Career Checklist #2: 100 More Tips for Success In Your Job Search
Since there are never enough tips for every jobseeker, I've developed 100 more action items every jobseeker can do to be successful in a job search!
¨ Make sure the top 1/3 of your résumé is a qualifications profile/summary that emphasizes what you can do for the employer.
¨ Your résumé must be specifically targeted for the type of position you’re seeking — a generic résumé won’t do.
¨ After you’ve identified a specific job title that you’re pursuing, collect and analyze 3-5 job postings for this type of position.
¨ Be sure to focus on how you can add value to a prospective employer — and then get your résumé in the hands of someone who can hire you.
¨ To increase your chances of securing an interview, you need to identify who the hiring manager is and get your résumé to him/her directly.
¨ One of the best ways to reach the hiring manager is through people you already know — and/or the people they know.
¨ Identify the people you already know who can help introduce you to the people you need to get to know in order to move forward with your job search.
¨ Make a list of all of your contacts — past employers, vendors, customers, colleagues, competitors, bankers, and others — who can help you with your job search.
¨ Set up a separate email address that you only use for your job search. Use Gmail or — better yet — your own name as your domain name (like email@example.com).
¨ One of the best sources of information for your job search is a professional résumé writer. When in doubt about something you’ve heard or read about, ask!
Why You Need a Résumé
¨ Keep your résumé up to date even when you’re not actively seeking a new job — you never know when an opportunity might come up!
¨ Have a résumé ready in case your current employer needs it to include in a Request for Proposal (RFP) document or grant application.
¨ Update your résumé with current accomplishments and projects before your next performance evaluation.
¨ Prepare a résumé and/or bio to use as an introduction if you’re going to be making presentation or appearing on panels.
¨ Have a résumé ready in case you’re nominated for an award (or if you want to be considered for an award).
How to Know When It’s Time to Make a Change
¨ If you find yourself asking if it’s time to make a change, it’s probably time to make a change.
¨ The first step in making a change is identifying the reason or reasons why you are considering a change.
¨ Ask yourself whether the reasons for the change are temporary or something that are likely to permanently impact your current position.
¨ Figure out whether you just need to change companies or if you need to change your entire career.
¨ If you’ve decided it’s time to make a change, make a plan for what you want to do next before you take any action.
¨ Inventory your accomplishments and what you have to offer another company or in a different career path.
¨ Consider if you need additional skills, education, or training in order to make a successful job or career change. Investigate how to acquire what you need before you make the change.
¨ Don’t burn the bridge at your current job. Give ample notice and offer to train your replacement.
¨ Get your financial house in order before you take action on your job or career change. Stockpile cash to help you during the transition.
¨ Make sure you are moving towards something you want, rather than just running away from something you don’t like.
¨ If you want to figure out where you want to go next, first start with an assessment of where you’ve been. Is there a common thread in your career history? Are you using the skills, education, and training you have? If not, why not?
¨ Set career goals for yourself. Where do you want to be 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years from now? What do you need to do to get there?
¨ Take time to document your work accomplishments. What was the most important thing you did in your job in the last year? What was the impact of that accomplishment — did you save your company money, or bring in revenue? Can you quantify the financial impact?
¨ Look at your relationships with your co-workers, bosses, and those you supervise. Do you need to make any adjustments? Could you strengthen these relationships? How?
¨ Think about what you’d really like your life to be like. If money and time were of no concern to you, how would you spend your days?
¨ Determine what your #1 priority is (personally) for the next 12 months. What is the one thing you absolutely want to accomplish, or see, or experience in the next year?
¨ Professionally, what do you want to be different in the next year? What do you want to be doing more of, and how can you get there?
¨ Ask yourself: Am I doing the things I need to do to get where I want to go?
¨ Write down what kind of support you need — personally and professionally — to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself.
¨ Start an accomplishments journal, brag book, or brag file to document your accomplishments.
Getting Ready for Your Job Search
¨ The first thing to do is figure out what you want to do next! Define your ideal job. If you don’t know what your dream job looks like, how will you find it?
¨ Create a target list of companies you’d like to work for. Figure out what kind of organization you want as your employer. Once you’ve made your list, look for companies that fit your criteria.
¨ Update your résumé. Once you know what kind of job you want and what kind of companies you’re targeting, you can focus your résumé on the specific type of position you want.
¨ Develop or update your LinkedIn profile. Someone looking for a candidate with your skills and experience might conduct a search on LinkedIn and find your profile. Or someone in your network might be interested in recommending you, and forward your LinkedIn profile URL.
¨ Work to build your network — online and off. It’s estimated that 40-80 percent of jobs are found through networking. Grow your network personally and professionally. You never know who will be the person to introduce you to your next job opportunity.
Conduct a Social Media Audit
¨ Google yourself. Think like a hiring manager or recruiter and conduct a Google search for your name. You may need to conduct a couple of searches using different variations of your name (First Name/Last Name, First Name/Middle Name/Last Name, First Name/Middle Initial/Last Name) to see what comes up.
¨ Review your current social media profiles for any potentially objectionable content. Also determine if any profile information is missing, or if there’s anything you can add. (For example, you can add a link to your blog in your LinkedIn profile.)
¨ Change the privacy settings for any religious or political posts. Delete any posts that show you engaging in anything that a prospective employer may find offensive or inappropriate.
¨ Use the Reach™ Online ID Calculator™ to assess your online presence. You can find the tool here: http://www.onlineidcalculator.com/index.php
¨ See if there are any gaps in your social media presence — are there websites that are standard for your industry that you should be on (for example, an Instagram account if you’re a photographer)?
Increase Your Social Media Participation
¨ Assess your current social media accounts. Are there any you’re not using? (Thought you were going to post on Twitter but gave up after a couple of weeks?) Delete or deactivate unused accounts so they no longer show up in your active search results.
¨ Review your privacy settings on any accounts you’re keeping. First, make a list of the accounts you have. Next, check your privacy settings for each account.
¨ Make sure your LinkedIn profile is considered “complete” by LinkedIn standards. Populate your industry and location, an up-to-date position (with a description), add two past positions, include your education, define at least three skills, add a profile photo and make sure you’re connected with at least 50 other people.
¨ For consistency, consider changing your profile photos on all of your social media accounts to the same (professional) photo so it makes it clear that the hiring manager found the right person!
¨ For the social media platforms where you’ve decided to cultivate your online presence, develop a schedule for adding new content regularly.
Do More on LinkedIn
¨ Do one thing to improve your LinkedIn profile: Create a custom Headline for your profile, review your current job position/description and make sure it’s updated, or review/add to your Summary.
¨ Increase your connections with Contacts by connecting with one of your references on LinkedIn or sending a connection request to a former co-worker.
¨ Publish something on LinkedIn today — a status update or a LinkedIn Publishing post.
¨ Get involved in a new LinkedIn Group today.
¨ Give an endorsement to an existing connection today.
Managing Your Personal Brand
¨ To help you figure out your personal brand, identify what you are already known for. You may have already positioned yourself — you may just not know it yet!
¨ To have a strong personal brand, you must be clear about who you are and who you are not. Take some time to figure out what you want to be known for.
¨ Make a list of words and phrases — things you have worked with, things you’ve accomplished, specific training you’ve received, projects you’ve worked on, and life experience that would be valuable. Are there any common threads or themes?
¨ Read your performance reviews. What do other people say about you?
¨ Can your personal branding statement be said about anyone else with your same job title? If so, it needs more work.
¨ Does your personal brand not only identify who you are, but also align with something that prospective employers value? What problem is the company trying to solve? Does your personal brand position you as the solution to that problem?
¨ Is your personal brand expressed throughout your career communication documents — on your résumé, LinkedIn profile, bio, etc.?
¨ Does your personal brand express these three things: A clear message of who you are? The experience you have? How you can be an asset to the employer? If not, you need to work on it!
¨ Is your personal brand: Authentic? Relevant? Compelling? Does it differentiate you from others?
¨ Does your online profile/presence complement your offline brand?
¨ If you are applying online, know that your résumé/application may go through an Applicant Tracking System. More than a fourth of all companies use some kind of ATS. When in doubt, submit an ATS-friendly résumé.
¨ When given the choice to upload your résumé or copy-and-paste as part of the online application process, upload a Word file (make sure it’s an ATS-compliant résumé format).
¨ Check to see if the online submission form has a character limit before uploading. (For example: “Submissions are limited to 20,000 characters.”)
¨ Make sure you’ve customized your résumé for the position, including relevant keywords. A “one-size-fits-all” approach does not work when the company uses an ATS for résumé screening.
¨ Be sure to check your email after applying for a position online. Some applicant tracking system software will automatically acknowledge your submission; however, because these are automated responses, the message may be diverted to your spam folder.
What To Do After the Job Interview
¨ Before ending a job interview, be sure to ask about “next steps.” What happens next? When? Ask if it’s okay for you to follow-up.
¨ The first thing to do after an interview is send a thank you note. You can send it via email, snail mail, or even drop it off at the company in person the next day.
¨ Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Continue to apply for — and interview for — other positions even as you follow up on this interview.
¨ Conduct a search on LinkedIn and see if you can find an existing contact who works for the target employer, or someone you know who is connected with a current employee.
¨ Reach out to your network, especially if the contact works at your target company. He or she may be able to provide insight about the competition and your chances for a second interview.
¨ While you wait for the next step, conduct salary research so you are prepared to negotiate your salary if you’re offered the job.
¨ If the interview revealed any specific gaps in your skills or education that can be addressed while you await a second interview, start working on that now.
¨ Continue to conduct research and prepare for the next round of interviews.
¨ Make a phone call to follow up. You likely will have to leave a voice mail message if you don’t reach the hiring manager directly, so be prepared with what you want to say!
¨ Follow up, as appropriate, until you receive the next interview, a job offer, or you find out that another candidate has been hired.
When to Hire a Reference Checking Service
¨ If you’re getting interviews, but not offers, the problem isn’t your résumé — it’s probably your references. Give some thought to who you’re listing as a reference — and what they might be saying about you.
¨ According to reference checking companies, nearly half of all reference checks result in a negative outcome. Take a minute to think about who on your reference list might (intentionally or unintentionally) give a negative reference about you.
¨ Make sure you’ve obtained permission from each one of your references to list him or her as a reference for you! The number one reason for a poor reference is that your reference wasn’t prepared for the inquiry!
¨ If you suspect a previous employer may be giving you a negative reference, consider hiring a company to conduct a reference check on your behalf.
¨ Don’t ask a friend to check your references. He or she may ask illegal questions inadvertently or allow something to “slip” during the conversation. Plus, a professional service can provide certified reports or sworn affidavits if you uncover a reference providing damaging information.
What To Do When Your Job Search Isn’t Working
¨ First, figure out where you’re lost or stuck in your job search. Is your résumé getting interviews? Are you getting offers after your interviews? You have to identify the problem before you can find a solution.
¨ Are you applying for positions that you’re qualified for? Meaning, you’re not underqualified, and you’re not overqualified, either.
¨ Make sure you’re applying for positions that are aligned with your résumé. In other words, if you told your professional résumé writer your job target was as an administrative assistant, don’t use the résumé to apply for dental hygienist jobs.
¨ Ensure you have a clearly defined goal that you’re pursuing. Wanting “any” job usually means you don’t get “any” offers.
¨ The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If your current job search isn’t working, it’s time to do something different. Create an action plan of specific activities that will help you connect with prospective employers — the most effective job search strategies involve talking to people who can either hire you directly, or put you in direct contact with a hiring manager.
¨ Enlist help. Ask a friend, another jobseeker, or a career coach or counselor to be your accountability partner — someone who will support, encourage, and motivate you in your job search.
¨ Not sure what you want in your next job? Do a self-assessment. What are you good at? What do prospective employers in your field need? Is there a match between the two?
¨ Not getting interviews? The problem might be your résumé. If you haven’t consulted with a professional résumé writer, ask for feedback. Some résumé writers charge a fee to critique your existing document; others will provide a brief analysis along with a recommendation about which of their services will assist you in your job search.
¨ Assess how you’re preparing for job interviews. Are you setting yourself up for success by researching the company and the person interviewing you, learning more about how you can fit into the company, and what you have to offer?
¨ If you’re getting interviews, but not offers, consider practicing your interviewing skills. Listen carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — remember, you’re looking for a match.
Making Sure You’ve Not Falling for Common Myths About Jobseeking
¨ You don’t have to conduct outrageous, attention-getting stunts (like sending a single shoe in a box to a hiring manager to “get your foot in the door”) to attract a hiring manager’s attention. Find the right decision-maker and send a customized cover letter and résumé that showcases why you can add value to the company. Follow-up with a phone call and/or email.
¨ Don’t fall for the “one-page résumé” myth. Hiring managers will read two-page (and even three-page!) résumés, if the content is well organized and relevant.
¨ Content matters. Even though Applicant Tracking System software has made résumé length less relevant (especially when the résumé is first screened), make sure that the information you’re including is relevant to the type of position you’re seeking. Eliminate the fluff, focus on accomplishments, and organize the information effectively.
¨ Résumés are not “one size fits all.” A résumé that is not targeted for a specific type of job — or even a specific job at a company — is less effective. You can’t use the same résumé to apply to widely different jobs (teaching and administrative management, for example).
¨ You cannot have multiple LinkedIn accounts to highlight your experience and qualifications for different types of positions. So if you’re pursuing multiple types of positions, your LinkedIn profile either has to be more “generic” or you must focus it on showcasing your qualifications for only one type of job you’re interested in.