By Bridget Sullivan
Full Disclosure + Introduction
Hi, my name is Bridget, and I’m not here to lie to you. So, I’ll tell you the truth: the job search is hard. It’s not an excruciating level of difficulty, like completing a marathon or solving a Sunday crossword puzzle. You can do this, seriously. But it’s going to take time, energy and willingness to look (and feel) foolish.
I say that last part from first-hand experience. I’m a young professional -- emphasis on the first part. I spent the better part of 2014 figuring out how to land my first job, post-grad. Take everything I’m about to tell you with a grain of salt. (Maybe two grains.)
But know this: that no matter where you are in your search, I’ve been there. Or maybe not.
Either way, I am here to offer you some friendly advice, based on my non-traditional experiences job searching.
Step 1: Channel organized chaos.
When looking for my current position, I wrote down every position I applied for. Every last one.
As the number of jobs starting stacking up, I began to get discouraged. This might happen to you, but don’t let it. Even if the number starts to resemble the size of a small country, continue to write down these jobs.
Why would I possibly do that? (You’re totally asking yourself this right now.) Well, I’ll tell you.
If you’re applying to any and every appealing job without a good organization system, you’re going to be a hot mess. To clarify, you’ll become a frazzled, unorganized person that makes unnecessary mistakes. Mistakes that could cost you a job. You’re too good for that.
Now, I’ll be honest, you will be frazzled at times, existential at others, and often running around like you’ve eaten your weight in espresso beans. That’s part of the job search (and being human).
But don’t let your emotions compromise your search.
In short, keep a list of jobs, companies, of people that you’ve met (whether it’s through networking, or hiring managers, etc.). Your future, employed self will thank you because now you have a tangible record of your hard work.
Step 2: Know what you want. (Or what you don’t.)
This list you’ve curated is the gift that keeps on giving. During your search, you might be thinking several things:
a. I don’t know what I want
b. I don’t know what industry I want to work in
c. I don’t know what I’m qualified for
These are valid worries, and they ran through my head again and again. Until, I sat down and took a calculated look at my job list.
On that list, I had a wide array of industries, companies and positions. I had starred the ones that I’d been called back from. There were roughly six stars on a multiple digit list. Of these six positions, I was fairly certain of one thing.
The jobs that I was getting called for were not the ones that I wanted.
Realizing that I didn’t just want “any job” was a game-changer. If you take anything away from this article, know this: you are employable. You have marketable skills. No job is perfect. There are millions of jobs out there, and if you put in enough time and effort, you’ll find something.
Step 3: Be prepared for surprises.
That being said, any interview experience is good experience. Aka, if you get invited to interview for a position, dress up and show up. I firmly believe this, and that’s why I found myself going to an interview for a job that I didn’t think I “wanted.”
In the first five minutes of my interview, I gave my usual spiel about my interests, internships and qualifications. Then, my interviewer stopped me.
“You seem like an intelligent person,” he said. “But not the right fit. I know we have an opening in another department, and I’ll give that hiring manager a call.” In the time it takes to place an order at Starbucks, my job trajectory drastically shifted. What had started as a polite “no” turned into a new lead -- for a job that actually excited me!
As irony would have it, I had applied to both jobs at the same company. For the second position, I hadn’t been contacted, and I’d basically crossed it off of my job list. Now, I was getting a second chance (in person no less!) to express my interest in working for this company.
Now here’s the crucial part to remember: if I hadn’t shown up for that first job interview, I would not have gotten any closer to getting my first job. During your job search, be prepared to be surprised.
Step 4: A good “thank you” goes a long way.
After every single interview, I would send a handwritten thank you note to my interviewers. This is a job search best practice, one that you’ll probably read about in dozens of articles. I won’t bore you with techniques to help you craft the perfect note.
But I will tell you this: thank you notes work. There are dozens of people you will encounter in your quest to find employment. Any one of them could help you land your next position. If they take the time to meet with you and hear about your story, the least you can do is express gratitude.
After one particular interview, I wrote six thank you notes. I addressed individualized notes to the interview team members, the hiring manager, and an effusive thank you note to the first hiring manager. In the week after this interview, I stressed over verb tenses, the color of my pen and the ‘flow’ of each note.
I shouldn’t have worried. Later, I was told that these thank you notes sealed the deal. (I got the job!)
Thanks for reading -- and good luck on your job search!
PR Visions will be periodically posting blogs about job search strategies for young and mid-career professionals. If you want to share your tips with us, email Kathleen Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org.