Get a Job: Prep!

I really don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to do a blog post every day this week on job searching tips.  Given my past posting record, posting every day is in itself quite a feat, but then I pick the very week that the Harry Potter finale opens, and yes, I’ll be at the midnight showing Thursday night!  It is also in the same week that my youngest is having a sleep-over for her birthday, for which I have to plan yet another epic scavenger hunt.  Oh and we can’t forget about Women’s World Cup Soccer!

oopsOops!!  I certainly did not plan very well for this week.  Poor planning can sometimes have very negative consequences.  That is what today’s post will be about…the planning and preparation that needs to go into an effective job search.  Job searches and career management are already tricky enough; you don’t want to make it any more difficult than it needs to be.  One thing you can do is learn from other people’s mistakes. 

Common mistakes people make in their job search:

  • They don’t know themselves.
  • They don’t learn enough about the job or the organization.
  • They just aren’t prepared.

You can (and should) easy avoid these mistakes by doing the following.

Know Yourself

This one comes as a surprise to most; after all, you know what you’re capable of, right?  You know your college degree, what you’re smart at, what your skills are, what you like to do, so what is the big deal.  The big deal is that you need to fit into a job for you to like it and for the organization to be glad they hired you. 

  • Determine your values
    • What is important to you?
    • Do this values exercise and try to come up with a list of your top 10 values.
    • Values are what help you prioritize your time.  If creativity is very important to you, do you really want to work at a company that stifles it?
  • Do a skills inventory
    • Note:  this is not your resume! 
    • Be honest and determine what you are good at.
    • Be able to match your skills to a job position’s needs through accomplishments 
    • This OWL website offers a nice set of skills to start with (you have to create and determine your own accomplishments, though, and you may need to add some other skills to this list)
  • Maintain a Curriculum Vitae or comprehensive file of your values, skills, and accomplishments.
    • Again, this is not your resume or what you will send in for a job application.
    • Consider this your toolbox or file cabinet to pull from when you need to build your resume for a particular job.
    • Update it at least once per year.
  • Start your job search
    • Your professional network, job websites, etc. are all great ways to learn of job openings.
    • When you find a job you wish to apply for, do some research.  

Know the Job and Organization

Too many people will send in a generic cover letter and the same old resume to every job they apply.  The person reviewing job applications spends something like 10 seconds looking at your material before making a decision on whether to keep you in the ‘consider’ pile or put you in the ‘forget about it’ pile. 

  • Research the job and the organization.  
  • Utilize your network to learn more. 
  • Determine if the job and organizational values match your own.
  • Determine what skills you have that match the needs of the position.
  • Write a cover letter that not only indicates your interest and that you are applying for the job, but also that addresses a specific need mentioned in the job posting by highlighting your experience, with examples, as it relates to that need.  
  • Create your resume, highlighting skills and accomplishments, that relate specifically to the job for which you are applying.
  • Leverage technology.  There are plenty of websites that address resumes, cover letters, the right action verb, etc. 
  • Apply in a manner that matches the organizational culture.  For most places, the traditional resume is still the best way to apply, but there are alternatives, but those alternatives should align with the cultural expectations of the company that you researched and learned about much earlier in your process.  

Be Prepared

If you are fortunate enough to put in the ‘consider’ pile, you may be called for an interview.  There is often a ‘weeding’ phase where a preliminary interview may be done over the phone or by other means.  If you are called for an interview, it is absolutely vital that you be prepared.

  • Do more research!  Know as much about the job, the organization, and the field as possible.
  • Practice interviewing (more on this tomorrow)
  • Contact possible references and prepare a reference list (sometimes this is asked for in the initial application, but be prepared to offer more)
  • Prepare questions.  You’ve done you’re research, but you can’t possibly know everything!
    • Ask meaningful questions, questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in the position and the organization. 
    • Don’t ask question right away about money, time off, vacation, etc. 
    • Don’t not ask questions!
  • Be yourself.
  • Be honest.  Don’t make things up or embellish your capabilities.  It will become apparent at some point if you do.
  • Be positive.  Highlight your accomplishments and don’t discredit or bad mouth other people or other organizations. 

Remember, the interview should be a two-way information gathering session.  Naturally the organization wants to determine if you will be a good fit, but you should also be determining if the organization and the job are really a good fit for you as well. 

This may all seem like a lot of work, especially considering most people don’t even hear back from companies when they apply.  However, you greatly increase your chances of getting that ‘consideration’ and will be called if you do this work upfront.  Additionally, maintaining, or managing your career in this way makes it so much easier to submit a job application when that perfect job does come along! 

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