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The process of finding a job is a job in itself. And a job search requires skills that people may seldom use in other situations. So here are the five steps to finding a new job: (1) establishing career goals, (2) creating a resume, (3) developing a network, (4) interviewing effectively, and (5) making a good decision.
Suggestions for success at each stage are given below.
Step 1: ESTABLISH CAREER GOALS
If you’re not clear about what you want, then you may wind up with a job you don’t want. Before starting your job search, you should define both your short-term and long-term objectives. Consider your life goals as well as your work goals. If you skip this step, you will not be able to create an effective resume or develop a useful network.
- Envision your ideal future. If you had no constraints, what would you like to be doing five years from now? What next step would help you get there
- Find resources on goal-setting. Research career guidance books on Amazon, go to the library, visit helpful websites, use your college placement office. If you want to use paid help, consider a career counselor. Be sure to get references.
- Set aside time to review your work history (and your life). List the jobs, tasks, or activities that you have most enjoyed, regardless of whether they were paid or unpaid. Then list things that you truly disliked about the work you have done. See what common threads you can find in your past.
- Consider the kind of workplace you like.Small, medium, or large? Loose and flexible or tightly structured? Family atmosphere or no-nonsense business focus? Choosing the wrong work environment can be as bad as selecting the wrong type of work.
- Think about your working conditions. Do you mind travel? How much? Are long hours okay? Or a long commute? How much time do you need for family or other non-work activities?
- Finally, list your short-term and long-term objectives. If you are considering a career change, be sure to research the new job or field so that you know what you’re getting into. “Dream jobs” often look somewhat different once you are in them.
Step 2: CREATE YOUR RESUME
Once you have defined your goals, you need to create a resume that highlights your relevant qualifications. The purpose of a resume is not to get a job, but to get an interview. You want prospective employers to review your background and think, “Gee, I really ought to talk with this person.” Remember that you are competing with every other resume in the stack, so you want to stand out in a positive way. Your cover letter is also important.
- Learn what a great resume looks like. Look for books on Amazon, go to the library, or find helpful websites. Do not assume that you know the best way to present yourself. Learn from the experts. If you want to pay someone to help, just be sure to get references and review samples of their work.
- View your background as an employer would. What would convince them that you are good at your chosen field? How much detail will they want? What interesting facts might set you apart from the crowd? Provide information related to your career goal.
- Get objective feedback on your resume. Input from anyone with experience in interviewing and hiring will be helpful. You may also be able to get resume advice from some of your networking contacts (see below).
- Do not lie or misrepresent any aspect of your background. If found out, you will be automatically eliminated from consideration. And if you are hired and found out later, you could be terminated.
- Customize your resume for different positions or organizations. This may be a pain, but it’s worth the effort. The more closely you can match the employer’s requirements, the more likely you are to get an interview.
- Google yourself to see what employers will find online. Do not post anything on any website that might be detrimental to your job search. Employers are increasingly likely to do web searches on applicants.
Because the formatting can change when your document is opened on a different computer, stick with standard fonts, bullets, and other elements. One person learned that her fancy bullets had turned into little lips!
Step 3: DEVELOP A NETWORK
Blindly sending out resumes in response to ads is like throwing darts at a board behind a sheet. Although you should certainly apply for advertised jobs, the best job leads often come through personal contact. A key step in any job search is developing a network of people who can help you identify job leads. If you are currently employed, you may need to be more discreet about networking activities.
- List all contacts from any part of your life. Work, friends, relatives, church, civic organizations, hobby groups, neighbors, etc. Start collecting their phone numbers and email addresses.
- Divide your list into first, second, & third-degree contacts. First-degree contacts are those with whom you have a strong relationship, such as relatives or close friends. These are the people you can call on for anything at any time. Second-degree contacts are people that you actually know from work or other activities. Third-degree contacts will be names that you get from the other two groups.
- Add to your network by getting out and meeting people. Join job search groups, professional societies, and any other organization that might help. Go to parties and neighborhood gatherings. You never know who might have a useful job lead.
- Create a networking database listing all your contacts and relevant information about them. Include a place to list the dates that you contact people and the result of that contact. As you collect names, add them to the database.
- Inform all first & second-degree contacts that you are looking for work. Ask them to give you the names of anyone they know who might help you identify leads.
- Develop an “introduction speech” to give third-degree contacts when you email or phone them. Always use the name of the person who referred you. Don’t just ask if the contact knows of any job openings. See if they can suggest other people for you to contact, and ask if you can use their name. If appropriate, ask if you can send them a resume.
- Don’t expect third (or even second) degree contacts to actually meet with you. That will take too much of their time. Instead, ask if they could give you ten minutes on the phone. Most people will do this if you have been referred by someone they know. Send a thank-you email to all contacts who have been helpful (if you have their address).
- Send occasional updates to first and second-degree contacts. This will remind them to think about you. When you find a job, let them know that your search was successfully completed.
Step 4: MASTER THE ART OF INTERVIEWING
If you network well and have a compelling resume, you will eventually get interviews. Keep in mind that an interviewer’s first objective is to screen out potential problem employees. Their second goal is to find the one best person for the job. So you must (1) not raise any red flags and (2) show how you stand out from the crowd.
- Study books and web resources on interviewing. If you know hiring managers or human resource people, ask what they look for during an interview.
- Never assume that you can “wing it” in an interview. That is the sure road to failure. To prepare, get a list of common interview questions and develop good answers to them. Go the organization’s website and learn as much as possible about this potential employer.
- Do practice interviews using commonly-asked questions. Ask a friend to help you practice. Get feedback on both your answers and your body language. Try to practice with more than one person, since they may have different opinions.
- For difficult issues, develop answers that won’t raise concerns about future performance. Consult books or other resources about how to answer tough questions.
- Have one or two business questions ready to ask the interviewer – but not about pay or benefits. Applicants who have done their homework and who appear interested in the organization always make a better impression. Pay & benefits questions should be saved until after you have an offer.
- During interviews, smile, be friendly, and try to relax. Try to match the conversational pace of the interviewer. Be aware of whether you are talking too much or too little. Save your questions for the end of the interview unless you are invited to ask them sooner.
- It’s okay to ask when you might expect to hear something. But don’t be pushy about it.
Step 5: MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION
You’ve been hoping someone will choose to hire you, but once they have, you still need to decide if this is the job you want. Don’t take the first offer out of desperation if the job seems like a terrible fit.
- Compare your knowledge of the job and company with your original career objectives. With an unfamiliar company, check their reputation. Use your networking contacts to see if anyone has useful information or knows someone who has worked there. Google company executives or managers to see what turns up.
- If you get bad “vibes” in an interview, be cautious. Negative interviewers, disorganized interview processes, complaining employees – all may be warning signs.
- If you take a job that’s not ideal, be prepared to stay for at least a year. Doing otherwise is not fair to your new employer – and it might get you tagged as a job-hopper.
If you give job-seeking your complete time and attention and develop the skills needed to succeed, your vocational future should be bright.