I’ve asked Alexis Baker, we went to high school together, to share some expert job search advice. I love reading her blog and I thought she’d be a great voice for us Dreamers. Please enjoy and get inspired for your dream job hunt.
If you’ve landed a job, I commend you. A job search is never easy, no matter the economic climate. Be proud that you completed yours successfully post-2008 — But not too proud. You didn’t cure cancer; you got a job. Take your job seriously and stay humble.
To the rest of you, my heart goes out to you. A job search is one of the more painful processes in life. Whether you’re simultaneously working or not, knowing that you want to change your current situation can make you feel helpless and distracted. Remember, whether it’s a current job or taking care of yourself, make sure your basic needs are met.
I have very few answers to any of life’s questions (except that when deciding between a salad or potato chips for dinner, you should always go for the latter), but throughout my career in HR and Recruiting (plus being a job-seeker myself), hope I can offer some advice to help you through your search. Below are 5 basic guidelines that I’ve identified that I hope will contribute to your successful job search:
- Hunt, don’t fish. Spend some time meditating about what you really want. Take a career test, consult friends and family, or even do some basic internet searches about different fields that interest you. And if that’s not getting you anywhere, think about cities you might want to live in or companies or organizations you would want to work for. Once you’ve pinned down some specifics, stick to them. If you don’t, you’ll get overwhelmed with options and possibilities. Recruiters and well-networked professionals can sense this. They’re interested in helping the folks who know what they want (or at least have an idea), not providing therapy to the ones who are lost. (That’s what your parents are for.)
- Use LinkedIn. First rule: put up a good picture of yourself that is professional-looking (or at least not embarrassing). Second, list the job history that represents the job you want, not the one you have. If you’re currently serving at a restaurant, but want a marketing job, highlight the work you’ve done for the restaurant or in past jobs that correlates to marketing and list your current position as “Currently Looking” or “In Transition.” It makes it clear that you and your job search are defined and relevant to your experience. You can also use LinkedIn to research companies, professional groups, and recruiters.
- Be vaguely specific. Your resume and your cover letter are your best friends. But sometimes it can feel like they are the best friends that you constantly have to reinvent. To avoid reinventing the wheel for each application, make sure that your resume and cover letter are designed to be malleable, meaning, easily editable based on the job or company you’re applying to.Write a cover letter in which words can quickly be swapped out to work for Job A just as well as it does for Job B. Use numbers and statistics that show you are results oriented, but avoid using company,or industry,-specific jargon or acronyms. And when networking, let a professional connection or recruiter know that you’re interested in hearing about new opportunities and resist pigeon-holing yourself into one track versus another (for example, you are only interested in Public Relations roles or working for large companies). Let your networking work for you.
- Don’t listen to the critics. Or your friends. Or your parents. Because you are the only one who knows what is best for you. I studied English and French at a Big Ten University. Why? I dunno, because if I had to be at college for 4 years, I wanted to spend it doing something I liked. I went to Paris for 4 months after graduation to work at some obscure recruiting job that I found on Craigslist. Why? Again, because I wanted the chance to wear a beret and not be ironic. Doing things that I wanted to do eventually led me to a career in recruiting and HR that is satisfying and stable. I’m not saying you should never listen to those around you, but pay attention to your gut. If you’re genuine and thoughtful, it will pay off. Go to graduate school, take the lower-paying non-profit job, or move to New York to begin a job search from a bench in Central Park. Whatever it is, do it, and do it with purpose.
- A (new) job isn’t a cure-all. A job isn’t going to suddenly make you happy. A new job, or a bigger salary, or working in a big city won’t suddenly give purpose to your life. Nor will it suddenly make all the other things in your life better (like a failing relationship, or poor health, or simply the feeling of being “stuck.”). A job or a career is part of the equation to your internal happiness, but when looking to make a change in your life, look at the whole picture. Make sure that you’re looking for a new job for all the “right” reasons, and only you can really know what those right reasons are. Recruiters can pick up on this stuff, and they’ll be hesitant to work with you through a job search if they can sense that your heart isn’t in the right place.
And the sixth, unofficial rule in job searching is that, you guessed it, there are no rules. Every job search works in its own unique way. It’s like dating—don’t force it. Be kind and honest, wear your best outfits, and let things happen naturally. And remember that things usually take longer than you expect. If you let go of your expectations and are true to yourself, great things will happen. And please, if for no reason other than this blog post, learn how to give a good handshake. In dating and in interviewing, it’s worth a lot more than you think.
Alexis Baker is currently the HR and Development Specialist with LightEdge Solutions, Inc., an independent IT and Cloud Computing firm in Des Moines. Prior to LightEdge, she was with Groupon, Inc. in Human Resources supporting its international sales and technology function and worked in recruiting for global luxury and communications brands in Paris and Chicago. When not spreading the good word of HR, or trying to get #hrthings to trend on Twitter, Alexis enjoys collecting mid-century furniture and art, cooking with family and friends, and discovering the next great hidden gem in her hometown.