Today job hunters contend with more than a poor economy and lots of talented competitors. Most don’t know how to hunt for a job so their efforts are smart, strategic, and effective.
Here are four tips adapted from my new book, Graduate to a Great Career, on how to get a great, not just okay, job that I learned from successful job hunters.
1. Approach the job hunt like an entrepreneur or marketer. The “product” you are selling is yourself — Brand You. Thinking like a brand means developing a marketing plan and a system for keeping track of various marketing activities and next steps, whether you do it on an Excel spreadsheet, contact management software, or with physical files. Key items to keep track of are the dates that resumes and pitch letters were sent, the dates of interviews, and the dates of thank-you notes and follow-up calls. If your cover letters, applications, and interviews aren’t going well, experiment with a different approach like marketers do. This can mean devising a new pitch or USP (unique selling proposition) or improving your “product” with an online certification or internship to acquire a needed skill.
2. Stop endlessly browsing online job boards to network into the “hidden job market.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are gotten through networking, not through filling out online job applications, which is how most new grads spend their time. Remember, online job applications only work when you have a near-perfect match with the keywords in the job listing. Since most new grads have limited job experience, it’s hard for most to have a strong keyword match. A smarter strategy is to focus on networking both in person and online. That way you can tap into the “hidden job market;” the majority of the best jobs that are unadvertised. Reach out to your contacts and tell everyone you know about your job search: college friends, business colleagues, your parents’ friends, professors, coaches, university alums, everyone. When you approach the job hunt more strategically, you should be spending 70 percent of your time on marketing and networking activities and 30 percent on online job applications.
3. Complement your broad search efforts with a targeted approach focused on a dream list of companies. You don’t want to work just anywhere, so put together a list of your top 20 dream companies and key players in each for special focus. (Key players to target are top executives, hiring managers, human resources professionals, etc.) Then, write a compelling pitch letter to hiring managers, or use social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to network by following dream companies and key people at each. You’ll be surprised how well social media networking can work and make you stand out from the crowd. You also can set up informational interviews with your business contacts and alums who work at companies of interest or who are in desired jobs in your career path. Get involved in professional groups to expand your network as well. Going to local and national conferences can be a great place to meet the movers and shakers in your industry and job function.
4. Stay positive and realize that there will be good and bad days. Unless you are summa cum lucky, chances are you will face periods of frustration, self-doubt, and failure in the days, weeks, and months of your job search. Have a small group of friends to keep you motivated, focused, and positive, and some seasoned mentors for advice and coaching. Have a friend who can proofread letters, emails, and resumes.
Getting a job is a mix of hard power skills (experience, internships, skills) and soft power skills (confidence, image, communication ability, and the like). You can’t focus on one and neglect the other. When the job outlook seems gloomy, put things in perspective. It usually takes ten to fifteen pitches or applications to get an interview, and maybe the same number of interviews to get a job offer. So, it’s best to get started on accumulating the rejections so that you can get the job offer you worked hard to earn.
Catherine Kaputa is a personal brand strategist, speaker and author. She is the author of the best-selling You Are a Brand. Her new book is Graduate to a Great Career: How Smart Students, New Graduates and Young Professionals Can Brand Themselves for Success out in April 2016. She is the founder of SelfBrand.
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