Job Searches suck. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. The average job search is 3-6 months in Canada, 6-9 months in the States, already that seems like a long period of time but sometimes we fall outside of those averages. And when we do, when we enter into the 1 year mark (or longer) in an active job search, we can reach a low we never thought possible.
It leaves us feeling lost, frustrated and confused. We question every decision we make, and feel pretty horrible about ourselves. We think we are doing the right things, but we are hearing nothing from companies (either after an application or an interview). Negativity is taking over and it is hard to feel like we will ever get a job, the light at the end of the tunnel is just getting dimmer and dimmer.
But we can’t give up, that isn’t an option right? So what do we do?
First read this article on Staying Inspired During a Job Search and consider taking a day or two (or seven!) off to give you time to recharge.
Next, we need to do a review, we need to see where there is potential, room for improvement and to know whether we should reach out for help.
Let’s look at your applications. Examine, look at your applications to jobs that are a good fit, meaning you should probably have gotten an interview.
Let’s look at your ratio – how many of those did you get an interview for those, how many?
The standard ratio is 1 interview out of 5-10 applications depending, some industries and some circumstances can change it.
For the ones that garnered you the interview, let’s take a closer look. What was it about that application that led to the interview – what was the application process (email direct, networking, ATS), what did your resume and cover letter look like, industry, company size. This information may allow you to further focus your work.
If your ratio is not in line with the average ratio. Then we need to re-examine your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. Is your resume telling YOUR story, are you sending in a cover letter, is it engaging? Is your resume and LinkedIn profile optimized for an Applicant Tracking System?
Have someone else read through all of your documents, I would have someone who is familiar with what you do (to mimic the Hiring Manager) and someone who isn’t (to mimic a recruiter). Sometimes, we get so stuck in our head when it comes to our marketing documents that it is helpful to get someone else’s feedback. Plus, it is common to constantly tweak it to align with all of the conflicting information out there which leaves you with a resume that isn’t cohesive.
Obviously, if you are really struggling then getting a resume writer to take a look or write you a new one may be the best option for you.
Do you have a networking strategy, is networking a part of your job search? 70-80% of jobs are found through some form of networking so it is important to get a strategy going. Plus it will get you out of the house and out of your head!
Each week you should devote most of your time to some form of networking activity, so next week look at your current network, who can you take out for coffee?
Confused and have no idea where to start? I've written alot about Networking and talk about it a lot on my weekly Q&A on Facebook Live (on my page and in the Find Career Happiness Group).
Stay tuned, I have an amazing freebie coming next week plus an announcement that will make networking so much easier!
When I ask people about their job search, their successes equate to two things – resumes submitted and interviews secured. And while, securing interviews is a goal as you need them to get the offer, tying your feeling of success to something outside of your control is a sure-fire way to destroy your self-confidence and allow a negative attitude to flourish. So my first recommendation for interviews is to be cognizant of them (how many you are getting, how they are going, etc) but instead of using that as a major goal, use networking instead.
Now let’s assume your resume to interview average is good. Let’s look at your interview to offer numbers. On average, it takes interviewing with 4-5 different companies to receive 1 offer. I’m guessing since you are reading this, that that isn’t the case. So let’s examine the interview.
How have the interviews been going? Where have you excelled and where have you struggled? What kind of questions have they asked, and what kind of answers have you given? Are you telling your story or just answering in bullet points? Are you asking insightful questions?
If you are struggling, consider having a friend give you a mock interview or better yet hire a coach, the investment will be worth it. Self-awareness is great, but we are biased, so it is helpful to have someone objective listen in.
At the end of the day, you need to start talking to people. Get some advise from a previous Manager (great start for networking) on your job search, resume and interview skills. Talk with a close friend or family member. Right now, a clear, objective and unbiased look at your job search is exactly what you need.
As always, you can set up a complimentary 30 minute Strategy Call with me and I would be happy to discuss.
And stay tuned for the big announcement next week!
Are you still clinging to the old fashioned resume rules? Read on as I rewrite the olden days rules to fit this modern world of job hunting!
I remember when I first learned to write a resume there were a few "rules" I was taught that I must adhere to in order to secure that interview - but I can tell you after screening tens of thousands of resumes over the past 15 years that many of those "rules" are completely false. And the worst thing is that I still see them recommended all the time now. I want to use the experience I’ve gained plus the knowledge gained from industry professionals to reframe these old fashioned rules to fit into our modern day.
Each year brings new updates and changes, so I'm revisiting this article to add some 2019 updates!
1. Resume Length
The standard for so long now is 1-2 pages, but that standard was created back in the day when a recruiter or hiring manager had to go through paper resumes. But now? Most resumes are only looked at online so scrolling through the pages is nothing. That's not to say you should submit a 10 page resume if you are a new grad! But it does give you a little more flexibility. I think of it in terms of level of career. If you are new to your career then stick to that 1-2 pages, if you are experienced you can go up to 2-3 pages, and if you are an executive or seasoned professional than 3-5 pages is completely acceptable and in fact would be preferred.
The key here is to make sure the resume gives a good picture of who you are and how you match the job requirements - you don’t want it to be too short (or too long) where that message is lost.
2019 Update: according to a large Randstad recruiter survey, 71% of recruiters want to see a resume that reflects the person's career.
2. Need a strong "Objective" statement
Now I'm not opposed to the objective statement, but 80% of hiring managers or recruiters do not read the objective or professional statement, me included. When I’m advising clients I advise them to include a shot succinct and tailored objective statement giving an overview of who they are as a professional. What I like about the objective is it gives the resume writer a focus to grow upon. To be honest thought, the main reason I like it? It isn't for the content but more for the layout and look of the resume!
The key here is to include one that makes sense for who you are and what job you are applying to but don’t spend more than a minute or two on it!
2019 Update: The formatting aesthetics plus giving a great overview of who you are still the main reasons why you should include this!
3. Resume must be black and white.
This is another rule from the old fashioned job search era. But now, a little bit of colour goes a long way in getting your resume noticed, especially if the role is creative or there is anything in the posting about looking for innovative, thinking outside of the box, or creative problem solving. There are a couple of ways I've seen color used right - in the formatting (blue lines, coloured headers) or in the content (name, position titles, company titles in colour).
The key is to use the colour sparingly and in an intentional way to ensure it, and therefore you, will really pop!
2019 Update: Strategic use of colour is the way to go!
4. Two Resume Types - Reverse Chronological or Skills Based/Functional
There is only one choice - the reverse chronological. I have a strong dislike for the Skills Based/Functional and toss it aside when one comes across my desk - a sentiment shared by many hiring managers and recruiters. We typically spend 10 seconds for an initial review of a resume looking at the following:
The key here is simple, use the reverse chronological resume format! If you have gaps of employment, don’t worry. If you work experience doesn’t contain your relevant experience, there are other ways around that (posts for another day!)
2019 Update: this will never change UNLESS you are in Academia.
5. Your Resume gets you the Interview
Yes, in some cases you resume alone does get you the interview. But in this modern age of job hunting chances are there are some other factors at play. A lot of hiring managers and recruiters check out your social media accounts. So please check your Facebook - what is the privacy, do you have a "professional" profile pic and cover photo (make sure they are appropriate, something you be comfortable with your grandmother seeing!), same with your Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat feeds. If you have a lot of inappropriate posts then make your feeds private.
Also update that LinkedIn! Include a really nice photograph of yourself, just yourself, no one else. Most importantly, make sure it lines up with your resume! I have gotten a resume that fit exactly what I was looking for then went to their LinkedIn only to find a completely different story, that raised a major red flag. Needless to say those people do not get the interview.
Don't forget the leg work you did before applying, search LinkedIn to see who you may think the hiring manager is and if they are in your network maybe have someone introduce you to them. If this is a targeted company you have been interested in then I hope you have already made some contacts with the hiring managers so reach back out with a separate email to your application with your resume reminding them on your initial conversation. In these cases it is your networking that gets you the job interview!
The key here is to take your job search seriously. When clients and I work together to develop their job search strategy, I make sure to include the social media updates and the many different forms of networking. I encourage you to do the same, that leg work goes a long way in securing you those coveted interviews!
Here are some additional rules for you to follow for a current and modern resume.
1. Font Choice
Back in the day Times New Roman reigned supreme on all documents including the Resume. Well, that is no longer the case! In fact using Times New Roman can come across as dated. I would pick a font that you love and that are drawn to (but not Comic Sans or the like). Great fonts are Tahoma, Calibri, and Century Gothic.
Add in some interesting formatting to your resume. Something like a box, lines or colour. Something to add some visual interest.
3. Content Updates
First off, take out "references available upon request", that is to be expected and it takes unnecessary space.
Secondly, your resume should not read like a job description! Your bullet points should not be 1 liners that are really vague, craft a sentence that paints a picture of what you did.
Speaking of bullet points - a lot of the narrative is to have all accomplishments listed in your resume. However, if you are applying for a task based role we may be missing out on some keywords. Plus, a recruiter or hiring manager may not see the fit that easily, and our goal is to make it as easy as possible for them. Instead include both (with a KEY ACCOMPLISHMENTS heading).
Everyone wants to succeed. Their definition of success may be different, but that desire is the same.
The journey to success used to be simple. You worked hard, you made the right connections, and you put your hand up. And what made it even easier was that you did it within the hours of 9-5pm at the physical office you worked at.
Our world isn’t like that anymore, it has changed. People work all hours of the day, flexible work arrangements are on the rise and we work with teams and individuals virtually more than ever.
So we can’t lean on the old way of finding success as the only way anymore, we have to implement some new strategies and think about our path differently.
Being a committed employee who exceeds expectations is still vital to any definition of success, but how you share that message is different. And that is where it gets more challenging.
We need to think of ourselves not as an employee but as a product.
This is so hard for us. It is one of the biggest reasons why people come to me to rewrite their resume and LinkedIn profiles and to provide interview coaching. We are so immersed in our careers that it is so hard to only focus on what matters.
We forget that we aren’t creating a chapter book but instead a marketing plan. I love to use the analogy of a magazine. What is it about you that will grab someone’s attention to stop at your ad within the magazine? You don’t need to tell them everything you just need to tell them what about you fits their needs.
The foundation of every marketing plan is a branding message, and in the case of your career, a personal brand. The personal brand is your messaging that shows the world your personality, your goals and your differentiating factor aka the value you bring to the table.
Your brand sends a message and creates an impression. One that extends beyond your work, your LinkedIn page or your interactions with your colleagues.
You may think that creating a personal brand just isn’t for you, especially if you are not even in marketing! But it is a super simple exercise.
Here are six questions for you to ask yourself that will result in a personal brand that lets everyone know how amazing you are.
1. What does success mean to me?
You need to get clear on your goals. On your own definition for success. Remember to clear the noise of societal pressures and messages. You don’t have to want something just because society or family makes you feel like you should want it.
2. What matters most to me?
This is a hard question to answer because it requires some digging. I want you to think about what you value most – in your work, in others (colleagues, management), in yourself. When you think of your definition of success, what type of impact does that lead you to? Think back on your performance reviews, what feedback mattered most to you (made you really happy or upset).
3. What is my story?
This is a quick story, a 1-2 sentence story. One that is cohesive and quickly shows off who you are, what you have done and where you want to go. Don’t forget to show off you, the authentic you not the cookie cutter you. So make sure you are genuine when crafting your story.
4. Where am I going?
Now it is time to focus on your future. How do your goals lines up with your definition of success? Are you looking at a promotion, a career pivot or a complete career change? Maybe your goals have nothing to do with the actual job but more the type of workplace – one where you can work from home, or set up a new business. Be clear on your destination.
5. What matters to my target audience?
When you know what you want, then you can have a clearer picture of who will be a decision maker on your future. Think about what matters to them. What skills, knowledge and experience do they want?
6. How can I tie it all together?
You know what you offer. And you know what your audience wants. So now you need to craft a message that reflects what they want. Your message should hopefully convince them that you are the person to give them what they need.
These six questions leave you knowing your value in a nutshell! This is the message you will weave throughout your marketing plan, including your LinkedIn profile, your elevator pitch, your resume and cover letter or a talent profile.
You will also weave it throughout your networking with your current network and with new contacts. When speaking with key decision makers, make sure you include some of these talking points casually into the conversation.
This foundation will allow you to build a successful career, one that will stand the test of time.
Do you want to talk through your personal brand? Set up a complimentary strategy call with me to go over it.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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