Job Searching 202

Note: I’m not an HR specialist, nor do I work in the HR field, nor am I a recruiter. My advice comes from experience as a grad student trying to find a job after graduation (about four months of full-time searching) and a professional looking to move into a different position and field (a couple of years on-and-off before moving into my current job)

Courtesy Skampy/Flickr

There’s a lot out there when job searching – trust me, I know. And, unless you’re unemployed and have 24 hours a day to search, it can be very time-consuming. But when you’re unemployed it’s also generally more stressful. So, in short, job searching is always overwhelming. End statement.

This post is meant for those who know all the basics but are still struggling or want to hone job searching skills. I’ve seen and heard many requests for advice or sites to look for jobs; I just can’t fit this all in 140 characters (if you couldn’t tell) or keep re-typing my suggestions, so I thought I’d write a blog post instead.

Three sources you may not have thought of

  1. Professional associations – your local professional association likely has a careers section. Sometimes it’s accessible to everyone, like the Canadian Public Relations Society, and sometimes not, like the International Association of Business Communicators. In the latter case, you may be able to find a friend or colleague who is a member who can pass on the info (if nothing else, a head’s up so that you can check out the hiring organization’s website). These jobs are like gold because they’re targeted to people just like you. And sometimes contain positions that aren’t posted widely. Other associations that may be of interest to PR professionals: Canadian Marketing Association, Health Care Public Relations Association and Public Affairs Association of Canada.
  2. LinkedIn – yes, I know. Everyone likes to lament about how LinkedIn sends 400 emails a day (I use unroll.me to manage my email subscriptions, by the way) and the endorsements are dubious at best, but the site has stepped up the game in the jobs section. I spend a bit of time on LinkedIn each week so I like to keep up with new features. Now LinkedIn is also sending emails with jobs I might be interested in and suggesting them right in my timeline. It’s interesting to see what’s out there, aside from the fact that most of what LinkedIn suggests is in Toronto. You can use the Jobs section to search by job category, field, location, keywords and level. There are also additional options, like salary, if you go for the paid version of LinkedIn, which I do not subscribe to so cannot in good conscience recommend.
  3. Networking – I know this one is in every job advice column since the beginning of time, but I think people still overlook it as important. While I don’t think it’s 100% who you know, when two people are about equal in skill and knowledge, it’s the one with the connections who’s going to get the job. Not sure how to network? Try looking up groups in your city that have similar interests to you, like Third Tuesday, NextStepYYC or Social Media Breakfast in my case, as well as events put on by local professional associations. Join in on the events, make friends. Once you’ve established a relationship (and this is important, because there’s nothing worse than the acquaintance who only ever makes contact with you when s/he wants something), drop the hint that you’re on the prowl for a job. You don’t have to be aggressive about it; just plant the seed so that next time a job comes across his/her desk that might be a fit for you, it’ll get passed along as an FYI.

That’s not to say that the same ol’, same ol’ Workopolis, Monster, Calgary Job Shop, Service Canada Job BankKijiji (ugh) aren’t worth checking out – they are! The suggestions above are just meant to expand your job search horizons… or something.

Have your resume AND cover letter looked over

The turning point in my search for a job that yielded me my past two positions was asking someone who works in recruiting to look over my resume and cover letter. I’d surfed all the Resume 101 websites and made changes here and there, and thought my resume was the bee’s knees. So, I was shocked when I got pages and pages of feedback on my application material; all starting with removing my middle name from my resume because my first and last names are hard enough to remember as it is. Could my full name be turning off prospective employers? Turns out, yes. After making the changes (and, really, it wasn’t that many; mostly to my cover letter) I started getting interviews like crazy. So I cannot stress enough that having a professional who works in the field look over your resume and cover letter is important. And not someone like me who likes to throw out advice and pretend to be an expert (just kidding – see my Note above). If you can find someone who specializes in recruiting specifically in your field, all the better. Looking for a job in the education field vs. information technology vs. public relations – resumes and cover letters are all going to look very different. There’s usually an office at your university or college that will do this for free or at a very reduced cost for current and past students. And if it means putting in a few dollars to have a professional at an agency do it, it may be worth your while.

I keep mentioning the cover letter – did you notice that? The cover letter is like the hobbled sibling of the resume, and a lot of people don’t bother putting much thought into it. Please do – it’s the “face” on your application and if your cover letter doesn’t POP then there’s a good chance your resume will get a quick once-over, at best. There’s debate about whether cover letters are still necessary. It’s my opinion that they are. Personalize them (put the company’s name in there at least twice) and make sure what you’re saying about yourself fits the position you’re applying for. Tell the company what you’ll bring to the table and why it should hire you. If you don’t know the recruiter’s name, just leave off “Dear…” altogether – “To Whom It May Concern” just looks bad.

Keep track of what you’re applying for and what you’re searching

When I first got out of grad school, I was applying for five to ten jobs a day, five days a week. That’s a LOT of jobs to keep track of. It only takes one phone interview where the recruiter asks “What prompted you to apply for this job?’ before you realize that saving every single job description you’ve applied for in offline mode (I just copy/pasted into Word docs and kept them categorized in a folder on my hard drive) is a great idea. Otherwise, you’re trying to answer a question about a job you don’t remember applying for. Or a company in which you’re not positive what they do. You may think this will never happen to you but, trust me, jobs start to blend together, especially after months of searching. Be diligent and do your homework.

As a side note, while the number is getting smaller and smaller, there’s a subset of companies that doesn’t advertise jobs externally. I recommend making a list of your “dream” companies, going to the websites manually, signing up for job alerts and/or checking for jobs on a regular basis. I developed a spreadsheet after grad school that indicated the company, whether I had a job alert set up and the last time I’d checked for positions on its website (I may be able to find this and pass it along if anyone is interested). This is especially important for organizations that are in your Top 10 to work for. Why leave it to chance that you’ll happen upon available jobs in your searches? Sign up directly and make sure you’re in the know.

Good luck!

What’s your favourite job searching resource? Is there anything I’ve missed?

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