The last 5 years have been a true blur of job applications: from constantly checking Craigslist, writing new resumes, and sending the perfect follow up emails, jobs and job hunting has filled up a lot of my time. After I started at my current job 2 years ago, I calmed down and don't apply for as many jobs anymore, but I'm still always on the hunt.
It takes a lot of time, patience, and persistence to find jobs, write cover letters, adjust resumes, apply, follow up, interview, follow up again... on and on and on. People aren't kidding when they say it adds up to a full-time job, so if you’re already working or in school or just trying to keep your head above water, it can be exhausting to try to find a new job, find a job to begin with, or even just get your foot in the door.
I’ve learned a lot since I graduated college and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from my experience job hunting.
1. Carefully read through job descriptions.
And I mean, carefully. Job descriptions are notoriously difficult to write and often only include the easiest parts of the job or at least, the easiest to explain. If something doesn’t seem clear, make a note of it. When I originally wrote this post, I wrote: "If a job seems out of your league, pass." Well, I've changed my mind since then.
I recently read a study that men are more likely to apply to jobs where they only have one or two qualifications out of the list--whereas women feel they need to tick every box. The fact is: you don't. A list of qualifications is ultimately a dream list. The employer is just saying their ideal candidate--who may not even exist. So if you feel like you can do the job, apply.
2. Pay attention to the job description.
If you schedule an interview, request a copy of the job description be emailed to you (especially if the company decided not to include their info in the job posting). Reference the job description throughout the interview.
I have sometimes showed up to interviews and been blindsided by a question that was not in the original ad, but was included in the official job description. You always want to make sure you’re being interviewed for the job you applied for. I have had the unfortunate experience of being interviewed for other jobs the company had listed and thought I had applied for. The results were embarrassing for everyone involved.
As well, as you’re interviewed, if the duties they talk about don’t match the job description or the responsibilities you applied for, ask about it. Without giving out too much information, I was once interviewed and hired for a position that ended up being completely different from the posted job description and what was suggested to me at the time of the interview and from what they told me when they offered the position. It was an extremely difficult situation and I wish I had said something before I had to quit.
3. Use LinkedIn (wisely).
Network! But not too aggressively. LinkedIn often includes some great job postings. It also makes it very easy to send the HR or posting representative a message to ask any questions. If you have a lot of connections, you can easily see how connected you are to that business, which can be incredibly beneficial.
That being said, don’t get too aggressive with your LinkedIn connections. Asking every other person to connect with you can come off really badly. There will be times where established professionals might not want to connect with you, in the fear that you just want to mine their connections. Be polite and respectful, as always.
Also: Use your friends (politely... and wisely).
Never be afraid to ask your friends if they know of anyone who is hiring. What’s the harm?
That being said, working with your friends can often backfire. If the job interview goes sour, or you are hired and it turns out to be a nightmare job, you risk ruining a friendship. Be careful with how you use your friends connections. When in doubt, use your own connections.
4. Make a list.
When I was in college, I spent what felt like an entire day on LinkedIn and Twitter researching local businesses. I ended up writing a list of about fifteen businesses that I wanted to work at. They ranged from technology firms to magazines. The common element was that: they hired writers; and they were, at their core, creative businesses.
Fast forward a few years and I've kept my eyes on those businesses ever since. I've religiously applied to almost every job opening they've posted. I've emailed them, arranged meetings with them (they led no where, but at least they knew who I was)! I've interacted with them on social media. I've interviewed for a few of them and then promptly scratched them off my "dream job" list. One of those businesses is my current job. Seriously.
My point is: pick a few businesses. Ones that you really connect with and feel like you would fit in at. Then go for it. Dedicate yourself to gaining the skills necessary to work there, or watch their websites or social media for job openings. Become a part of the local community and keep your eyes and ears constantly alert!
5. Always follow up.
A polite email after an interview (within 12 hours is my rule) never hurts. Be sure to reference something from the interview. A good example: “I loved talking with you about [business]'s culture and expertise. I really feel like I would be a great fit.”
As well, be sure to make a personal comment (although not too personal). If your interviewer mentioned something specific (an upcoming trip, a conference, etc.) be sure to reference that. If the interviewer mentioned they were getting over a cold, a polite “I hope you feel better soon!” is nice. These kind of references show that you paid attention to them throughout the interview.