Professional Career Coach Advice:
11 Lessons and Tips I wish I Knew When Job Searching
There was a time before becoming a professional career coach that I felt lost, scared, and frustrated in my career path. In fact, I wish I knew career coaches existed because I could have really used one at one point.
I was burned out from working 55-60 hour weeks, always making sure to respond to incoming emails from clients even just past midnight when my eyes were fighting to stay open.
I dealt with some aggressive, egotistical personalities that made me question if my kindness was being interpreted for weakness. All in all, I knew I needed to get out, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. So, I let days turn into months turn into years.
Then one day, a recruiter reached out to me about another opportunity and I was ecstatic. It sounded like a great match.
Before I finally made the switch, people would ask me, “Are you OK? You’re not your cheerful self” to things like, “Are you sleeping and eating well? You look tired.” I didn’t think my frustration and stress was visible, but I couldn’t fool anyone around me.
Now as a professional career coach, I can hear the same self-doubt, disappointment, and confusion come across when I listen to my friends rant about how difficult it is to get interviews and offers. I have always surrounded myself with positive people, so their voiced frustrations are not taken lightly. The job search process can be a grueling one, I get it.
So, here’s my open letter to frustrated job seeking friends everywhere.
11 Lessons & Tips to Follow if You’re a Discouraged Jobseeker
Dear Jobseeking Friend,
You have every right to feel frustrated and annoyed, lost and confused. The recruiting process is archaic and broken. Unfortunately, bias still remains and sometimes companies don’t even know what they want when they post a job. They can interview hundreds of candidates and still not make a decision because the hiring committee isn’t on the same page. Alternatively, they could post a job and already have a candidate in their pocket. But to show they have ‘considered’ other candidates out there, they will entertain a few interviews before rolling out the official offer.
Whatever the situation, recruiting is a numbers game. The good news is with targeted effort and patience, you will be happy in the long-run and this patch in life will be a lesson learned, something to reflect on and grow from.
That said, here are 11 lessons I’ve learned along the way I’d like to share with you:
1. Don’t take the first job given to you out of desperation. Unless you’re going to get evicted, you’re paying massive interest on credit cards, or you’re digging yourself into major debt, I would try to hold out for the right opportunity to save yourself from future headache and expending energy on job search #2.
2. Don’t take it personally when you’re rejected. I’ve seen tons of perfectly qualified candidates get rejected because the hiring manager feared this candidate would outshine them and threaten their own value to the company. Sad. But it happens more than you think.
3.Apply to the jobs that you meet 80% of the job requirements for. If you meet 100% of them, the employer will know you are taking a step back in your career or a making a lateral move, and will get bored and leave. You want a position you can grow in and need to demonstrate your willingness and capability to learn new skills. The cover letter is a great place to address these gaps or highlight the skills they need and you already excel in.
4. Confidence is key. Ever hear the phrase, “Fake it until you make it”? Don’t let your doubt or worries show. If you portray yourself as you’re the right fit for the role, you erase any doubts of the interviewer. Confidence is contagious and attitude is half the battle. If you don’t believe in yourself, how is the listener going to believe in you either?
Confidence is contagious and attitude is half the battle.
5. Brevity is king. People are busy and inundated with social media, emails, text messages, you name it. If your messages are long-winded, see if you can practice making them more concise. If you’re writing an email, send it to yourself first. On your smartphone, do you have to scroll? Is it taking you longer than a minute to get to the end? Shorten it!
6. Do your research and tell the interviewer you know what they do and you’re on board. It’s not strong enough to say “I’m good at marketing”. Come up with a more powerful opening phrase. “In my current position, I increased our subscriber base by 60% through writing compelling subject lines. I want to bring this same type of creativity and problem solving to [Company] because its mission of helping solve world hunger issues resonates with me.”
7. Stop spending all of your day on job boards. Start using LinkedIn as a resource to find who works there and see if you can make any meaningful connections. Ask for an informational interview and meet with these employees face-to-face. The more relationships you can build, the more ambassadors you will have.
8. Use LinkedIn as your Roll-o-Dex. Everyone you meet at least once should be added on LinkedIn. You never know if someone’s cousin, uncle, friend, husband, wife, best friend etc. works for the company you’re eyeing.
9. Make a list of top 10 companies in your targeted geographical area you admire and want to work for. Start following these companies and look out for any events they host or career fairs they attend. Take a look at what organizations some of their employees are in. Ask if anyone knows anyone who works here (or look through your second degree connections since you’re making so many first degree connections – see #8!). Finding a connection in person is going to be way more effective than putting your resume into a black hole.
10. Attend industry events and organizations. Google your city and your industry or specific skill set. Are there meet up groups or professional organizations you can join? Being an active member and volunteer can pay off in the long-term. Remember, it’s not who you know, but who knows you. Even if you find your dream job, never stop networking.
11. Track your progress and know when to follow-up. People are busy. Just because you messaged them and they didn’t reply doesn’t mean you should call it quits. Gently nudge them in 3-5 days and ask them if they have had time to consider your initial request. Always give them an out. I like to end my messages with, “No worries if this isn’t your thing – I completely understand. It would be great to hear either way and I hope to hear from you soon.”
Good luck and don’t give up. The only way you will fail is if you stop trying.
Note: I originally published this article on Ms. Career Girl, March 7, 2017