A job search is full of hope and promise and each job description brings new possibilities. But every job seeker has to admit that they applied to at least one job that wasn’t what they were looking for. And every employee has to admit that they accepted at least one position that didn’t live up to their expectations. How can you prevent this? We break it down here.
Don’t focus on the title.
Labels aren’t as important as the actual duties you’ll be performing on the job. The title of “sports marketing associate” sounds great but if you’re just making sales calls day in and day out, you’re not going to be marketing anything and you’re surely not going to be happy. Look beyond the title for the attributes that you want in a position.
Figure out what you want.
What are the top three characteristics that you want in a job? What’s important to you? Job searching is like dating. You need to figure out what makes you tick and what will make your career fulfilling and meaningful. These questions will help you figure out what’s best for you.
Analyze the requirements.
What skills are listed in the job description? Are they general or specialized? Are they entry-level or advanced? This can give you insight into whether or not the position is appropriate for your experience level. If you do make it to the interview round, really dig in and ask the difficult questions if you’re concerned. You might save yourself a lot of time — and save yourself from a big mistake.
Image by D. Sharon Pruitt.
All that’s on your mind right now is summer: warm weather, vacation, relaxation. Time off to rejuvenate your mind and get your head back in the game. Unfortunately, your job search isn’t going to reap the same benefits from “time off.” Even if you’re suffering from job search burnout, you have to stay strong. Here are ways to refocus your mind while still working toward your ultimate goal: a job offer.
1. Take a career-relevant course.
You know that one skill you keep seeing listed in job descriptions that makes your stomach a little queasy? That one thing you know you’re not so great at, but hope you can talk your way through during the interview? Maybe it’s public speaking or Excel or leadership or Photoshop. Whatever the skill is, there’s a class — online or otherwise — that can help you perfect it.
2. Join a professional organization.
You never know who will help you get hired for your next position — or a position down the road. And that’s why networking is so important. A professional organization can put you in touch with leaders in your industry as well as keep you up to date with the current trends and news. Maybe it will even spark a newfound appreciation for your chosen career path.
3. Reach out to alumni.
Set up informational interviews with college alumni who are in your industry. Which company do they work for? What do they love about their job? Is there anyone else they can put you in touch with? You might find insight into a new career path or learn a new tip about breaking into the industry. The worst case scenario is that you’ve made a new connection. And that’s great!
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Even the most seasoned career veterans dread interviews. They’re stressful! It’s too easy to psyche yourself out and think you won’t get hired all while trying to stifle your bad habits like avoiding eye contact. If you’re a new graduate, the feelings are even more intense. We can’t tell you exactly what you can do to land the job, but we can tell you what not to do. Avoid these common new graduate pitfalls during your next interview and you’ll be a step ahead of the rest.
Stop with the “learning opportunity” nonsense.
What a company can do for you or your career is not what’s most important in an interview. It’s all about what you can do for them. So tell them.
Don’t act desperate.
Even if you’re obsessed with Company A and you’re dying for this job, don’t act desperate. Act knowledgeable. Show your passion for the company and the industry by talking about like an old pro.
Don’t hold back.
Avoid at all costs using the phrase, “If you could just give me a chance…” Show off your skills NOW, not after you are potentially hired. The interview is when you must sell yourself. Hard.
Stop being intimidated.
You’re talented, you’re fresh out of school, and you have unique skills that this company is looking for. Be proud of your hard work and know that it’s valuable.
It sounds like crazy talk. What recent graduate would say, “No thanks,” when handed a job offer on a silver platter? Well, maybe not a lot of them, especially around this time of the year. But we’re here to tell you that it’s okay to walk the other way sometimes. A job is a big commitment on both ends — your end and the employer’s end — and you have to make sure the agreement is mutually beneficial. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line.
1. “Does this position align with my career goals?”
You must have an idea of where you want to be career-wise in five years. If this position is not a path to get you there, don’t accept it. Otherwise you’ll find yourself unhappy, you’ll leave the position, and you’ll have to start a beginner’s job search all over again. Your first position out of school doesn’t have to define your entire career, but it can be a great step in the right direction.
2. “Does this position broaden or limit my skill set?”
Branching out slightly from your major can pay off. A journalism major may take a job in social media that eventually leads to a blogging career. A marketing major who takes a finance position may see long-term career benefits, especially if one day they feel they’ll return to school to get their MBA. Decide whether or not this career position will add anything unique to your resume.
3. “How will this position impact my lifestyle?”
Think about the location, the commute, and the cost of living. The better job may be in a less-desirable smaller town, but the salary could be higher, the commute could be easier, and the cost of living could be lower. These are the kinds of things you will be dealing with on a daily basis so be realistic about your lifestyle and budget.
Image by Paul Goyette.
We don’t mean to brag, but we give some pretty good advice. (See: The Best Resume Tip Ever.) In that same vien — and with graduation fast approaching — we’re going to tackle a big topic: the dreaded portfolio.
Creative types are more likely to piece together an in-depth portfolio for an extensive job search or serious interview. This includes writers, graphic designers, web developers, and maybe even marketers. It’s a blessing and a curse. You can easily show off your experiences in a visual format. But what if you don’t have those experiences to show off? Here’s the big secret: you don’t have to.
What crazy talk is that? If you didn’t land all the awesome internships you wanted, or couldn’t afford to work for free while putting yourself through college, or if you’re trying to switch careers and build up your portfolio from scratch, we need to let you in on this trick. Your portfolio lies in your own hands.
You can create a website or write some advertising copy or design a logo for a company or business even if they didn’t ask you to. Put it in your portfolio and bam — instant fodder for an interview. This doesn’t mean that you should lie and say the company hired you to create said website/copy/logo. Just tell your interviewer that you worked on a few personal projects and show them off for all that they are. Show a before and an after: the problem, why it was a problem, and how you solved it with your amazing web skills/copywriting savviness/design expertise.
Have you given this off-beat strategy a try? Share your experience in the comments!
Image by Scott Kellum.
With graduation season upon us, it’s impossible not to cover this topic. (But, really, this applies to everyone at any level of their career.) We’re talking about job offers. We’re talking about career success. And we’re talking about how you can take control of it all.
At this point in the year, it’s not uncommon to meet a college senior with big hopes, great experience, and empty hands — that is, no job offer. While it is true that some markets are still tough to break into, it’s also true that many seniors aren’t doing everything they can to find career success. Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
1. Are you letting your major — or past positions — define you?
Choosing a major is a big life decision. But don’t let it restrict or limit your career options. If there’s a job out there that you have in mind or a job listing that you think you’re qualified for, apply for it. Even if your experience and background are unconventional, you may be the perfect fit for the position. Even the most jumbled experiences can be focused into a stellar resume.
2. Do you know all of your options?
Based on your skill set, are you aware of all the opportunities you can follow? There might be a career path out there that you didn’t even know you were qualified for. Brainstorm a list of all the obvious career choices, then find a career mentor that can give you some further advice and direction.
3. Are you putting yourself out there?
We’ve said it before — applying online isn’t enough. You never know who can lead you to the perfect job offer. If you market yourself (see here and here for advice) and network (see here for our top tips), anything is possible. Truly. Nothing will happen until you take those first steps. What are you waiting for?
Read more tips for recent grads.
Image by Raja Sambasivan.
Now that you understand why you need to network and you know how to do it — read this post on how to find a career mentor for tips — we’re going to dive into the minute-by-minute logistics. Let’s say you’ve reached out to someone on LinkedIn and they’ve agreed to have lunch with you. They work at a company you’re dying to work for in the department that you’d like to work in. What do you do next? Question away! Here are a few intelligent inquiries that will get the ball rolling:
1. Tell me about how you landed your job at this company.
Let your connection begin by talking about himself. Not only is it a great conversation starter, but it can lead to further questions. Pay attention during his story, and jot down any questions that arise.
2. What do you love about your job? About this company?
While you’re lucky enough to be sitting in this person’s company, get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to work there. It’s not always easy to get employee testimonials, and you have a great chance right now.
3. What advice do you have for someone who’d like to break into this company? Into this industry?
Be prepared for the worst. You might hear that it’s “impossible” to get hired at this company or that the industry is “really tough.” Don’t get depressed, but do step away with concrete knowledge. Maybe that company isn’t hiring anyone. At all. Anytime soon. Step away knowing that you’ve saved yourself some time. Now you won’t have to fill out an application for that company.
4. How can someone stand out from the crowd during the application process?
Ask about this specific company and about the industry in general. Ask if they’ll take a look at your resume and cover letter and give you pointers. Most likely, this person will be pretty in-tune with what the company is looking for during the interview process.
5. Would you be willing to pass along the name of someone else who might talk with me?
This is the most important question. Informational interviews can lead to a string of new connections. You never know who someone else knows — and that person might know of a job opening! Keep reaching out to new people and sparking conversations even if they feel repetitive. Your same questions will lead to different answers. And growing your network will never hurt your career.
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We’ve covered the four things you need in your job search toolkit, but what do you fill up that toolkit with once you land a job? There are more than a few paths to success. These are the skills that we’ve found are most imperative for a successful start in a new position.
1. Your best behavior.
Even if your work environment is “casual dress” and the office is small, it doesn’t mean that professional etiquette should be thrown out the window. Especially when it’s your first month on the job. Be respectful. Be polite. Be on time. These are the little things in your career that will make you stand out from the crowd.
2. Your dedication.
Accepting a job is a big commitment. It requires hard work on your end regardless of how you’re feeling. Not having a good day? Who cares! The business is not going to stop running. Feeling distracted? You better find focus fast, because there’s work that needs to be done. Once you’ve left the office, feel free to not think about work until 8 AM tomorrow morning. But while you’re there, be there fully.
3. Your full attention.
I know it sounds like kindergarten all over again. But you’d be surprised how easily “listening” can get overlooked at work, especially when smartphones and emails and tablets can distract us at all times. When you’re in a meeting, be present. When you’re coworker finds a problem, listen, and try to help him find a solution.
4. Your balance.
Part of a happy work life is having a happy home life — that means leaving work at work so you can enjoy your time at home. Don’t let your occupation consume your personal life. Everyone needs time to recharge for the next work day and the next work week. Find what relaxes and reenergizes you, and make it a non-negotiable part of your week. Also, use that vacation time — it’s there for a reason!
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We’ve already covered the top three common grammar errors found during the job search. But there’s more. Even if you’re not applying for a job in a writing field, communication skills are important to any employer. And that includes how to write. Your resume is a great place to show off your skills. Be aware of these common issues before you send off your next application:
1. Tense Issues
For current positions, use the present tense. For past positions, use past tense. It’s easy to accidentally jump from one tense to another during a resume writing session. Or to forget to change a past position into past tense during a resume revamp.
Present tense: “Lead a team of 5,” or “Develop new product.”
Past tense: “Led a team of 5,” or “Developed new product.”
2. Consistency Issues
When writing a resume, you’ll be making some decisions including the placement of bullet points, the format of your dates, and whether you are writing in full sentences or omitting words like “the.” To make it more complicated, there are some grammar choices that are neither right nor wrong. For example, the Oxford comma. It all comes down to one thing: choose one format and stick to it throughout your whole resume.
With the Oxford comma: “I wrote, edited, and distributed press releases.”
Without the Oxford comma: “I wrote, edited and distributed press releases.”
3. How to Spell Resume
Here’s one more that might surprise you — the spelling of resume. Technically it’s spelled “résumé” with two accent marks. Many candidates add one accent mark, which is completely incorrect. If you’re going to add an accent mark, add them both or leave them both off.
Stay positive. It’s about the only thing you can control in your next interview, besides avoiding these bad interview habits. When it comes to the one-on-one interrogation, you have to focus on doing great instead of focusing on everything that could go wrong. Here are the three things you need to push out of your mind during your next interview:
1. “I have to get this job or I’ll be unemployed forever.”
We’re not going to beat around the bush: you might not get this job. But you know what? There are many reasons why you didn’t get hired that may have been out of your control. Beyond that, you know better than to play the waiting game. If you don’t have another interview already lined up, you’re smart enough to already have a few other resumes floating around out there. And you’re busy networking too. So what are you worried about? Something will come up.
2. “I’m totally unqualified for this position.”
Sometimes you wonder, why did they even bring me in? Did they even read my resume? Sometimes a company sees potential so they want to talk to you in person. Or maybe they’re interviewing you for a position that you didn’t even apply for — without you even knowing it. Perhaps a similar more entry-level position is opening soon so they wanted to talk to you just in case you’d be a perfect fit. So go with the flow and feel confident. They brought you in because they like you.
3. “I biffed that question, there’s no way they’ll hire me now.”
If you mess up a question, just let it roll of you like water off a duck’s back. Keep moving forward. Keep the momentum. And keep the focus. They won’t even remember that question you messed up if every other response you have is spot on. It’s even possible that your great personality and communication skills will outshine any answers you give — those are the kind of soft skills employers love.
Image by Bill Strain.