Job searching can feel like an intimidating endeavor. Putting together application materials; dealing with rejections; worrying that you may not find a position that coincides with your interests, salary needs and professionals goals; watching the calendar as time goes by – these and other experiences are parts of the process that can make job searching feel overwhelming and stressful.
However, it’s important to frame job searching in a more positive light to set yourself up for success. Think of the good parts of the process: You’ll eventually find an exciting, rewarding position that takes you to the next level in your career. Focusing on the positives while being realistic about the process and having a plan can help you find the job of your dreams.
Follow these tips for a successful job search:
Making sure all of your basic application materials are prepared ahead of time can make the job-search process a lot easier. You’ll want to customize your cover letters and resumes to each position that you apply to (more on that later), but creating basic templates can make it simpler to tweak each document later on.
One smart strategy is to create a “master resume,” as job-search expert Susan Ireland recommended. This document could include all of your past positions, skills, and academic and volunteer experience – everything you’ve done in your professional life. This version will likely be longer than one page, but that’s acceptable given you won’t actually send this resume to employers. Instead, you’ll copy and paste from it when creating what Ireland calls “target resumes” for each job to which you apply.
Also update your portfolio, LinkedIn site, and other networking profiles. Gather writing samples if you’ll need them, and get your references in order. Having the basic job application materials ready at the start of your search streamlines the process and helps you stay organized.
Establish a schedule
When looking for a new job, you get out what you put in. Whether you are currently employed and looking for a new opportunity, a student, or unemployed, stay on track by creating a job-search schedule. The structure will help you make tangible progress toward your goals.
Popular job-search resource Career Thinker urges those looking for a new position to remember: “As the CEO of your life you need to stay focused.”
So take charge of your life by managing your time well. The site has a great sample schedule for someone unemployed looking for jobs, but you can also create your own. If you are currently employed but searching for a new opportunity, schedule time to look for and apply to jobs early in the morning, after work, and on weekends when you have more free time. Make sure to build in breaks to relax, enjoy hobbies, and socialize with friends and family to help boost your mood and keep your mind fresh.
Applying online to open positions is part of the job-search process, but it may be even more important to network. In fact, a survey of 3,000 people conducted by hiring consultant Lou Adler found 85 percent of new positions are found through networking, according to a post he wrote for LinkedIn.
Use sites like LinkedIn to see who you know at companies that have open positions you’re interested in, and don’t be afraid to contact them. Industry events, conferences, and workshops are also great places to make connections, and many cities hold networking events. Collat Career Services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and alumni networks are also valuable resources. Share that you’re job searching with friends and family, too; you never know who may help lead you to a new opportunity.
Go on informational interviews
Embrace the power of the informational interview. If there is a particular company you want to work for, identify a current employee through LinkedIn or the organization’s website and introduce yourself via email. Or if you come across professionals in your industry whose careers you admire, send a message. Ask if they’d be interested in a quick coffee – on you – or phone call to talk about their experiences.
In an article for The Muse, freelance writer Aja Frost recommends making sure your email request includes the following information: your name, your job title and location, the reason why you’re interested in speaking with the person, what you would like to learn from the conversation and how much time you are requesting to meet with them for – keep things short, at 20 minutes or less. Thank them at the end of your message and be sure to include your phone number and any other contact information.
Don’t be afraid to reach out; many people are flattered to have someone interested in their work, and you may learn valuable information and make important connections that can help you in your search.
Have business cards
Keep a few of your business cards in your pocket so you’re ready to network wherever you are and with whomever you meet while you go about your day, and to make a much more professional impression than scribbling your email address and phone number on a napkin. They’re also essential to bring to networking events. Making your own business cards is easier than ever; many websites, such as Vistaprint and PsPrint, enable you to put together great-looking, inexpensive business cards in a flash.
Tailor all application materials to the posting
The days of sending one-size-fits-all cover letters and resumes are over, and with good reason; customizing these materials shows that you have spent time learning about the company and thinking about why you specifically would be a strong fit in the role. Carefully read the job posting and identify the specific skills and experiences that are needed and those that you have. Spotlight the skills you have that best match the requirements and responsibilities of the position. Using numbers to describe your skills is especially effective – for example including that you generated X dollars in sales or increased website page views by X percent.
Similarly, you should customize your cover letter to the position. Don’t restate your resume, but instead give an engaging summary of how you stand out from the crowd of other candidates, are familiar with the company, and have the exact skills and experience the company needs.
Job boards should be part of your search, but also reach out to companies that you’d like to work for that don’t have any vacancies currently listed. You may uncover an opportunity or, by establishing contact, be on the shortlist for future vacancies.
As career coach Danny Rubin wrote on his site, “You can wait for opportunities to find you (you’ll be waiting a while) or you can go out and grab them. A polished email introduction to a company could lead to an interview and change the entire course of your career.”
In your email, be sure to mention who you are and why you are emailing. Rubin suggests saying something like:
“I realize you don’t have a job posting for a [job title; for instance, “web developer,”] but I would still like to make introductions and explore ways I can help your team on [however you can add value; for instance, “website projects.”]”
Then briefly discuss what you admire about the company and why you want to work there, using specifics. Include links to work samples and attach your resume to the email.
Pay attention to the details
You can have a dynamic and engaging resume chock-full of great experience, but if it’s riddled with typos, the employer is likely to move on to another application. Make sure that you carefully check – and then double check – spelling and grammar in all of your application materials, including your resume, cover letter, portfolio, social media sites, and all email correspondence.
Job searching can be emotionally taxing, so it’s important that you practice self-care. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. Take time to enjoy your favorite hobbies during the week to clear your mind and relax. Also, regularly socialize with friends and family, as job-searching can feel isolating, especially if you are unemployed and no longer have the social contact that came with your previous job. Try to meet up for coffee, a meal, or a fun activity with friends several times a week. Sacrificing self-care can lead to burnout, hurting your job search as along with your well-being in the long run.
Let UAB help you in your career goals
The process of finding a new job can be overwhelming and takes time and dedication. But by following the tips above, taking care of yourself, and keeping a positive attitude, you can find your next great opportunity. Career resources are available to all students of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business, regardless of whether you are an on-campus or online student. Learn more about our 100 percent online business degree programs and speak to an advisor today.