Finding Your Perfect Job

Learn the Basics of Conducting a Successful Job Search

NINE   ESSENTIAL job search STRATEGIES

1. Develop a Job Strategy

2. Take Inventory of Your Skills

3. Network to Create Opportunities

4. Research Your Industry

5. Prepare a Dynamite Resume

6. Write a Great Cover Letter

7. Winning the Interview

8. Use Social Media in Your Job Search

9. Tap Into The Hidden Job Market

 

9781896324500QuickLearn Guide - Finding Your Perfect Job

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Despite all the obstacles you may face, finding a job does not have to be a painstaking, overwhelming process! While everyone agrees that looking for employment is not an easy task, there are a number of steps that you can take to increase your odds of landing that perfect job.

Doing some groundwork now will save you a lot of time and money down the road. For your own reference, try to make some personal notes on how these steps can be best incorporated into your particular job search. While no one step is sufficient on its own, a combination of as many of these different strategies as possible is your best chance to securing a meaningful, fulfilling job.


Step 1: Develop a Job Strategy

Looking for employment can be an extremely challenging and intimidating task. Let’s face it – finding work is a big exercise in marketing or branding yourself. Some of you may have been exposed to the basics of marketing in the past, either through past education or prior work experience. In selling a product to a specific target market, you must choose what your product will be, who your customer is, and how you will get your product into your customer’s hands. This research and planning to bring your product to ‘life’ is the same process that is used in your job search – except the product is you!

In preparing to look for work you must first decide what you are going to sell - recognizing those skills you possess (taking an inventory of your skills is discussed in the next step); who you are selling to - which employers you are targeting to find employment; and how you are going to get your product to the customer – which methods will ensure an employer knows about you.

The process of marketing is not easy. There is a lot of competition out there. If you hastily choose a product without giving it some thought, or send out marketing material without considering the target market, you will have wasted a lot of valuable time and money. Even worse, your product will not sell.

To apply this to your job search – if you do not give thought to what you are offering an employer, or if you don’t learn about the companies you’re marketing your talents to – then you will have wasted much time and effort. You must develop a ‘plan of attack’ to ensure that you are setting realistic goals for yourself, and following a clear direction. It is important to take the time to think about what you want, and then go after it!

Deciding what you want to do takes some real soul searching. If you think about jobs or tasks you did in the past that you liked, and those that you disliked, you will at least begin to have a broader picture of where your interests lie. Make a list of these likes and dislikes and update it frequently. There are no easy choices. Some of it will undoubtedly be hit and miss. The best thing to do is try as many different types of jobs as possible, so that you can realistically assess their merits. This is where the saying ‘you never know until you try’ has significant meaning.

Whatever you do, make a concentrated effort to think about your job choices now! Do some research using social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Many companies now have pages on these sites, so you can view company information quickly and easily. If you remain conscious of your environment, and work to continually upgrade your job search skills, you will be able to set clear concise goals. This is half the battle to finding employment.

A job strategy does not have to be a formal document with every imaginable contingency. It can be as simple as mapping out a few past experiences which have allowed you to gain valuable skills, and listing some specific ideas as to how best utilize your job search efforts. If necessary, speak with a career counsellor to obtain assistance in this area.

Also don’t forget to tap into the hidden job market. What is the hidden job market? It is simply when a job opening exists, but hasn’t been advertised yet. This type of situation occurs within a company more often than not, as hiring managers sometimes wait a period of time to see if they can fill the position before launching a full-scale search.

Make a list, or maintain a database, of every resume you send, every phone call you make, and the name and title of everyone you talk to. Keep track of all those job websites you visited that you liked and were helpful. This will help you in your follow-up efforts, and allow you to closely monitor your progress. Do the planning now! It will save you time and frustration down the road.


Step 2: Take Inventory of Your Skills

This step could easily have been incorporated in the job strategy step above. However, taking inventory of your skills is of such great importance to the job search that it needs greater clarification. If we relate this concept to marketing once again – let’s say you are selling a car. If you are unclear as to the benefits or features of the car, or the reasons why someone should buy the car, then why would anybody purchase it? The point is – if you don’t know what you’re selling, how are you supposed to sell it! This holds true for the job search as well. An employer wants to know what features or benefits (i.e. skills) you have to offer. They will not search for these answers. It must be clear and concise. That is why taking an inventory of your skills is so important.

What are some of the skills that you have to offer an employer? For each individual it will be different. However, these skills are made up of both academic qualifications and personal attributes. It is interesting to note that for many employers personal skills, such as oral communication skills, leadership skills, computer skills, and being adaptable in the workplace, are considered to be just as important, or in some cases more important than your academic degree or diploma that you obtained. What does this mean for you the job seeker? Make sure to sell your personal skills as actively as your academic background.

Listed below are some of the more common personal skills that employers consider important. There are many others, however, this is a good starting point. Look through the list and try to come up with experiences in the past that have allowed you to gain some of these valuable skills.

Adaptable Analytical
Artistic Computer Proficiency
Confident Creative
Decision Making Dependable
Efficient Flexible
Innovative Interpersonal
Leadership Logical
Manual Dexterity Negotiation
Numeracy (Math) Oral Communication
Plan/Organize Positive Attitude
Problem Solving Responsible
Team Player Writing Skills

 

Dig deep into your past, come up with a few examples for each skill, and then choose the ones you feel best about. Which of the ones listed best describe you as a person? Include skills such as these on your resume in addition to your academic achievements. Your resume will be a much better snapshot of who you are, and will give an employer a more concise picture of your strengths and accomplishments.


Step 3: Network to Create Opportunities

Networking is something we do on a regular basis on Facebook for example, but we don’t use it nearly enough in the job search to benefit from its enormous potential. In many cases, networking can be the best strategy to a successful job search.

In essence, networking is an ongoing process to establish and maintain a rapport or relationship with individuals in your field. It is not a short-term process, but its long-term effects can be dramatic as unforeseen opportunities can arise in areas you never thought possible. The key to networking is to connect, online and in-person, with as many people as possible who could lead you to potential opportunities.

Make sure to be sincere with people, and show a genuine interest in the industry and people’s personal experiences. Most individuals can tell very easily when you are using them to just get information. Remember, your approach is the most important aspect of networking. Be polite and courteous, and realize there are no quick fixes to finding a job using this process. However, the more people that know you’re looking for work, the greater the chance you’ll find employment through one of these contacts.


Step 4: Research Your Industry

Researching prospective employers within your industry is an important strategy in today’s competitive market towards finding employment. Not a lot of job seekers conduct this background research, and therefore are unaware of which companies best match their skills and qualifications. As well, you can learn valuable information that will be of vital importance during an interview with an employer.

At the beginning of your research you may want to spend a bit of time reading about your industry and finding the answers to some important questions. Is the industry growing? What are some the key firms within the industry? Are there any regulations within the industry that you should be aware of? What are some of the pros and cons of the industry? These are just some of the questions that will help guide you in looking for employment, as well as setting the proper expectations for your job search.

At some point, you will want to develop a list of employers. This list will comprise those companies that, through your research, you have identified as ones you wish to apply to. Prepare a file that contains your list of employers, along with contact information and any pertinent background data on the company that may be useful should you be asked in for an interview. As your job search continues update and add to this file.

Where are you going to get this information you ask? The best place to start is online. You can also obtain a wealth of employer information on the Internet. A company’s web page will provide information on its history, their products or services, and in many cases even provide you with the opportunity to apply online.

Many companies have a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is particularly useful as it is the business equivalent of Facebook. You can search companies on LinkedIn and in many cases even learn about employees within a company, including the name of the hiring manager.

Joining a trade or industry association is another valuable method of learning about prospective employers and will help you to stay on top of the latest industry trends.

Another great way to learn about an employer is to directly speak with an individual who already works in the industry you plan on entering. Talking informally to an individual may provide some extra insight into a company you could not obtain otherwise.


Step 5: Prepare a Dynamite Resume

The resume is one of the most important tools of the job seeker. It is a vital part of your marketing strategy that when written properly will jump out at prospective employer and say “hire me!” The resume is basically a written summary of your education, work experience, past achievements and interests that are constructed in a positive manner. When putting together your resume it is important to keep it short, focused, concise and accurate.

The resume itself contains specific components that are common to all. These include contact information such as name, address, and phone number; a career objective statement (optional); education; skills and abilities; work experience; volunteer work (optional), activities and interests; and references.

Each part is of significant importance:

Contact Information: Place your full name at the top of your resume, and include your address, telephone number, and e-mail. If you have a fax number you should include this as well.

Career Objective: This is a statement that outlines your career goals. It should be very brief, a sentence or two, and give a strong sense of where you are heading in your career path.

Education: Any relevant education should be included here, such as college, university or any technical schools that you may have attended. Your high school education can also be included. Any awards or scholarships can be outlined separately.

Skills and Abilities: This section allows you to highlight all those impressive skills and abilities that you obtained through school, past employment, volunteer work, and personal activities. To write this section you must complete step two - Identify Your Skills. This will require you to do some self-reflection.

Work Experience: In point form list your past jobs in chronological order. Include the dates, name and location of the company, as well as the responsibilities and duties you had in each position. Any volunteer experience you may have acquired can be included in this section.

Activities and Interests: The best type of candidate is one who appears well-rounded and has varied interests, including some diverse activities. This will signal to employers that you have gained some effective personal skills.

References: Indicating that “References available on request” is appropriate. Ensure that you have prepared these references from your academic, employment, or personal background should you be asked to supply them.

There are different resume formats depending on those components you would like to emphasize. The two most common styles are the chronological resume and the functional resume.

Chronological Resume: Organized in reverse chronological order so that your latest schooling and last job are listed first. This style emphasizes job duties and should be used if you have a steady work history, and if your most recent experiences relate to your desired field.

Functional Resume: Focuses on skills and abilities, while de-emphasizing job titles and employers. It should be used if you have been out of the work force for some time, or if you want to highlight specific skills and strengths that your most recent jobs don’t necessarily reflect.

Combination Resume: As a modified version of the above formats, this style emphasizes both work-related duties and skills so that you can highlight strengths from various past experiences.

Keep your resume organized, easy to read, and brief. Use point form beginning with action verbs that accentuate your strengths and positive experiences. Avoid the use of “I” when emphasizing your accomplishments.

We have outlined a brief list of some of the more common resume verbs that you can use instead.

Achieved / Administered / Analyzed Arranged / Assisted / Completed / Conducted Coordinated / Delivered / Designed Determined / Directed / Established Evaluated / Examined / Executed / Facilitated Generated / Identified / Implemented Initiated / Launched / Maintained / Managed Motivated / Organized / Planned / Prepared Presented / Processed / Produced / Provided Researched / Reviewed / Scheduled / Sold Supervised / Trained / Updated

Remember, your resume is the first contact that you will likely have with an employer – so make it a good one! Keep it on standard 8-1/2” x 11” premium paper, and ensure that you are using a printer that has good quality print. In addition, your resume must be 100% accurate in grammar and free from any spelling errors. While it may seem out-dated to prepare your resume in this printed format, you should always bring a hardcopy of your resume to an interview.

In regards to online, make sure you get on LinkedIn. Put your credentials on the Internet and open up your skills and attributes to a world of hiring managers. More than ever, companies are using social media to search and learn about potential candidates.

Make sure to show your resume to lots of people and allow them to critique it for you. One advantage to having your family, friends, and others close to you look at your resume is that they can pick up on important skills and strengths that you may have failed to mention. It may also be a good idea to post your resume on the Internet either through a job board, or by having it placed on a home page of your own. The more exposure your resume receives the better!

As well, if you are having trouble preparing your resume, or need some extra guidance, make sure to speak with a career counsellor. They offer a wealth of information and can help you in overcoming some of the stumbling blocks you may encounter.


Step 6: Write a Great Cover Letter

The cover letter is an important job search tool that must always accompany your resume. So much time is focused on a dynamic resume that we often ignore, or hastily put together, our cover letter. Take the time to carefully prepare your cover letter just as you would your resume.

The benefit of this letter is that it provides you with an extra marketing piece to sell yourself to a company. In the cover letter you can show an interest in an employer that you can’t show in a resume. As well, you have the opportunity to point out one or two key skills or achievements so as to peak the interest of the company to want to read your resume.

While each cover letter should be unique and personal, there are specific components that form each paragraph:

First Paragraph: Keeping it short and with the purpose of generating interest, outline the position you are apply for (or why you would complement the organization) and what prompted you to write (i.e. job position on a website, career fair, networking contact).

Second Paragraph: Explain how an organization may benefit from your qualifications and highlight any skills or accomplishments that may set you apart from other candidates.

Third Paragraph: Incorporate any relevant education or past experience that would make you attractive to the employer.

Fourth Paragraph: Express your interest in the company and make a request for an interview (or informational interview). Suggest how you will follow up and ensure your last sentence thanks the employer for their consideration.

This structure outlined is meant to illustrate the components of a ‘typical’ cover letter. The most important aspect is to make the cover letter as personal as possible. Avoid using form letters, as employers can pick up on this very quickly. Keep your cover letter brief and to the point. Don’t just repeat information verbatim from your resume, but strive to explain what you can offer a company (not what you can gain from them). As with your resume, do not overuse the personal pronoun “I”, and make sure that your cover letter is error-free.


Step 7: Winning the Interview

For a lot of people, the interview is the most daunting and intimidating part of the job search process. Your chances of landing a position within the company all depend on their impression of you. What will you do? Fortunately, there is hope! A little preparation before the interview goes a long way.

Once the interview has been arranged, you should do some in-depth research on the company. Find out its main products or services, types of customers, principal locations, size, parent company, rank in the industry. These are just some important points to consider. The more you can find out the better. If possible, speak to someone at the firm before the interview. This insight could be invaluable. Before the interview make sure that you know everything on your resume, and can expand on any points that are listed on it. The interviewer will most likely refer to it many times during the interview to ask questions. 

Depending on how many interviews you have attended in the past, it’s a good idea to try some role-playing, so that you gain confidence and feel a bit more at ease. With a trusted individual, act out a full interview trying to make it as realistic as possible. The more you practice the better you will become when the real one occurs. 

For the interview itself there are a few tips to follow. First and foremost, be on time! Nothing will jeopardize your chances more than to show up late. Allow yourself lots of extra time in case of unforeseen circumstances and make sure to dress professionally for the interview. Bring a pen along with a notepad, and carry a briefcase or a professional folder containing extra copies of your resume.

When you meet your interviewer smile and extend your hand for a firm handshake. During the interview, try to be attentive and relaxed. Answer questions concisely and honestly. There is nothing to fear, the interviewer is on your side. When appropriate, ask questions about the company. When the interview is over turn it into a learning experience. Remember, the first interview is always the hardest. The key factor is to be confident – you can do it!


Step 8: Use Social Media in Your Job Search

Social media is now recognized as a crucial part of the modern job search. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are invaluable in your job search. In a recent study, more than half of companies surveyed have an online presence on social media sites. It is important to be where the companies are!

Looking for a job is largely about networking, and there is no better way to network than through social media. Take the time to learn these sites and utilize them to maximize your job search.

The premiere site for job seekers and hiring managers is LinkedIn. This business professional site can help you network with people in your industry. Spend time creating and perfecting your online presence. It is well worth the effort!

We have only briefly covered social media as we have a more comprehensive QuickLearn Guide - Job Searching Using Social Media to learn the basics of what you need to know.


 

Step 9: Tap Into the Hidden Job Market

What is the hidden job market? It is simply when a job opening exists, but hasn’t been advertised yet. This type of situation occurs within a company more often than not, as hiring managers sometimes wait a period of time to see if they can fill the position before launching a full-scale search.

It would be the same situation if your neighbour were looking to find someone to mow the lawn or baby-sit. They would spend some time asking colleagues or friends to recommend a candidate, rather than right away placing an ad on Craigslist for example. It is at this stage that job seekers have the greatest chance of landing the best positions, since there is less competition. However, a large effort also needs to be cultivated at this point.

The best way to find work in the hidden job market is to make lots of contacts within your industry. By networking constantly, you’ll eventually meet someone who’s looking for a person with your skills or who knows of someone else who is. As mentioned previously, joining LinkedIn is a great way to tap into this market.

The most important piece of advice for ‘The Perfect Job Search’ is to remain positive. Show a commitment to your job search and don’t give up! Good Luck!

 

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