Employers sense in me a denial of their values.’ He rolled over onto his back. ‘They fear me. I suspect that they can see that I am forced to function in a century I loathe. This was true even when I worked for the New Orleans Public Library.”
― John Kennedy Toole,
A slew of opportunities await young professionals who are looking into carving their own place in the corporate world. But in order to find the right opportunity, you’ll need to stand from the crowd and differentiate yourself from the rest of the candidates out there who want the same opportunity as badly as you do.
And how do you differentiate yourself? By carefully planning your job search and taking proactive steps during the process, you can set yourself apart and ultimately get the job you want. To be more specific, we have outlined a five-step guide for you to help you succeed in your job search.
1. Clearly define your skills and interests
Every how-to article about finding success during your job search talks about defining your skills and identifying your strengths and weaknesses and it comes with good reason.
Traditionally, inexperienced job seekers as well as some of the more seasoned ones start searching for a job right away based solely on their degree or on their previous job. But in a world where job functions are broadly defined, you are better off defining your strongest attributes as well as your interests before you put yourself out there.
Just because you have a degree in information technology (IT) doesn’t mean that you have to work as a systems administrator or a technical support specialist. There is a broad range of job functions out there that you can choose from as long as you’re able to clearly define your skills and interests.
Start by asking yourself, “What am I really good at? What are the things that I am most passionate about? What do I value the most?” By asking yourself these questions, you get rid of the ambiguity of what you do and start gaining a sense of direction in your job search.
2. Create a powerful resume
Many candidates underestimate the power of a well-written resume. Don’t be one of those candidates who don’t give much thought about what they put on their resumes. If you want to stand out from the rest of the candidates, then having a well-crafted resume is surefire way to do just that.
If you are still on the early stages of your job search, it’s most useful to have a master resume that you can customize according to the type of job or position you are applying for. Instead of creating multiple versions of your resume from scratch, you can have one that you can readily turn into something different whenever you need to.
There’s a multitude of ways on how you can write a resume. Remember, you resume is your first shot at making a good first impression. More than anything, your resume should reflect who you are while emphasizing the specific skills and experiences that are relevant to the position you are applying for.
One of the hottest trends right now is to have a visual/graphic where, instead of just containing text, you resume incorporates visual elements like graphs, charts, bold typography and even images. But, at the end of the day, what it all boils down to is substance. You can dress up your resume in whichever way you want, but you need to ensure that it’s getting the right message across.
If you are doubtful or unsure about the kind of resume you have, don’t be afraid to ask the opinion of others. In fact, it’s best that you have someone with much more experience to review your resume just to make sure that you didn’t miss anything.
3. Strategize your job search
You have identified your skills and interests and you have created a powerful resume, now it’s time to start searching for jobs.
For starters, if you don’t have a vast professional network, then online is the way to go. When creating your account on an online job board, make sure that you’ll have your profile completely filled out. Most online job boards have filters to help you identify prospective employers according to your field of interest and/or geographic area. Maximize all those tools available to you to help you search for that perfect opportunity.
When it comes to narrowing down the jobs you want to apply to, remember to look for positions where you can add the most value to employers. Again, this is why identifying your skills and interest is so important. It prevents you from applying for jobs that you clearly aren’t well suited for.
At the same time, knowing your skill set and range can help you discover certain jobs or field of specialization that you may not originally be interested in but you are very much qualified for.
Strategizing your job search is all about knowing where to look, not getting stuck with limitations or your preconceived notions as well as keeping track of your progress or even your lack thereof.
4. Do your research
Assuming that you’ve already sent out your resume and you already got an interview invite or two from the companies you applied for, then it’s time for you to do a little more digging.
Once you’re scheduled for an interview, whether it’s via phone or face-to-face, it’s vital for you to have significant knowledge about the job your are interviewing for and the company you applied to so you can make a good impression.
Your research should be substantial and in-depth and not just a quick Google search. This entails visiting the company website, browsing through recent news articles and yes, even looking at the profiles of their current employees.
But more important that finding information about the company is knowing how to use the information you have gathered to your advantage.
There is a downside to doing your research if you are not careful in using the information you have. Don’t ever go to your interview and say “I’ve read about you on… and I think you should have done this” or “you should have done that”. If you are not careful, it might just cost you the job. Remember, there is no real need for you to point at the information you have gathered unless you feel strongly that it will be for your benefit.
The best way to use the information you have is by tailoring your answers and your interview examples to fit what you have already researched about the company. You can highlight the things you see in the company that you could be most helpful with. If the company launched a new product, for example, and you are applying for a sales or marketing position, you can mention some of your ideas on how you can position the product to the target demographic. Of course, there are a lot more different ways on how you can use your knowledge to you edge during the interview.
But what if the company you are interviewing for does not have a significant presence online? You can mention during the interview that you normally do your research but you unfortunately weren’t able to find anything about the company you are interviewing for.
Most likely, the interviewer will start talking about the company which is always a good conversation starter during the interviews. Just make sure to point to the fact that even if you know very little about the company, you are really interested and you are excited to learn more.