I had this idea for today’s blog post at work. I thought I would share my tips and my journey with my readers on how to navigate the ever changing path for securing your first job (or any job). Since the 2008 recession, the needs for employers have changed dramatically. I wish I would have known some of these tips before I started searching. But no one told me these things and I had to spend 2 years figuring these out the hard way. A bit of background on me, I graduated with my MS in May 2012. I started my job search in December 2011 and was hired on at my current job September 2012. I moved from Kentucky to Iowa in May 2012 after I graduated and then moved to Kansas for my job in September 2012. During my time in Iowa, I lived in my mom and stepdad’s basement and worked at a previous job while I was applying for jobs.
1.) Brand yourself. Create a website (I have one on a weebly platform that is free). Get business cards made up and carry them on you at all times. Put your website and contact information on the business cards. I suggest getting business cards that have a plain white back to them (no picture or additional information) so that you can write something down of importance to the person you are giving the business card too. It could be mapping out exactly where to find your portfolio on your website or details of how you met that way it will refresh their memory. But I like having the space to be able to add some on the spot customization to my business cards.
2.) Set up an excel document and track every. single. piece. of. correspondence. for job search stuff. If you jump into a twitter chat with a company and you are making connections with the rep who is running the chat, document that information and follow-up. Every resume you send out, follow-up. Every time you get a business card, follow-up. You can customize your excel doc however you would like but I would definitely recommend having a column that gives you the exact date when you should follow-up with someone. Figure out a tracking system that works for you and use it. Don’t let a single resume go without a follow-up if you can help it.
3.) Social media. Your call on this but if you are going to have your tweets/instagram/whatever else be unprotected, know that. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with having a personal twitter account and not having protected tweets. I like that I get to interact with people that don’t necessarily follow me and I think it’s got some value, but this is a personal decision.
4.) Create a master resume that has absolutely everything you have ever done (and those of you that aren’t job searching, create one anyway and keep it updated. Makes it much easier when you do need a resume if you have been keeping your master resume updated the entire time.) Create a master cover letter that has all the information you could ever want to say in a cover letter. These two documents can be as long and detailed as you want.
5.) Create a resume template and a cover letter template
6.) When you go to apply for a job combine 4 and 5 and send out customized application materials that don’t make you want to poke your eyeballs out and that will get you noticed. Put time into reading the job description and researching the company. It’s about the quality of your application materials, not the quantity.
7.) Network. Oh dear god, grab your business cards and network. I hate this more than anything but networking…is actually good. View networking though as not only how someone can help you but how you can help someone. So I networked with a couple about a year ago in hopes of getting a new job in wellness and part of that was that I offered my services to do freelance consulting for their company. I never got a wellness job but I have established a strong network with this couple and I’m still doing work for them. We both get something out of the deal.
8.) If you have a goal in mind, you need to stay true to that goal. As long as it is a realistic goal. I graduated from grad school and I wanted to work in wellness at a college/university recreation center so bad. It was my guiding light of what I wanted to do. After an absolutely heart breaking rejection from a university for their wellness coordinator position I thought to myself, “if I can get a job at a university, then at least I have my foot in the door for moving towards the wellness job.” And against the complaining I heard daily from people in my life that I didn’t have a job yet, I pursued this. And then I got a job at a university. Which is going to lead me into…
9.) Take an opportunity that may not be the dream but is a place that you can grow. This is what I did and I didn’t always realize it at the time. But what spurred this blog post on was as I was working today and the hours were just clicking by…I realized that I wasn’t sitting at my desk willing the clock to say 5 so I could go home. I was actually engaging in a number of projects that were interesting to me and that I actually…liked my job and the work I was doing. It didn’t start out that way. But I knew that I wanted to work at a university. So I took an opportunity. And in the interview it was very clear to me that the job I was interviewing for flexible to change. I started out as a glorified secretary (which was a very, very difficult pride pill to swallow after busting my ass for years) to now being an analyst and working on meaningful projects. The path to “success” isn’t always clear and there are ups and downs and heartbreaks, but if there is a good opportunity, take it.
10.) PUT MONEY IN THE BANK. Especially if you are looking to move away for a job. Not all companies will pay for your travel or reimburse you for your travel. Not all have a moving allocation to help you get to the job. If you aren’t working while you are job searching, you still have bills to pay and need to buy food and gas and whatnot. Save money, put money aside, do whatever you have to do so that if you get to the point where you are job searching and no longer employed, you aren’t struggling.
I have more tips, so if this is something that you enjoy, let me know and I can do a part 2 of this or make a series or something.