Nothing Special, Really

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tips On Finding A Job

First of all, a sincere thank you to all the well-wishers from my last post. 18 comments: I'm completely humbled by it all. Thank you.

I don't think the gravity of all this will hit until I actually go to work on March 10th. The past couple of days have felt like the past couple of months. I'm still broke, I still stay up too late, and I still spend most of my time at home. I haven't even stopped looking at new jobs. It's habit I guess.

I did some proper celebrating of the new occupation on Friday night. Several of my friends joined me for the evening, and I proceeded to get fully drunk that night. I only remember about half of the conversations, and one of the ones I do remember was a bit embarrassing. I also showed off my lonely nipple, and capped off the night by knocking down anything in my path on the walk back and\or putting construction cones on random cars. I still think there's a dumpster or two that's still on its side thanks to me.

Anyways, the celebration was somewhat bittersweet knowing that many of my former coworkers are still looking for jobs, not to mention several friends that are facing layoffs in the near future. Although I've certainly put in the effort to finally find a new job, I can't help but feel that, even after being unemployed for over 9 months, that I was lucky. There were probably several qualified candidates that applied for this job, and I think it's reasonable to assume that some of them were more qualified than me.

It goes without saying that things are scary these days, and even those that aren't facing layoffs currently are still not completely safe from future layoffs. Job security is a thing of the past, and I don't think you can be too prepared to search for a new job at anytime. So, I wanted to share some things that I learned during this process.

1. Build A Network

Without question, I think the biggest factor to finding a new job these days is building a network. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, create one now. If you do, add me if you haven't already. Keeping in touch with former colleagues, industry connections, and friends was absolutely instrumental in getting the interviews I did initially and, ultimately, my new job. It was the interview that got me my new position, but it was a recommendation from someone I interviewed with in August, someone that didn't even hire me, that got my foot in the door.

I heard on the news the other night that some position for an utilities company in Tacoma received over 1400 applications. I can guarantee you that the recruiter for that position did not look at every single one of those resumes. You can have a beautifully designed resume, a huge amount of relevant experience, and be the first one to apply for the job, and your resume may still not get noticed. However, if you can get your resume in the hands of someone in the company on the suggestion of someone that you mutually know, that will help you more than anything else. It certainly makes the recruiter's job easier; most recruiters or hiring managers will prefer to look over a resume that's recommended from someone they trust over sorting through tens or hundreds of unknown resumes. I would estimate that at least 40% of the interviews I went on were the result of working with someone in my network. To put it another way; I increased the number of interviews I had by 67% because of networking.

LinkedIn is the easiest way to maintain a network. This isn't a paid advertisement, just a strong recommendation. It's like Myspace or Facebook for professional purposes. The majority of my connections are friends or former colleagues, but each time I applied for a job, I would go through my connections to see if anyone I knew also knew someone at the company for which I was applying. If so, I would ask them to either send my resume to their connection and\or introduce me to their connection. In certain circumstances, if I made a good connection with someone I was interviewing, I would add them as a LinkedIn connection after the interview. I can give more suggestions on ways to use LinkedIn, but without a doubt, if you aren't actively using a LinkedIn profile, you are immediately at a disadvantage against anyone who is.

2. Continually Revise Your Resume

I've read and heard from various sources that you should tailor your resume each time you apply for a new job. I suppose that there must be some truth to that if so many people agree, but I believe you only have to do that to an extent. Many of the positions I applied for were very similar, so I didn't have to change it very often, but what I did do was create multiple versions of my resume when certain positions didn't fit.

The most common position I was applying for was an HR Generalist position, but I also applied for other similar positions that didn't share that job title. Both of these resumes were identical with one exception; in my objective, I mentioned that I my goal was a position as an HR Generalist or HR Professional, respectively. Aside from those positions, I also applied for a couple jobs in HRIS, the field of HR I was in with my previous employer. Because these positions required a different set of skills and experience, I revised my resume to highlight those qualities first. Finally, when I was at risk of running out of unemployment, I began applying for various non-HR jobs; that resume highlighted my experience in management or customer service over my HR experience. The point here is that you shouldn't expect your resume to fit each and every position you apply for. If you're applying for positions that have different job titles, you should at least have one resume for each.

More importantly, take the time to constantly reevaluate your resume, especially if you aren't getting a lot of responses from potential employers. I revised my resume no less than 6 times over the past couple of months. When I first started looking for jobs, my resume listed my experiences and accomplishments in terms of where I made the biggest impact. This resume was helpful in securing a couple of interviews for HRIS positions, but I was more interested in Generalist jobs. Once I revised my resume to list my accomplishments in terms of what was more relevant to Generalist positions, interest from potential employers was noticeably different. If you feel that your resume needs improvement, I'll certainly offer to look over any requests, but there are also many businesses, not to mention internet sites, that can also help with this.

3. Stay Positive

At times, this was the hardest part for me; loyal blog readers know how frustrated I've been during this process. I was luckier than others in that my frustration wasn't due to a lack of interest by employers; I know former colleagues who have had a lot less interview than I've had. For me, the frustration was due to coming close on many occasions but not quite making it all the way. It got easier to deal with after each rejection, but it never stopped being frustrating.

Aside from being rejected, there was also the frustration I got just from working out the bugs of finding a job. I was by no means a seasoned job searcher when I got laid off, and I made more than my fair share of mistakes along the way. I did everything from being overaggressive with my follow ups to being under-prepared for the interview to trying to shortcut my cover letter by copying and pasting a previous one yet forgetting to change the name of the company in the letter. It was hard enough trying to find a job; it only made it more frustrating that I was, at times, sabotaging myself.

I wrote a blog post several months back talking about the parallels between dating and finding a job. Even with the job I have now, I think the parallels are there. I didn't get this job because I tried something new; it was just a case of the timing being right, the chemistry being present, and the fact that both parties had something the other wanted. Rejection hurts, whether it's by a girl or by a recruiter (I can't say whether or not the rejection pain doubles if the recruiter is a girl, but I bet it would if they happened to be an ex-girlfriend) but in both situations, you're better off the sooner you stop wallowing in self-pity and get back out on the market. I believe in both situations that it's not the case of finding "the one"; it's about continually putting yourself in positions to find one of the many opportunities that fit for you. The refrain "it's not you, it's me" applies to both situations, and instead of dwelling on the fact that it doesn't work out, it's easier to concentrate on the fact that you're doing the right thing, it's just the wrong opportunity

(disclosure: I hate to get all mushy on you, but another parallel between dating and jobs is that, in both cases, I believe that I have the best of both worlds and have no plans on leaving either.)

There's definitely more to finding a job than those three points, but in my experience, those aspects were the most crucial to getting to the point I'm at today. I wouldn't have got this job if I didn't build and maintain the network that I have, and even though my network helped me get the interview, I don't know if I would have had the same result if I was still circulating my original resume. And I'm certain that if I didn't have the support of my family, my friends, and most importantly, my girlfriend, I don't know if I would have maintained the motivation I needed to keep going.

I'll check back in with an update once I start my new job. Until then, I'm going to enjoy these last few weeks of unemployment.

Trash cans and construction signs: beware.

3 Comments:

  • Is Linkedin the next big thing? Or is it the big thing that I haven't already participated in? I mean I run that Twitter shit like mad, and am following (and followed by) some notable persons in my field. But, either way I'm still in college, with somewhat good experience under my belt, would this be necessary?

    Aside from the unnecessary questions, congrats on the job! I'll have to come over and buy you a drink at Sasquatch to get you back for that dinner stuff.

    By Blogger Carmen, At February 19, 2009 at 11:18 PM  

  • LinkedIn is probably the biggest professional social networking site; I know some places still check out Myspace & Twitter and what not, but the great thing about LinkedIn is that it's strictly professional.

    I think, even for someone in college, it can still be useful. It can be a good way to meet people for possible internships. It may not be as necessary for someone like you but it's still a good way to connect with people in your future industry.

    With that said, I haven't had nearly as much success connecting with strangers directly as I have via someone we both mutually know. Recruiters will probably be more open to adding anyone, since it's kinda part of the their job, but someone out of HR might be hesitant to connect with you initially.

    By Blogger Matt, At February 20, 2009 at 12:03 AM  

  • You didn't mention what company you'll be working for. Are youa llowed to talk about that?

    By Anonymous mark, At February 20, 2009 at 8:37 AM  

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