If you haven’t looked for a job in the past fifteen years or so, you might be overwhelmed with some of the current advice: Create a dynamic LinkedIn profile! Optimize your résumé for applicant tracking systems! This is good counsel—I offer it often—but it’s worth taking a step back and recognizing that the fundamentals of the job search process remain the same. Here are three pieces of time-tested wisdom that are still applicable, regardless of your industry, title, or stage of career:
- Leverage your contacts. Also known as the gem “It’s not what you know but who you know.” Cynics can roll their eyes, but the fact is most job openings are filled (at least informally) long before the postings hit the job boards. Given the cost of hiring and training new people, employers are naturally more inclined to give valuable interview time to those who come already recommended. So talk about your job search goals with people you know—neighbors, church friends, former colleagues, your hair stylist, etc. True story: A former client of mine told his physical therapist about his hope to transition to a job in sales. Turns out, the PT’s spouse was a sales manager who casually mentioned to his wife that he would be looking to bring on another rep soon. The job wasn’t even posted, but connections were made and, eventually, a job offer was extended. You just never know.
- Think like an employer. Naturally, you think a lot about what you want your next job to look like: higher income, more job satisfaction, better work/life balance, etc. It’s about you. But employers have their own set of concerns. Shift your focus to what the employer needs, especially in the early discussions, and position yourself as the answer to those needs. One quick example: An unemployed client with a (long ago) background in restaurant management was reading Yelp reviews on a new-ish eatery and found that a majority of the commenters loved the food but rated the service as terrible. She contacted the owner, pitching herself as a transformational trainer/manager who was poised to deliver positive change in this area. Thinking first of the owner’s needs got her in the door for a conversation that, yes, led to a job offer. At that point, when she knew the owner recognized her value, my client was able to negotiate the issues of scheduling and pay that mattered most to her.
- Be active in your search. Posting an old résumé to a job board and hoping for a phone call is not a sound job search strategy. If you’re unemployed and don’t want to be, make looking for work your current job. Spend time every day researching opportunities, applying for jobs, following up, and contacting people in your network.
Contact me if you need help updating that old résumé for your job search. I’ll probably mention the importance of optimizing it for ATS and using LinkedIn. After all, some things have changed.