Whether you are about to graduate, are returning to the work force after a break, have recently lost your job or are switching careers, you find yourself at crossroads. Finding a job is a process that most of us go through at least once and possibly several times in our lives. Why do some of us seem to be more successful at landing jobs than others? The difference can be attributed to several reasons such as the jobs seeker’s skills, line of work, the economy and, at times, even simply being at the right place at the right time. This article outlines some of the steps, methods and tips you can use in finding a job, no matter what your interest or skill level.
Identify your skills. The Crystal-Barkley corporation, one of America’s renowned career counseling firms, which coined the term “work-life balance” more than 20 years ago, offers courses, one-on-one and group sessions for individuals seeking fulfilling careers and balanced lifestyles. Its approach is to help its clients identify their skills and goals both personally and professionally, before matching them with fulfilling careers. There are several ways you can identify your strengths. You could start by making a list of activities you enjoy or are good at. Take career assessment tests. Discuss your options with your college’s career counselor or your mentor. Talk to people who know you well–your teachers, friends whose opinions you trust and value. Determine what types of jobs and roles you will be suitable for. Richard Bolles’ book, “What Color Is Your Parachute?”, offers practical tips for job hunters and career changers to identify their core strengths.
Research industries and occupations that match your interests and skills, and observe hiring trends. Read the papers, pay attention to job surveys and listen to what employers are saying. Knowing who is hiring and what kind of talent they are looking for helps you focus your job quest toward more viable options. Surveys such as the one listed in Resources below tell you which occupations pay well, which area or industry has the most jobs and where those jobs are. This helps you look in the right places.
Update your skills. Updated skills help project yourself as a valuable asset to employers. Take online classes or certifications, go back to school, or invest in specialized training and books that will give you the edge. Regardless of whether the economy is in a slump or is doing well, when it comes to picking the best candidate, employers will likely lean toward individuals who have additional, “preferred skills” rather than those who merely meet the basic requirements. Pay close attention to what employers seek in potential candidates, for the positions that interest you. Look at the “preferred qualifications” column. That should indicate the skills you need to acquire to make employers’ short lists. During an economic slump, it is the highly skilled workers who are likely to be among the last to be asked to leave.
Put your best foot forward. Make sure you have a resume that highlights your strengths, experience, goals and qualifications most effectively. Read sample resumes. Consider hiring professional resume writers to critique yours or create one for you. When applying to a position, tailor your cover letter to the role and organization. Polish your interviewing skills. Prepare your answers for commonly asked interview questions, and practice your answers with a friend or in front of a mirror. Keep the position, role and organization in mind when planning your answers. Work on your body language, communication and presentation skills. Put together a wardrobe or set of interview clothes that project professionalism or that are appropriate for the line of work you are interested in.
Explore all available job-search tools. Scour newspaper ads, job search sites, job aggregators, employer websites and their careers pages. Employ cold calling. Upload your resume to job sites and websites of recruiting companies and staffing firms. Employ all types of social networking avenues, both online and offline. According to surveys discussed in articles on usnews.com and job-hunt.org, networking is the leading job search method that gets best results. So, learn how to tap into your existing network and also how to expand it to benefit you in your search for a job. Go to job fairs with several copies of your resume. Keep an eye on local businesses putting out ads seeking help. Spread the word to your circle of friends and acquaintances that you are seeking a job in a particular field.
Be focused, but flexible. Be optimistic, but realistic. These may seem like contradictions, but during a job search, it is important to be open-minded and develop a positive attitude. Although the first two steps tell you how to match your skills to a specific industry type and job role, it is, however, a good idea to be open to alternatives, at least temporarily. According to a CNN.com article (see Resources below), it might be useful to look at options like freelancing or part-time work when seeking a job during a recession. These might be the stepping stones to finding a full-time or long-term opportunity down the line. Similarly, you must be realistic about your expectations of landing a job with the salary you want. Set your goals, but be open to modifying some of the specifics as you go along.
Learn to market yourself. No matter how skilled, qualified or experienced you are, your employer or interviewer will only see you the way you choose to project yourself. So, work on your soft skills. Have confidence in your abilities, and let the confidence reflect in your job-search process. Learn to play up your accomplishments while still being humble. Sometimes, your attitude and the way you come across are given even more weight than your actual qualifications. A Georgia Tech study reveals that a positive attitude and persisitence do really pay off in a job search. So, when you see a position or job that you want, believe that you deserve it and are right for it. Prepare yourself, and then give it your best.