A friend of mine was recently laid off. I’ve lost my job twice (two different jobs, not the same one twice) and no matter what, it really sucks. I thought I’d post some of the things that I’ve learned as a result of my job searches. Most of this isn’t original but by putting it all in one place I hope to make what is already a really stressful process a little easier.
These are some tips that I felt were helpful for me personally. Everyone is different and every field is different. Some of the things I did might have been helpful for me but would be harmful for you. Each person needs to evaluate this advice in the appropriate context and use their best judgement. If you read this and have better information please feel free to add any comments or suggestions.
The first thing that I would recommend is creating a professional email account. Gmail is fine but you want something that isn’t too casual. Beerman82 is fine for friends but not necessarily what you want a potential employer to see (unless you’re in the brewing business).
Techno Tip: email addresses ignore periods so you can create an email such as email@example.com which is easier to read than firstname.lastname@example.org since it tells the reader where the separation is.
The second thing I’d recommend is getting a Google Voice number. Google Voice lets you create a personalized number (such as incorporating your field or name). That number can then be set to forward to your cellphone, land-line, or office phone. This keeps you from needing to give out your personal phone number and includes a ton of useful features.
Starting off, I’m a big fan of Linkedin.com. I think it’s a great way to build a professional network without mixing it with your social network. The two might overlap but this really gives you control over it. There are definitely things that I’ll post to Facebook that I wouldn’t want on a more professional site or seen by my boss.
I’ll come back to LinkedIn later but for now I just want to make you aware of it. For me there are two primary tools for the job search: LinkedIn and the Resume. I’m guessing that at this point more people have a resume than a LinkedIn profile. You can use your resume as a starting point for your profile or vice versa but I’ll start with the resume for now.
Your resume is your standard job application. It has sections such as experience, education, and skills. How you emphasize these sections will depend on your strengths. Straight out of school you’ll want your education experience to be more prominent. As you gain more job experience sections like classes and degrees will move lower to highlight your skills and employment history.
Here are a few tips where your resume is concerned:
- Have multiple versions.
One should be no more than two pages so you can print it out front and back (for in-person situations) which can be as artfully formatted as you like, another can be several pages long for emails where they expect more detail (minimal formatting, nothing too fancy). Be ready to create specific resumes for certain jobs.
- Avoid passive voice.
Don’t “assist” or “help” any more than absolutely necessary. Use action words, be a little boastful.
- When describing your job and skills try and use different words as often as possible. A lot of resumes get passed through a keyword analyzer so getting 45/50 words found in your resume might give you a boost even if many of them mean the same thing.
- Check your formatting.
If you build your resume in Microsoft Word then there may be issues if someone tries to copy and paste it into a worksheet. You can test this by opening WordPad and pasting in your resume text. If it looks weird (text isn’t correctly positioned or aligned wrong) then fix it.
- Get it looked at by multiple people.
Everyone will have a slightly different idea of what the perfect resume should look like. Some of this will depend on the person’s field while some of it will be generational (certain styles go in and out of fashion).
Resume Techno Tricks:
- Place your multi-page resume into Google Documents.
Now in the upper right you will see a button that says “share”. Click on it and set it so that it can be found and viewed by the public internet. Now you will also see a “Link to Share”. You can post this on your webpage, profile, into your email signature of your professional email, etc. When anyone clicks through that think they will see your resume. When you update your resume on Google Documents the person clicking the link will always see the most recent version. Handy right? (here’s mine)
Bonus Tip: Take that really long URL Google gives you to share your document and run it through bitly.com, this will not only give you a MUCH shorter URL to work with it, if you create a bitly.com account (its free) you can track how many people use your link and make a QR code for sharing.
- Post your resume to Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, Dice.com, Indeed.com and anywhere else you think it might be noticed. Get ready for lots of spam but that’s why you have an email address just for professional use.
Back to LinkedIn
Ok, now that you’ve created a resume it’s time to go after that LinkedIn profile. Generally, your LinkedIn profile is a combination resume and social network.
You put in things like “Experience” and a short description of each position. I happen to like using bullet points which you can get by copying and pasting them from WordPad since there isn’t a bullet button on your keyboard.
The basics of Linkedin are fairly straightforward so I’ll focus on some of the more overlooked parts of this website.
- Pick an appropriate picture.
The one with you holding up a drink that you have on facebook isn’t what you want your professional network to see. Stage a nice picture in your interview outfit with good lighting and a nice plain background. Frame it so your face is clear but include your shoulders so that it’s not just a giant head.
- Make aggressive use of the “Skills” section.
It’s under the “more” tab and currently in beta. Fill it with every skill you can think of since you have no idea what searches someone will use.
- Also under the “more” tab is “get more applications…”
There are some very clever tools here that you can make use of.
-Create a Google Presentation of why you should be hired and post it. If you do creative work then include examples from various projects. If you work with different types of equipment then include those. Make it into a “why I should be hired” presentation that sells you as a candidate.
-Create a Box.net account (5 GB free). Put in PDF files of work and extra copies of your resume or CV.
- Personalize the LinkedIn URL. Go to “edit profile” then where it says “public profile” it should also say “edit” to the right, click that. Look at the right column. You can adjust your visibility (I’d suggest public if you want to be found), and below that it “Your public URL”. Customize it to something that is more interesting, like this:
This link goes really well in the signature of your processional email account (check under “settings” in your email system)
Bonus tip: just like with your resume you can use bitly.com to create a QR code what will track your views.
- Set your headline to something that will get attention
On the “edit profile” screen click on “edit” next to your name. See where it says “headline”? That headline can actually be fairly long and include lots of useful information. Change it to something like “Actively Seeking Work”. Then use the “|” symbol (shift , above “enter”) to add your top skills and interests. “Actively Seeking Work | Experience in Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals”
- Get recommendations!
Don’t be afraid to ask your boss for a recommendation, it can make a big difference.
- Don’t overlook the Summary section
This section often gets ignored and it is the most important if you’re looking for work. This is your personal statement to whoever views your profile. Talk about your strengths and highlight how you will be an asset. Keep it in first person, remember that this is you talking to the prospective employer.
Even if your company gives you official company cards I would highly recommend that you get ones that are your own. More and more you are becoming your own brand. Personal business cards are a way to represent yourself outside of your current position. Vistaprint.com is fairly inexpensive though I’d recommend going for full color heavy stock (looks and feels more professional) and two-sided printing (you’ll see why in a second).
- Include a picture
Remember that nice picture for your LinkedIn profile? Put it on your card. When you name is a hazy memory that picture will remind the person of who you are and why they took your card in the first place.
- Include a QR code and that personalized URL to your LinkedIn page on the back. This way by simply scanning your card with a smartphone or typing in a simple URL (because it’s personalized) a person can find you on LinkedIn. They can then connect with you, contact you, recommend you, etc.
- Include your Google Voice number and professional email
- Personalize it appropriately for your field
If you are in a creative field then make your card very distinctive. If your field is more conservative then tone it down a bit but still make sure that it will be remembered (one way to do that is to go for light lettering on a dark background).
- Make sure it is readable!
Your card is useless if no one can read it. Make sure that your font is clear and large enough to read without difficulty.
Your Interview Toolkit (What to buy before you need it)
- Your folio (I like the Wenger Vinyl Zip-Folio but removed the three ring binder part)
- Extra copies of your resume (bring plenty so that when people show up with badly formatted versions you can give them good ones)
- Business cards (offer one to everyone you meet but try to be smooth and casual)
- A pen; take notes as you go (the folio comes with a pad of paper). Record each person’s name and something about your conversion with them. Later when you send a Thank-you note to them you’ll be able to remember what name goes with what conversation.
- A presentation on a flash drive*
- Thank-you cards. (Don’t actually bring these on the interview but make sure you have some beforehand so you’re prepared)
*Load that presentation you created for LinkedIn and put it onto a flash drive.
This might sound crazy but it happened to me
I went to a job interview at a fairly large company. The interview had been arranged by a recruiter. When I arrived I was asked if I had my presentation on a flash drive. Apparently due to a miscommunication I hadn’t been told that I would be expected to give a short presentation in front of several people followed by questions. I did a good job considering I was speaking without any preparation but not surprisingly I didn’t get the job. Even a couple of slides would have come in very handy that day
Roundup of Part One
Ok, so you’ve created an email address and phone number. You’ve started working on your resume and Linkedin profile. You’ve designed and ordered business cards. A really great start! In Part 2 I’ll talk about applying for specific positions and getting ready for interviews.
I hope that this has been helpful. Hang in there and remember the words of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “DON’T PANIC”.
Job Hunting Advice (Part One - Preparations) by Adam Glickman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.