Several decades ago, good job search advice had job seekers actually hitting the pavement looking for available positions. Although we wouldn’t recommend this method to find most professional services jobs, there is something nostalgic and appealing about handing your resume to a living, breathing person rather than pushing send into an internet black hole. Part of what made that tangible connection and hand-off so appealing came from knowing you were being considered by another person as more than a one-page sheet of paper. The job search can be brutal, but individual people are typically pretty nice.
Today, we’re advocating you revamp your job search experience by reframing the “right” way to search and by humanizing the whole experience.
One job search truth that doesn’t get brought up very often is that it doesn’t matter if you’re qualified for a job – you have to be the most qualified candidate. Here is a fascinating article breaking down some of the common barriers in the job search. In fact, today more than ever, creativity, preparation, and being proactive matter nearly as much as your experience and skillset during a job search.
Instead of doing the same basic things a majority of job seekers are doing (browsing major job boards, tweaking resumes, submitting generic application materials, hoping for the best) we want you to stand out. We still want you to apply to those posted jobs, and write focused resumes and interesting (e.g. not too formal) cover letters that make a strong case for what you can add to the bottom line.
However, to hear about the 70% of unposted jobs:
* Identify industries, organizations, networking meetups, etc. and go to them. Make it hard for people to ignore you because you’re so engaging. Be engaging by being curious and truly listening (more tips on being engaging from local “Recovering Boring Person” Vanessa Van Edwards)
* Volunteer… for interesting nonprofits, causes you care about, for projects to build your skill set in a new industry, or organizations in the industry you want to work for. Offering your time, energy, and expertise for free can be a powerful way to connect.
* Attend events related to the jobs you want. They can be continuing learning seminars, talks sponsored by companies you’re interested in, conferences…really anything where you can learn more about your chosen path. You can discuss what you’ve learned in interviews to show genuine interest and current expertise.
* Get a certificate or degree in your area of interest, and network with your peers and teachers while you gain expertise.
* Get someone to refer you! Referrals are the number one way candidates find jobs.
* Work with a recruiter in your industry, who can give you pointers, insider tips, and leads on jobs that aren’t posted.
* Have your friends, mentors, or other people you trust give you feedback, or act as a wingperson for you at networking events. An outside perspective or introduction can create some major job search mojo.
Most of the time, job searching the hidden job market is not a quick process. However, you’ll end up in roles that are much better fits for your interest and desires, because you’ve identified the companies and been hired for a role where you can essentially create a job description. Get yourself in the right mental state to conquer the search – it sounds silly, but if you think of the job search as something you can control, suddenly the game changes. Reframe your search and think of it as a longer process, every step and challenge along the way becomes progress toward an eventual win!
Also, create a sense of agency around your search. This is not grade school recess; you’re not waiting around for someone to pick you for their team. You have all the power in your hands to make your search representative of your best self. You don’t need to feel stuck…every decision you make (to reach out to someone new, to volunteer, to apply for a position) becomes an option and a choice. You have strategies for both the short and long term. Don’t just wait around – play to win.
We also have more great tips on our Boly:Welch Pinterest page. And, if you need some help with the mental reframing of your job search, we have some collected great self-care ideas, inspirations, and more than a few puppy pictures at if you need a quick boost.