By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management
Based on my experience, January and September have always been two of the most popular months to either look for a new job or to put out “feelers” to test how marketable you are.
This fact can be attributed to a New Year’s resolution after the holidays (January) and the end of summer/children back to school hype (September). Both of these months generate a feeling of new beginnings.
However, I noticed a lot of job-hunting activity this year during the summer months. I’m not sure if the increase in job hunting was due to the new administration or the expectation that the market is going to get better for hiring.
Job-Hunting Tips I Recommend
If you are in the process of starting a job search, you ought to consider the following tips:
1. It’s best to look for a job while you already have one. You don’t have to take the first position that is offered to you. You have the luxury of holding out for other offers.
2. Research the industries and companies where you would like to work to determine the type of employees they desire.
3. Identify the type of positions you are interested in by looking on job boards and reviewing the help wanted ads. That way, you can determine if you would like the responsibilities of the position as well as whether or not you have the qualifications to apply.
4. Do not apply for positions just to “get your foot in the door” if you don’t have the qualifications for the job. Most recruiters will “trash basket” resumes and applications that do not meet the minimum qualifications outlined in the job vacancy notice.
5. Consider attending professional events. Network with your peers to determine what is going on in your field and perhaps learn about some unadvertised positions.
6. Depending on the type of position you are seeking, consider working with a hiring agency or executive search firm.
7. If you have many interests, create several resumes. You should customize your applications based on the various positions and job categories that appeal to you.
8. I know some people apply for one job at a time. While that strategy might work for some people, you cannot be sure how long the window of opportunity will be open. Get as many “feelers” out as possible and work the process. For example, you could be the first interviewee for one opportunity and be positioned for a job offer for another position. Manage the process while juggling all the balls of possibilities. Some companies have a lengthy hiring process, whereas others make quick decisions.
9. Consider looking for a job based on your skill set versus job titles. You might come across positions that you never would have considered if you conduct searches only based on your skills. Finding other related positions could be your opportunity to transition to another industry.
10. Reflect on your previous positions and make a list of things that you don’t want to do again or environments in which you don’t want to be. There have been times when I have said, “I am not quite sure what I want to do, but I do know what I don’t want to do.” This is your opportunity to eliminate those positions before you invest any time in the search process. Stick to your guns; guard against slipping back into situations that you know are not conducive to your well-being and mental state.
Additional Job-Hunting Tips
While the above tips are my top 10 strategies to consider, I also reviewed the checklist provided by Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a content marketing firm based in Seattle, Washington. Some of Jayson’s recommendations, as well as my thoughts, include:
- Build your personal brand. Take this opportunity to polish your image via social media. It’s a good first step to get your name out there electronically and prepare to attend professional meetings where you will need to present who you are and what you can do.
- Build your portfolio by taking on unpaid work. Human Resources has always been a field looking for employees with experience. Even though I worked for good companies, it was difficult getting that first HR position. I went to an HR agency and made a deal. I agreed to work for free for one week (my vacation). If the agency personnel liked my work, I asked if they would consider allowing me to work part-time since I had a full-time job. It worked. Within six months, I was able to secure an HR position at the company where I was working full-time. I never had a problem getting a Human Resources job after that.
- Perfect your resume. Although you might think you know what is on your resume, review it anyway to ensure that it is still relevant, error-free and speaks to the positions for which you are applying. It is also important to ensure you have the proper buzzwords for your industry, field and/or position listed in the body of your resume. Otherwise, an organization’s electronic job applicant system may not deem you as having the proper credentials for the position.
- Treat the job hunt as a full-time job. Most people get frustrated when they do not secure a position within the time frame they allotted for their search. But finding a new job is like taking on another full-time job; there are so many aspects to the process that the job search can become time-consuming.
- Take breaks. The job-hunting process can be long. To maintain some sanity, unplug periodically. For some people, especially as you go higher up the ladder, the interviewing process can take months. Some companies start the interview process only to find out once they have started interviewing candidates that they didn’t describe the position adequately. In those cases, the search might stop while the scope of work/qualifications is refined. That could extend the time the company takes to hire you.
- Take an online course to hone your skills. If you have been doing a job for some years at one company, your career field may have changed. Even though you have a title, the responsibilities of that position could be different at another organization. Find out what you don’t know and make sure your skill set is still relevant.
- Get on LinkedIn. My connections have been beneficial in connecting people I know with job and professional opportunities. Personally, I am not enthusiastic about job boards and believe the best way to find a job in 2017 is to know someone or have someone intervene on your behalf (i.e., a LinkedIn connection or third-party organization such as an agency or executive search firm).
I’ve heard too many stories of job-hunting applicants feeling as if their submissions went into a black hole because they never heard from the prospective employer (bad PR). In defense of recruiters, most job seekers underestimate the volume of qualified applicants applying for positions these days.
Keep in mind that you have unemployed as well as passive candidates applying for the same job. Try to make a personal contact where you have applied to see if the position is one you should be considering and how realistic is the correlation between your skill set and the required responsibilities.
I am looking forward to hearing other job-hunting strategies that you have found to be helpful in the process. Please share because we are all in this together.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.