Posted on Behalf of Julia Harris Wexler '83TC, '14BUS, Columbia University Certified Executive Career Coach
Searching for a job is usually associated with as much joy as . . . dental work. The truth is that it doesn't have to be anxiety-provoking or painful if you are smart in your plan of attack. Here are some basic tips on how to use the tools available to you to cut down on time and wasted effort and actually target your ideal role with maximum effectiveness:
1) Set your objective: Every piece of information online about you for potential employers to see will help them to form an opinion of you. This is a fact, and one you cannot control or change. So use it to help you. Be aware of every professional or social medium and think about another person viewing you without knowing you, but trying to form an impression. Be mindful of the impression you are creating. Accuracy matters little to the outside observer. They have little time to dig deeper in case their immediate impression is incorrect. They will simply move to the next candidate. Your objective, in this case, is to create a positive and professional impression. One that will entice the viewer to seek to get to know you further by reaching out and requesting an interview. Keep that objective in mind.
2) "Tell me about yourself": No, really. Tell me about yourself right now in less than three sentences. Having trouble? Take the time to create your "pitch" also known as an "elevator speech or a 2 minute pitch." Visualize yourself getting into the elevator in the lobby with the CEO of your ideal company. You have until he gets out to describe who you are and what value you can bring to his company. It must be short and powerful. This pitch is important because it will run throughout your online profile. It will be the thread that runs through your resume and your LinkedIn profile. It will also be used in your cover letters. Know yourself. Know how to communicate your skills, strengths, and assets to interviewers. This makes it much easier for an interviewer and a potential employer to figure out very quickly how they can use you in their organizations. It makes it easy to hire you.
3) Applying for jobs online: If you are using job boards, then you know that virtually all employers use their systems to screen you before they will agree to either a phone interview or a personal interview. You are directed to apply for positions found online by answering a series of questions, sometimes answering specific assessment questions, and attaching your resume, cover letter and any other relevant information. The process is a bit lengthy but once you get through it, you can do it quickly and easily the next time. Before submitting any material, be sure you have proofread it for errors. Be sure your resume and cover letter are accurate and speak to the skills as listed in the job description.
4) Cover letters: Cover Letters are your way to "speak" to the interviewer and breathe life into your resume. This is the place to explain why your skills and background are particularly suited to the job. Be sure you are using the standard for cover letters that is appropriate (research cover letter format) and list anyone you know who may have referred you to the role in the cover letter.
5) Watch your Ps and Qs: Be sure you are not using any slang or text speak in your communications. Misspellings are not all right; neither is too much personal information. Remember this is a professional situation and you are being judged for anything you do or say (or they see online). This means posting things online about political or religious leanings is a definite no. Boundaries are important and the best way to show your professionalism at the outset is how you manage yourself online. Be sure any photos posted are only those shared with friends; same with any personal information. The online world is a wonderful tool for quickly getting any information you need about your organization and their senior staff; just remember it's also a place where those same people can (and will) quickly Google you for a history of all you have done online.
6) Make the online world work for you: Since you know that information is abundantly available to people who are looking to learn about you, then provide it to them! You had better be the engineer of this train, versus the passenger. Post writing samples, speaking engagements, articles you have written, groups you have joined and accomplishments you have attained. From running a marathon, to volunteering, to sponsoring a professional event, these are things that can be attached to your online profile on LinkedIn. Post articles on your profession and increase your online visibility. Toward that end, your LinkedIn profile should have many recommendations (not simply endorsements) and you should work to build up your network to at least 500 connections. Each time you apply for a position, check your contacts to see who currently works at the firm you're applying to so that you can get smart on the firm, and potentially ask them to be an internal sponsor.
7) Don't take it personal: There are virtually thousands of people who search for jobs online so don't be put off if you don't get a response from the first few positions. It's a numbers game on all sides, so you may as well be aggressive and optimize your chances for success by applying to about 25 positions per week. Sound like a lot? It's five per day. This will optimize your chances for success. And wouldn't it be fun to have a few options to select from? Way more fun than the dentist's office!
Julia Harris Wexler is a part of the Columbia Career Coaches Network—a group of over 20 accredited professional alumni career coaches who provide fee-based consulting and volunteer for the Columbia Alumni Association's free professional development programs throughout the year. Julia can be reached at email@example.com.