Employers screen and read resumes with one question in mind: Can you do the job? Any information that you include that is not relevant to that question brings your resume closer and closer to the recycling pile. The biggest mistake I see in resume clients bring me is dated information from early career jobs or school. You might be very proud of the study abroad you did 10 years ago. However, most employers will not care. If you’ve been in the workforce for more than 10-15 years, most employers don’t care about early jobs. Finally, many job seekers add technical skills to their resume without taking off software that is outdated or programs they can no longer use. Keep your resume focused on what you are doing now and what is relevant to the employers’ needs. Everything else? Hit the delete key.
Albert Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
This quotation made me think about the advice I give as a career coach. Knowledge is vital. As job seekers, we need to know our skills and strengths, our industries, and potential employers? But, to play with the famous words of Donald Rumsfeld: "How do we know what we don't know?" That's where imagination comes in. When we're stuck and don't know what else to do, that's a good time to start thinking about new ideas, time to get creative. Imagination lets us find new ways to approach employers, find job openings, and network more effectively.
Here's a simple way to engage your imaginative power. Take a blank page, give yourself 15 minutes of quiet time, and write down all the new ideas that come to your head. Don't worry about how the ideas sound or if you are using correct grammar. No one will see this page but you. Repeat this exercise whenever you get stuck. Sometimes you might end up with a blank page. That's part of the process, and you should not worry about it. If you let your mind wander and discover, it will lead you to new paths. That's how geniuses like Albert Einstein achieved wonders that no one had imagined before.
I was listening to the radio yesterday and heard a commentator moan: “There are seven people looking for every available job.” His point was that the economy is bad and getting worse. He wants the government to be more proactive in helping working people and middle class. I agree that the government can and should do more. However, we progressives and liberals should make that argument without using hyperbolic statistics.
As I’ve seen the statistics used, the 7:1 ratio refers to workers seeking jobs that pay more than $15 an hour. This is not good news, but it’s not all job seekers. That ratio is closer to 3:1. Again, not good, but not numbers that say: “There are no jobs.” The challenge for most workers in 2014, especially for young people, is finding a job that pays a living wage and provides some decent level of benefits.
For many workers, that challenge will not be available immediately. It will be necessary to take a bad job. The key is to keep the time in that job as short as possible. Anyone who has the skills, knowledge, and experience needs to keep the job search going until she finds the right kind of work. It will not be easy in this economy, but it is possible if the job search is followed in a patient, persistent manner. Don’t let the scary numbers send you into job search paralysis. Stay focused and don’t quit – that’s the goal for 2014.
I often warn clients that they will see fewer and fewer jobs during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s the bad news. The good news is that your competition, other job seekers, are less likely to be looking for work. When you see a job that interests you over the next few weeks, apply for it as quickly as possible. Some employers need new workers now, and they will hire as soon as possible. Expect to see fewer job posts over the next four to six weeks, but keep looking and applying. You might find a new job under your Christmas tree.
Clients will often call me and ask me about how they can use LinkedIn or work with a recruiter. After I ask a few questions, the truth usually comes out: They are reluctant to look for a job. I don’t mean this as a criticism. I know no one who wants to perform this task. Looking for work sucks, but it’s the only way for most people to find a new job.
When a job seeker relies on a headhunter or a LinkedIn profile to find her next employer, she is conducting a “passive job search.” A few people find a job using this method. Most people, however, have to take initiative to network and reply to job posts, which is call an “active job search.” Employers tend to look for employees only when they are high skilled or have an unusual skill. Otherwise, they expect job seekers to come to them through network contacts or by responding to job posts.
Technology has made our lives easier in every way. It has made finding a job slightly easier, and it has given us tools like LinkedIn that we can use to improve networking. That said, we still need to be proactive in finding employers and convincing them that we are qualified for the position they need. In most cases, the job won’t find you. You have to find it.
This is the only question that matters when you’re writing a resume or interviewing for a job.
Too often, job seekers talk about what they did on their last job. They use the language of that company and discuss their duties in specific details that only apply to that job/company. Prospective employers do not care about all of this information. It is not relevant to their business problem. Your challenge is to show how your previous experience and education will be a benefit to your next employer, not the last one.
I recommend that you start your job search by studying job posts for the positions that interest you most. Review 5-10 job posts. Identify common requirements and repeated “key” words. If you build your resume and prepare for interviews by focusing on what employers need, you will find that you have more interviews and faster job offers. It’s not about what you did in the past. It’s all about what you have to offer you next employer.
A client called with good news yesterday. She landed her ideal position at a great company. Her job search took four months, which she found a bit frustrating. I told her not to worry about that because it’s normal, especially for someone who lands the kind of job that she wants, not one that she has to take.
This story made me think about two important virtues every successful jobs seeker needs: patience and consistency. It might sound clichéd to call patience a virtue. But it’s a reality that it takes time to find a good job. While I’ve had some clients land jobs in 2-4 weeks, most job seekers will need 3-6 months to find a job. For some people that might mean taking a job to bring in income while the job search continues. That’s part of holding patience as a virtue. Every job search is different. Some will be fast and easy. Some will be long and hard. You need to adapt and keep faith in your talent.
You also have to be consistent. When clients have gotten stuck in the job search, it is often because some factor has made them stop looking for work. A good job search requires steady, constant activity: networking, identifying potential employers, responding to job posts. As one of my friends in HR likes to say, “The job won’t find you.” Instead, you have to keep plugging along in the face of disappointment. My formula is to be active at least 4-5 days per week. Hold yourself accountable by keeping a log. If you’re not recording activities for at least 4-5 days each week, you are not being consistent in the search. Expect a bad result.
I understand the frustration involved in looking for work. I’ve felt it, and it hurts. That said, if we approach this hard task with a realistic, practical outlook, we’ll be better able to put up with the frustration. If you’re steady in applying for work and patient in waiting for good things to come, the job search will not be as miserable. In fact, as you have more control over the process of looking for work, your phone will start to ring.
The latest issue of Inc. magazine has an interesting feature on networking as a way to recruit new employees. Referrals only make up 7% of applicants, but they result in 40% of hires. Similarly 98% of recruiters use LinkedIn, but only 38% of job seekers who use social media to look for work are on that site.
These numbers indicate how the job world is changing. As I’ve said before, we need to practice both active and passive job search methods. The best active way to look for work is to network with a goal of referrals. The best passive way to look for work is LinkedIn. People are still getting job using job boards. However, that path grows more narrow all the time. Use all of the tools in your job search tool box if you want to speed up your search and have more opportunities.
P.S. Inc. has a great video on how to become a master networker.
This is a follow up on my last post. Just as we need to think about key words when writing resumes, we also need to consider what other elements recruiters and applicant tracking scanners look for in screening candidates. In two different presentations, I’ve heard recruiters talk about using addresses and zip codes to limit their candidate searches. Here’s the rub. It’s becoming more common for job seekers to leave those elements off of their resumes. Simple solution: Put them back.
Other than including address, city and zip, what other elements should you consider? First, do not put your contact information in a header. Some applicant scanning software systems cannot reader headers. Second, if you are relocating, find some way to let employers know that you are moving. I usually include a bulleting in the objective that says: “To relocate to (city),” which the client will fill in. I may start to supplement this to include zip codes since that is a screening element. Don’t let a simple element like a city or zip code make you invisible to potential employers. Let them know where you live.
I attended a great seminar on LinkedIn yesterday. Over the next few weeks, I hope to put what I learned into practice and share it with blog readers. LinkedIn is a great tool, and everyone who wants to move ahead in his or her career should be using it. That said, there is a right way to use the tool and a way that is less effective.
Job seekers should use LinkedIn as a tool for an active job search, a way to contact people you know and connect to others through them. In an active job search, you will be meeting people and talking to them on the phone. You will not be looking for email that will never come. LinkedIn also provides strategic information about companies, alumni networks, and professional groups that can give us both information about potential employers and ways to reach them. Should you still respond to job posts? Yes, that’s part of an active job search. Anytime you are contacting a potential employer or someone who can help you make a connection, you are being active in the job search.
In the past, I’ve condemned passive job search in which job seekers post their resume and wait for the phone to ring. Over the past 5 years, major job boards such as Monster and Careerbuilder have improved the search functions of their databases. Some of my clients have gotten jobs by posting resumes. LinkedIn ups the ante. More employers will search LinkedIn, and jobs seekers have more ability to sell themselves. Every job seekers should make an active job search the first priority. However, it is also important to practice smart passive job search techniques. A good job search will include both active and passive job search strategies.
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