Lessons from the job searching world
Many of you know I left my position as executive director of a small nonprofit a few months ago to get back into the public relations/marketing. I admit I was certain I’d have a new job pretty quickly but for various reason, I’m still job searching (I really hate being told I’m over-qualified). I’m finally receiving calls for promising interviews so keeping fingers crossed I get an offer for a great full-time position very soon.
While I’m a job candidate now, I also have served as department directors and led a nonprofit so have experience with hiring staff too. I’ve encountered some “interesting” cover letters. One of my favorites was when I was hiring for a part-time business manager and I received a cover letter stating I didn’t really know my organization’s needs so I should hire this particular candidate in a full-time capacity and a salary exceeding my own as the executive director. Or the letter that stated multiple times how efficient this person was at editing and attention to details, except the cover letter contained four spelling mistakes.
Looking for the right job can be frustrating. And time-consuming. Sometimes you think the job description sounds like the perfect fit for you but you never get called for an interview. Or you go in an interview, only to discover the job really isn’t related to the great job description. I’ve established a short process for searching and applying for positions so thought I’d share a few here. I’m not perfect (still looking for a job!) but I’ve found these to be useful.
Be prepared to wait. Most companies move pretty slow. Which is understandable considering the multiple responsibilities and duties that human resource staff have or that in smaller companies it’s the CEO or other staff handling the job search process. And of course a company wants to keep the application acceptance period open long enough to get a plentiful mix of qualified candidates. But it’s still difficult to be patient when you are ready to find a great new position! A relative applied for a position last June and finally got a call for an interview in December! He was still open to interviewing but I imagine companies sometimes lose good candidates waiting that long. So the moral here is to be patient as possible and know that it may be weeks, or months, before you hear back regarding an application.
Be diverse in your search. There are tons of job sites on the Internet. Granted, not all of them are very useful but many can make your search easier by allowing you to create a job search agent, which emails you positions matching specific criteria or fields of interest. I chose not to set up search agents because many job descriptions list communications or marketing without actually being a position related to these areas so I would be bombarded with irrelevant information. I regularly check a small list of sites. Some of these include Indeed, LinkedIn, Simply Hired, Careerbuilder, Michigan Nonprofit Association, Michigan Credit Union League, Michigan Talent Bank and Public Relations Society of America (and the local chapter). There are a few specific companies I’m interested in so I regularly check those websites too. If I spot a job I’m interested, I usually head to the company’s website to directly apply (if possible)
Create a few versions of your resume. This may seem odd but if you’re applying for positions that use various skills, you should make sure your resume highlights those skills (of course only list skills you really have!). For instance, while I’m primarily searching for a PR/marketing position, I also have experience in nonprofit management and fundraising. I’ve come across a few positions that were interesting enough to apply but highlighting my management skills made more sense than focusing only on PR/marketing.
Customize the cover letter. This may seem like a ‘duh’ tip to many but I’ve seen so many generic cover letters. Include keywords from the job posting in your cover letter and share how your skills and experience relate to the position you’re applying for. Use examples of how your skills and experience helped a previous employer and could help this potential employer. This is also important when you’re applying via an online application system. My friends in HR who use an online system (and most do now) tell me that often they’ll do a search query using keywords related to the job description so if you include some of these keywords, the computer will catch your cover letter and resume. If you can, address the cover letter to a specific person, not just a generic “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” Sometimes the job posting will include a contact to send your resume and cover letter too, but often times not. In this case, go to the company’s website to find the HR person or even the department head (relevant to the job you’re applying for). And while this tip may seem ‘duh’ too, I’ll state it anyway: Proof your cover letter by using spellcheck and reading for grammatical errors! With a journalism degree and love of English, I may be more sensitive than others but spelling errors and bad grammar should be avoided.
Use your professional network! Building and maintaining a professional network is key to the success of many areas in the business world. With so many people searching for employment, and so few positions available, having a diverse network really does help. One of the biggest pieces of advice I give every intern or person starting in the workforce is to never burn bridges and always treat people respectfully, even if you don’t really like them (but don’t be fake). I have been so fortunate to work with some amazing people, which makes it fun and easy to keep in contact with even if we stop working together (one of my former coworkers was my bridesmaid!). I reached out to many people in my network to let them know I am seeking a new position. I’m fortunate that I’ve received a heads-up on several open positions thanks to people I know, and many former colleagues have offered to be a reference.
Do some research. Before I apply for a position, I usually go to the company’s website to scroll through the staff for anyone familiar and I also log into LinkedIn to search for the company to see who in my network may be connected to the company. If a specific person is listed as the job contact, I search for that person. Hopefully someone I have a great relationship with is connected to that person and is willing to put in a good word for me. This has been very useful for me. On the flip side, I am equally happy to put in a good word for someone I know and respect when they need help. Always keep the relationship a give and take so you don’t come across as only giving.
I’ve heard others say that job searching is a job in itself. I wouldn’t agree it’s that time-consuming but it certainly takes time, effort and thoughtfulness. I’ve been fortunate to be recruited for my last three positions so it’s been an interesting experience refreshing my job search and interview skills. What are some of your job search tips?