Job hunting isn’t particularly fun, especially if you’re trying to break into a new field or find your first “real” job after college or graduate school. The competition is stiff, the openings seem to be few and far between, and sometimes hiring managers won’t even give you the courtesy of telling you the position has been filled. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help you with your job search, and a few things you can do to up your chances of getting called in for an interview.
1. Update your résumé. If your résumé is out of date, it’s not going to do you any favors when it comes to getting hired. Make sure your work experiences (and your associated responsibilities) are listed in reverse chronological order. You could consider including sections listing any relevant coursework, skills, or certifications, but don’t just list skills for the sake of listing skills. Résumés are short documents that a hiring manager may only scan for a minute, so everything you include should play a purpose. Tailor your job descriptions (and your entire résumé) to highlight experience that is relevant to the job for which you’re applying.
2. Use your network. Think of all the people you know in your field (or the field you want to break into) and start reaching out. These may be people you worked with in the past, went to school with, or met somewhere else along the way. One of the easiest ways to find a job is through connections, even if you’re not personally connected to someone at the company. Someone always knows someone, and can refer you, put in a good word, or ensure your résumé gets to the right person. If one of your connections knows you personally or has heard about you from a friend, they will already be somewhat familiar with your experience, personality, and skillset. This puts you way ahead of the candidates whom they only know based upon their résumés.
3. Use LinkedIn. If you’re not already on LinkedIn, it’s not a bad idea to create a profile. LinkedIn allows you to create a network of professional contacts with whom you can share your skills, work history, and other career-relevant information. Once you’re connected to someone, you can see who is connected to them, expanding your potential network exponentially. Headhunters (also called recruiters) often use LinkedIn to find prospective hires, so make sure you set your profile to be open to them.
4. Reach out and respond to recruiters. Recruiters are contracted by companies to fill an open position (or positions). Recruiters may make job postings on behalf of a company or seek out qualified individuals via LinkedIn, social media, or career fairs. If you are contacted by a recruiter, don’t be surprised if your first interview is with the recruiter and not with a manager or executive at the company for which you’re hoping to work. Recruiters cast a wide net and then narrow the choices down on behalf of the company before passing names and résumés along. You don’t have to wait to be contacted first, though. Search for recruiters or employment agencies in your area if you want someone to help you find a position that might match your needs.
5. Take advantage of career resources at your college or alma mater. Your college is a great source of career help. Besides taking advantage of the career center when you’re there (where you can get help with your résumé and cover letters, practice interviewing, and search for job opportunities), you can also leverage the alumni network to your advantage. No matter how small your college is, there are thousands of people who have already graduated. Typically, you can search through this network to connect with people who work for a specific company or in a field that you’re interested in. Having something in common may be enough to get you a meeting. Colleges may also host job fairs or maintain a job board to help current and former students find employment.
6. Apply for everything. No, don’t literally apply for every job that you find, but don’t limit yourself to jobs where you fit the requirements or suggested attributes perfectly. Do a broad search for jobs in your prospective field and apply for those that you think you have a fair shot of getting. If you find a CEO position that requires 25 years of experience and you’re fresh out of college, probably skip it, but if you find a position that requires two years of experience, you may be able to swing it with a good cover letter and interview. It’s always worth a shot!
7. Try to score an informational interview. An informational interview isn’t the same thing as a job interview, but they can be useful when you’re hunting for a position. An informational interview is a conversation between you and someone who works in the field that you’re interested in pursuing. Not only does this type of interview expand your network, it can give you the inside scoop on what it’s like to work a certain position or for a certain company. During the interview, you may ask questions about how you could best prepare for a career in the field, learn about job opportunities (if you’re lucky), and—if nothing else— you’ll get some practice at interviewing.
8. Go to a career fair. A career fair is really similar to a college fair, but instead of admissions representatives trying to entice you to come to their school, employers are trying to entice you to apply for jobs with their company. Dress your office best; bring copies of your résumé; and be prepared to talk about job requirements, your background, and what you bring to the table.
Sometimes, even after you do all of these things, the pieces may not come together right away. Don’t get disheartened. As your job hunt starts to lengthen, broaden your search, make sure that your résumé and cover letter are tailored for each position, and double down on your effort to attend career fairs and talk to recruiters. It can take time, but there are plenty of jobs out there!