I have the great fortune of working with highly experienced and talented counselors and workforce development specialists, who have spent many years at our agency giving information and assistance to the unemployed. While I have several years of experience under my belt, I count it as a double blessing that I have lately been on the other side of the desk as well—having received my fair share of wisdom through first-hand experience as a job seeker. Here are a few of the lessons I learned first-hand:
1. Do your research
Of course, knowing who the employers were in my field was a necessary first step.
Before I contacted any of the employers I had targeted, I found some information on their agency or company. It helped me first of all to impress upon the employer that I was sincere in my efforts and desire to work for their company, but also it helped to move the conversation along. I didn’t need to spend precious time getting caught up on the basics of their company and who they served; I could just move more quickly into the details of what they looked for in an ideal candidate—and how I fit the role.
Doing research also helped me determine what businesses or agencies were a waste of my time, if I could determine they weren’t a match for my skills or values.
2. Network, network, NETWORK!
When I was first laid off, I quickly gathered a list of employers in the nearby region that employed people in my specialty. I immediately started contacting those employers, mostly by email but a few by phone, setting up casual meetings at the local Starbucks and talking about the current labor market conditions or their agency’s mission over a smoothie or latte. Every meeting included my handing them a resume and asking for another name or two of people I might want to talk to.
I ended up with a large network in this industry, and 6 weeks after I started this practice, a coworker of one of the people I had met called me, my resume in her hand, asking me for an interview. I was hired 6 days later.
3. Don’t underestimate the value of a well-written cover letter
Some employers still value them, and others would if they saw a well-written one. When I targeted the agency I now work for, I noted that their application process placed heavy emphasis on a letter of intent. I experimented with different formats and content, and came up with a cover letter format that was getting me an interview rate (number of interviews compared to number of jobs I was applying for) of over 60%.
4. Search WHILE you still have a job
While I believe it is the truly dedicated job seeker who searches for better employment while they are still employed, not many of us have that kind of stamina—or time. The best lessons in this arena are learned by force of circumstance. I had learned of my impending layoff in time to start looking for work before leaving my previous job, and put all my energies to getting as much networking and research work done as quickly as possible. Our HR office assisted as well, and through hitting the ground running I was able to quickly return to work days after my layoff was final.
It is true that employers can look at employment gaps with concern. For this reason I had even started donating time giving resume assistance and had set up a volunteer opportunity as an employment counselor before I left my previous employment. This probably gave me an advantage as I was up to date on my skills and abilities and could easily hit the ground running at my next job—which was exactly what my future employer needed.
Find your favorite exercise and schedule it as part of your day’s activities. It is commonly known that exercise stimulates the body’s production of endorphins, but I find the best ideas come to me on the seat of my 15-year-old 10-speed as I’m speeding down the B.P.A. Trail. Exercise also reminds me of the importance of taking care of myself—something often forgotten when life’s routine has been radically disrupted.
- Resume Writing Tips to Help You Land Your Dream Job (imittcopy.com)
- ‘People Are Still Finding Their Dream Jobs’ (online.wsj.com)
- Job Search Rejection Note – a great improvement & networking opportunity (ewaslawinska.com)