For those of you who keep up with my blog know that I started a new job last month! I am so grateful that I get to do what I love but finding the right role for me took months. Even though I did not post about this process at the time (for obvious reasons) it does not mean that this opportunity just fell into my lap. The truth is, like most other job seekers, I spent several months applying to different roles. I received several rejections but mostly did not hear back from companies other than that they had received my application.
So, from my experience, I wanted to share some tips that I learned helped during this tiring process. Hopefully, these are not the same old tips that you will see on other websites but is new information that will give you a boost of confidence in your search.
- Find ANY way to can to stand out
Everyone will tell you to “use your connections” but even though I feel like I was someone who did a pretty darn good job networking in college it still didn’t seem to be enough. So, if your connections are not leading to success or you feel like you do not have enough connections to start with just find a place where you can stand out.
AKA Find a job application platform that is not open to everyone or where you have some kind of edge. For me, this was a website called Handshake that I found out about from my friend Karla, who works at the UNT career center (God bless her). Over 700 Universities use this platform apparently so if your alma mater is on the list hit up the career center and they can help you set up your account if you do not have one already. If you don’t have access to this site see what else your career center can do for you (most if not all are free of charge after graduating).
While I was on the site, I saw several job postings that weren’t posted on any other websites. The truth is that on platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed you are competing against so many other applicants it is flat out depressing. The next best thing to having a direct contact at a company is to find out some kind of leg up in the application process. Because this was a much smaller pool of users my resume was able to stand out and land me some interviews. For months I was only applying on the more popular websites to find I was being largely ignored.
It’s also a good idea to bookmark companies job boards that you would love to work for that you may miss on other sites. And if you want to be super organized about it then create a spreadsheet with the dates you applied, who you contacted, and all those annoying usernames and password combos you have to create.
- Don’t be scared to reach out
After a few months of my job search proving to be unsuccessful, I decided that I really needed to start reaching out to people. Speaking of connections, I had already e-mailed my mentors and had talked to close friends. However, desperate times call for desperate measures! I was nervous at first, but I ended up messaging several past classmates, other students that were in the same organizations as me, and everyone in between. These were people that were the same age as me, younger, and some older. It was very random in nature and I was scared that it might look desperate.
When it came down to it, nearly everyone responded and was glad to help. Even though it did not lead to my current job it helped me get further along in the process with other positions. Also, it solidified my networking with those people and I will be happy to return the favor down the road. Keep in mind that many companies offer incentives to current employees for referring new hires. So that is one more reason to not be as fearful when pressing the send button!
It’s also a good idea to reach out to other alumni on LinkedIn that work at a company you are in the running for. Even if you have never met them before it will make them feel special and chances are they will be happy to help. Who would turn down monetary rewards for helping someone out? Not me!
- See how your resume stacks up with ATS
I’m not going to lie when I tell you this might be an absolute mood killer when you first see how much your resume is torn apart. In college, I had several professors, mentors, and colleagues look over my resume and help me critique it through the years. However, it really doesn’t matter how highly us humans value it because when you’re in the first round of the job pool (especially for a large company) it’s only going to be AI judging if you pass the test.
What is ATS?
An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a program used by employers to screen applicants based on the contents of their resume before passing viable candidates on to the hiring manager.
Like most people, I knew I should be switching out a few keywords to fit each job description, but I had NO IDEA there were free websites to see how you stack up compared to others. For years, I thought it was something on the other side of the curtain that I was not able to see without working in HR. *insert mind-blown emoji Once I got over the initial shock of seeing how weak mine was, it was extremely helpful in showing me where I could make adjustments. I used TopResume because the initial test is free and it’s optional to pay for the other packages. Just the initial results were enough for me to see concrete changes I needed to make to get past the first screening. There are tons of other websites to choose from though!
I am just the messenger to tell you that these free tests are out there for you to use and I wish someone would have told me this in college. Who knows how many more job interviews I could have landed?! Just search and you will see there are countless websites and advice for just this category of job searching. A good place to start is this article from JobScan Blog.
- Use social media to your advantage
In my own experience, I was taught by professors and superiors that (to an extent) my social media platforms can do nothing but hurt me in my job hunt and professional career. On the contrary, there are so many ways we can utilize social media in ways to help us land our dream role.
I am a bit biased because with my major in PR it’s essentially necessary to understand the branding and online presence of a company to even land an interview with them. But following industry leaders or CEO’s of companies you admire will keep you up to date on what’s going on.
Everyone will tell you to research a brand before your interview but what exactly should you be looking for? I felt most confident when I followed the brand on every social media channel including LinkedIn and could speak to recent news and updates. If you’re not currently in college or actively seeking a new role I recommend discovering what your dream 10 companies to work for are and follow them on every platform you can.
Of course, keep your social media clean. But consistently keeping up with these platforms can prove you are media literate, a good communicator, content creator, etc. A lot of college students turn all of their channels on private around this time but I can argue that mine have helped me land past internships and jobs.
- Take Initiative
What is your dream job? What are you doing to get yourself closer to that goal? Think of projects you can do in your free time to not only help you stand out but probably give you a leg up once you start in that position. This could be filming YouTube tutorials on graphic design, tutoring a student in your desired field, or completing a Skillshare course online.
For myself, having a blog really helped me stand out in the crowd. It’s basically an industry standard to have some kind of online portfolio or website. So, I’m glad I started this space when I was in college and even though it wasn’t always easy to maintain it has proven to be worth it.
For example, if there is a common skill you are seeing throughout several job postings you are not confident in then find an online course on the subject. If you can’t earn accreditation without a university or money then do everything else in your power to at least become literate about the topic and get you closer to your goal. No excuses here!
- Kill them with kindness – even if it seems like you’re being annoying
There were several times I would want to follow up with someone in HR or thank someone along the process but I would question myself. Am I being bothersome? Or before sending ANOTHER e-mail just checking in, am I being a pest? But the hard truth is that you’re competing against oodles of other applicants and you are not able to see what they’re doing.
And even though some of these unwritten rules may seem unnecessary or outdated it can be the difference between landing a job or not. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying our hardest. These HR people don’t know that you took care of your grandma after surgery or have never forgotten your best friends birthday. You have to show them in a short time span that you’re capable of being that thoughtful and kind person they want on their team.
That’s it, folks!
I know that job hunting can be daunting and especially difficult if you have been searching for a while. I’ve been there and I hope that my experience can maybe spark some new ideas or help you in any way. Do you have any unconventional tips to share yourself? I truly hope this helps you!
All of this advice is geared towards landing a job interview but I can post job interview tips and tricks at a later time if you are interested!