masturbation have to do with you? It teaches you that it IS possible to be “never boring” while staying within the customs and standards of what a hiring manager might find acceptable of a candidate and his/her behaviors on social media.
Truthfully, it takes more creativity to avoid being boring while being presentable in the eyes of the public. Use it to your advantage, and people will remember you as they scroll searching for qualified job candidates.
15. Remember to say, ‘Thank you.’ No matter what.
The “Thank You” card is too often a lost art form on today’s society. It’s like something you only send on three occasions of life — high school graduation, wedding, and childbirth.
The fact that it is so chained to those three occasions will make it a great tool when contacting people who make time for you during the job search.
Say that you have a friend who got you an interview at a hard-to-get-in-to company, but you didn’t end up getting the job. A loser would get huffy and never talk to that friend again, or, at the very least, not ever try again, thinking that one No means No, Forever.
Not the case.
The better the company is, the more tries it can often take to land a job. So rather than curling up into the fetal position of frustration and defeat, send that friend a card that says something like, “Well, I didn’t pull it off this time, but I can’t thank you enough for getting me the opportunity. Please know I’m always open to trying again, and I appreciate having you as a friend.”
You may tweak the word “friend” to something less intimate if the relationship is less intimate, but the point is this: you show a great deal of character in using this approach, and you will be the first person that contact thinks about whenever there is another opening halfway suited to your talents and expertise.
16. Harness social media search functions.
For the longest time, there were few players in the job search game. Pretty much, it was Monster, CareerBuilder, and whatever you could churn up on Google.
With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other specially focused social media sites — think the websites of industry trade organizations — you can gain access to unpublicized but highly important job openings as they become available, before the public has had the chance to bombard the company with resumes.
Get on social media sites. Do general search functions for terms that are important to your industry. Do separate searches that add the words “jobs” or “openings” or some variation.
Try multiple searches. See what, and who, comes up. Click links related to those results and links related to the related results.
Adopt a dive-down-the-rabbit-hole mentality, and you will find your way to new opportunities you didn’t realize existed.
17. Pay it forward.
Platitudes can get a little tiresome after a while, and the one “pay it forward” certainly has run its course in the current form, I suppose, but the concept behind it remains relevant.
When you do favors for other people, it has a way of coming back to you. So if you’re in a position to help someone now — whether at a job or in school — do it.
Building a reputation of goodwill and generosity can open doors for you now and in the future (near and distant), so don’t miss an opportunity to do it.
See, people develop at different paces. They go through ups and they go through downs. When you leave an imprint on someone below you today, you never know when that person might be above you offering to reciprocate.
It may never happen, but then again, it definitely won’t if you are the type of person who shuts himself off from giving back.
18. Learn new skills.
It’s a theme we’ve touched on already, but it bears repeating especially here at the end.
There are no secure comapnies any more. Not really. Most of today’s most successful companies didn’t exist 50 or 60 years ago.
However, the principles they were founded and grew on remain relevant, and that usually involves delivering of value to other people and hiring the best people to do it.
Your job as a person on the job search is to discover the best ways of delivering that value and then positioning yourself with the skills and expertise to bring it.
That means always committing to education. Whether you are a freshman in college or a graduate with a Ph.D, make yourself a lifelong learner, and you’ll never go without gainful employment.
The job search can be tough if you are not sure what employers are looking for. But rather than getting hung up on what they want, think instead about what the market wants. Then, make yourself stand out in it. We think that by employing the 18 job search tips listed above, you’ll get there and stay there for a lot longer than you think. Good luck, and let us know which of these — or perhaps tips we didn’t include here — have worked for you.
[Featured Image by SOURCE]