Getting a new job is exciting. Finding a new job? Not so much. If you’ve experienced anything like my six-month job search in Vermont, the process can get stressful, tedious, and exhausting. But there are ways to make it easier.
Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, Vermont’s job market is finally opening up and employers are actually struggling to find workers. From firsthand experience, here are some of my personal tips for finding a job.
START YOUR SEARCH WHILE YOU’RE STILL EMPLOYED
Admittedly, this isn’t always within your control. But if you’re starting to think about getting a new job, it’s best to look while you’re still drawing a paycheck.
For one, it helps make you a more attractive candidate (though I wish that weren’t the case). You don’t have to explain why you’re unemployed or the gaps on your resume. You can point to projects that you’re working on as part of selling yourself for the position.
More importantly, it takes the pressure off finding a job just to make ends meet. You can be picky and wait for the right job offer to come through. Instead of taking a job because it pays the bills, you can accept one that checks the right boxes. If you’re not unhappy where you are now and just exploring your options, you can always fall back on your current job. Nothing wrong with that!
MAKE A PLAN
It’s hard not to feel like you need to start applying immediately. In the long run, it helps to have a plan (though hopefully, it’s not too long a run!). Take a deep breath and a step back to think about how you want to conduct your search. For example:
- What kind of job(s) are you looking for—and willing to accept? This includes considering the responsibilities, salary, industry, organization, remote work options, and even job titles. Establishing what you want in advance can prevent you from settling for a job out of desperation, finding yourself unhappy, and back on the job hunt again.
- What’s your job search schedule? Have you heard the expression, “Treat your job search like a job”? It’s a little reductive, but it does ring true. Because you don’t have someone setting your schedule or expectations for you, it helps to do it yourself. Whether it’s following a typical 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM or creating a flexible schedule, you want it to be doable and sustainable.
- Where will you look? Bookmark job boards to check regularly, search the local classifieds, and regularly check anywhere else where relevant job opportunities are listed. By knowing the key places where you can find the kinds of jobs you’re looking for, you can stay on top of new openings when they become available.
NETWORK AND BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Over the course of my career, I’ve only landed one job where I didn’t have someone to vouch for me—and that teaching English for 10 hours a week in Spain. Forming relationships and expanding your network is one of the best ways to set yourself up for a new position. Employers are more comfortable hiring someone they know, or referred by someone they trust, than choosing the candidate they “know” from a piece of paper and a couple of interviews.
How do you build relationships and create your professional network?
- Go to networking events: Everyone is looking to make connections at a networking event, so it can make it a little easier to start a conversation (especially if you’re introverted like me). You won’t keep in touch with everyone you meet, but the ones with who you do stay connected with might help further your career.
- Attend conferences and seminars: Yes, you may have to pay a fee for many conferences. If you can afford it, this is a great way to invest in yourself twofold—you’ll gain knowledge and/or skills and you’ll meet people who have a shared interest. Be sure to show up early to chat over morning coffee and pastries and stay after for any other networking opportunities.
- Grab coffee or lunch: Another excellent but small investment in your career? Treating someone to coffee or lunch. It’s the perfect follow-up to meeting someone at an event—you’ll be able to have a deeper conversation and make a more personal connection. Grabbing a drink or a bite to eat is also a great way to reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken with in a while.
- Set up informational interviews: Think of this as a more formal coffee. Reach out to people in your field of interest to learn more about the industry, sought-after skills, opportunities, and even how you could better position yourself for a job. You can also ask for an informational interview at companies where you’d love to work to gather information and even express your interest.
Yes, you can get a job based on your resume and interview alone (and not just ones that require knowledge of your native language). Still, relationships can make your search that much easier.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” To successfully land your new job, you need to spend time preparing.
Go beyond the job description and do some additional research about the organization. What projects are they working on? What do they seem to value in their employees? What can you glean about their internal culture? Go to their website, watch company videos, scroll through their social media accounts, and see what comes up in an online search.
This goes without saying, but tailor your resume and cover letter. Using the job qualifications and responsibilities and your research, tell them why you are the best candidate for this job. Job applications aren’t one size fits all.
As part of customizing your application to the position, you’ll want to think about how to market yourself—without being misleading, of course. How can you translate your experience and skills to this new job? Frame your accomplishments in terms of the job you’re applying for, not the job you did. Show how your skills will apply if they were to hire you.
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DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL
Yes, you want to modify your application for each opening. No, you don’t want to start from scratch. Odds are that you’re applying to jobs that are relatively similar to one another. Use your previous resumes and cover letters as a template or foundation. You’ll need to highlight other skills, use different “buzzwords,” and/or move pieces around to match the specific priorities of the position.
One of the things I’ve learned in my job searches is that, to a certain extent, it’s a numbers game. The more jobs you apply for, the more opportunities you give yourself to be hired. You can’t submit the same cookie-cutter application—that doesn’t give you a fighting chance against other candidates. But you don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time writing a Goldilocks cover letter, either.
You’re going for quality AND quantity. Find the line between the two, straddle it, and crank out applications that will get you in for an interview.
PRACTICE YOUR INTERVIEW SKILLS
This could go in the “Do your homework” section but feels important enough to stand alone. The interview is your chance to set yourself apart from the rest of the candidates. Prepare accordingly:
- What questions can you expect? Your goal is to not hear any questions for the first time.
- What will your answers be? They’ve seen your resume. Tell them what they can’t see on a piece of paper.
- How will you deliver your answers? Rehearse your answers—out loud. I can tell you from experience that thinking through your answers isn’t as effective as actually saying them aloud.
- Who can help you practice? Have a friend or family member interview you. They may ask you a question you hadn’t thought of, including follow-up questions, and can give you feedback on your answers. Do it a few times to really hone your responses.
- What questions do you have? Always show up to an interview with questions to ask. When I’ve been on the hiring side of an interview, I’ve deducted serious points if the candidate didn’t ask any questions at the end.
BE PERSISTENT AND STAY POSITIVE
Searching for a new job can feel like a gauntlet of rejection that has no end in sight. I know it’s easier said than done—I really do—but keep your chin up and keep at it. Your new job is out there! Stick to your plan, stay optimistic, and remember: all it takes is one person saying yes.
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