Are you a new graduate searching for your very first job? Have you been working for the same company for years and just need a change? Either way, looking for your perfect new job can seem like a huge task. You’re probably asking yourself, “How do I make myself stand out from all the other applicants?” Just breathe! It's far from impossible — especially when you have some guidance.
We spoke to Lora Poepping, founder of Plum: Job Search Strategies, based in Seattle, about what steps you can take to find and land a job you love. Having been in the recruiting business for over 20 years, Poepping knows just what human resources departments are looking for, and how to make sure you’re the one they pick. Here's her advice for landing the right job:
1. Know what you want
“Before you even get started in your job search, you need to know what job you want,” Poepping says.
Start by doing a little soul-searching. What are your passions? What skills and experience do you have? After you’ve given it some thought, talk to friends or to someone in your desired field to get a feel for the industry and if it's the right path for you.
When talking to people, Poepping recommends you be as precise as possible about what you want. “The more specific you are, the more people can understand what it is you want to do and how they can possibly help you,” she says.
If you’re still unsure which way to turn, you can always talk to a career coach. Just remember, you’ll have to pay for that kind of advice.
2. Follow your passions, but have realistic expectations.
Keep in mind that while you want to (and should!) follow your passions, you have to be realistic. We all want to land our dream jobs, but most of us have to take the time to work up to it. Sometimes, you have to pay your dues.
When choosing a job, make sure it matches up with your work experience and background. Wanting to start over in a new field? That’s awesome; but realize you may have to start back from the bottom of the ladder.
Poepping says, “Market yourself beautifully, then there’s no reason you can’t go after the job of your dreams.”
3. Do your research.
Now that you have an idea what job you are looking for, make sure you do your research. Look into companies and people of interest in your desired field.
Check out their website or LinkedIn profile. Look at recent news and social media surrounding the company you hope to work for. See how your experiences and aspirations match up with the job you’re after.
Familiarize yourself as much as you can with the market you will be entering. The more you know, the better your chances.
4. Revamp your resume.
Now’s the time to pull out that dusty resume and clean it up. Again, be as specific as you can regarding your background, experiences, and aspirations.
Poepping advises you to make your resume stand out with specific accomplishments. “It needs to be really good and less about a laundry list of everything you’ve done and more about what matters. Tell me what you did that made a difference,” she suggests.
5. LinkedIn is your best friend.
According to Poepping, “The number one way of showing up to recruiters is LinkedIn.”
Not only should your LinkedIn profile mirror the information you give on your resume, it should also properly market you to the field you are hoping to enter.
For example, search profiles of people whose jobs you would kill to have so you can get a good idea of what your own profile should look like. What words do they use to describe their skills and experience? If these words describe you too, as Poepping says, “Embrace the vernacular.”
Don’t misrepresent yourself, but be sure to use as much of the terminology in your desired field as applies to you. Include links to other online profiles. Get as many references for your skills from colleagues as possible. In Poepping’s words, “Make sure your profile is as robust as it can be.”
6. Take advantage of your network.
Don’t limit your network to just former coworkers. Poepping suggests reaching out to anyone who may have an interest in your future: “When I say your network, I mean the people you’ve formally worked with, their friends, your parents’ friends, or people who you went to school with, or the parents of the people you went to school with," she says.
Now is not the time to be shy. If you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone in your desired field, use that connection.
As Poepping says, you are actually helping make someone else’s day as well as your own when you use your network to score a job. "No one wants to be more than a hero. Don’t you love it when you set people up and they get married and it works? The same is true of job searching,” Poepping says.
Job searching is stressful for everyone, but follow these tips, and you will make the hunt that much easier for yourself and for all those recruiters who would love to meet you. Be confident in yourself, and take Poepping’s advice. In her own words, “If you really set yourself up for success, job searching doesn’t have to be painful.”