Learn the “A.C.E.’s” of Job Hunting to Make Your Search Easier and Restart Your Career
Looking for a new job after taking an extended break from the job market or after spending over a decade at the same company can be intimidating. But learning the A.C.E.’s of job hunting will help calm your nerves, get you ready to find your next career, and ensure you’ll ace your job search.
Here’s the good news: there are a ton of jobs out there! Companies are hiring. Recruiters are scouring social media sites, seeking viable candidates for their open positions. Online job sites have hundreds, if not thousands, of positions posted on career boards. Many local government job boards are loaded with career opportunities. So what’s the problem? That depends.
There are so many factors that affect women (and men) today who are looking for a new career, especially those who have been placed back in the job market after a layoff or job elimination. Whatever the reason, they are still looking for their next job, and may be encountering both familiar – and new – obstacles.
Technology vs. Humans
Getting past recruiting gatekeepers is often challenging. Most people know that a gatekeeper is a person who controls access to something. However, the “gatekeeper” today is more often a software program that sifts through the applicants, weeding out those that don’t meet all of the requirements of the job posting.
- If resumés are missing the exact keywords associated with a position, it’s possible for recruiters to miss out on talented individuals. The latter may even have experience that often goes beyond the job posting, but are never considered; their applications are simply flushed out of the system before a human eye ever sees it.
- Some believe this software or technology adds efficiencies to an already overwhelmed Human Resources staff. That may be very true, but it often means that it is not allowing recruiters access to a pool of talent and experience that could fill their open positions.
- Solution: make sure to scan job postings for specific words associated with the position, then insert them into your resumé. You may need to tailor-make several resumés, but the payoff will be worth it.
Education vs. Experience
Many positions, even at the entry level, require a four-year degree, and some want certification beyond that, depending on the industry and position. At bare minimum, an associate’s degree.
But what if you don’t have either degree? What if you entered the job market and worked your way through an organization — or organizations — gaining experience and skills that led to promotions and management positions? In this case, your resumé may show your track record, and list your accomplishments, experience and skills, but no degree.
So, your resumé never gets through to the recruiter. Instead, someone who has less than half your years of experience and only some of the skills – but who does have the “required” degree — gets the job.
In other words, the company has hired a person who will do an okay job and with a little luck, may turn out to do a great job (with the help and support of colleagues and on-the-job training), etc. But if they don’t, they are back in the job market, and the company has the expensive task of starting the recruitment process over again.
So be prepared for this scenario, and find ways to bolster your professional image by pointing to real-life accomplishments in place of higher education credentials.
You’ve recently joined the ranks of the unemployed and have what you believe to be a pretty strong resumé. You’ve listed an impressive array of skills, awards, and job titles. You’ve even added your education, certification, licenses, community involvement, personal interests and references. Your resume is now ready to post and submit when applying for that next career opportunity.
But wait! Before you get too comfortable, you better take another look. Better yet, have a professional recruiter take a look on it; you may be obviously dating yourself by listing positions that go back twenty years or more.
How relevant are they to what you are applying for? Are these experiences that could be better referenced, in passing, during an interview — versus putting your entire professional life on five pages?
- Take a resumé refresher class. It’s very likely that a format that was great ten years ago no longer hits the mark or gets the attention of recruiters.
- Many job sites offer resume tips for free – and links to resumé-building professionals — if you don’t happen to know someone personally. Check The Ladders, CareerBuilders and other career search websites.
- Whether you qualify or apply for unemployment insurance, check out your state’s website and follow the links to unemployment resources. There are workshops on updating resumés and lots more resources.
Also, keep your resumé focused and to the point. Recruiters do not need (or want!) a complete work profile on you. In fact, if you have a broad array of experience and skills, you may want to create more than one.
And never overstate anything, or list phantom degrees. Most large companies do full background checks and this could cost you your dream job in the long run.
- Remove your street address from your header. Your name, email and cell phone number are all that is necessary.
- Consider eliminating the traditional “objective” paragraph. This is a personal choice. If you feel strongly about keeping it, then do, but be sure it’s good.
- Put your skills at the top in a list or bullet-point format.
- Follow your skills with your achievements by company. Include data that is real and relates to your career experience, e.g.: “As VP of Operations at XYS Corporation, negotiated vendor contracts saving $150k annually over subsequent three-year period.”
- List your employment history, but keep it to the most recent eight to ten years. Sometimes this is difficult, especially if you have great titles and/or experience that date to an early time, but it helps keep your presentation current and concise.
- Proofread the finished document — and then have someone else proofread it. Recruiters say there’s nothing worse than reading spelling and grammatical errors from a potential candidate.
- Save your updated resumé as a pdf, the preferred format for uploading when applying online.
E: Experience and Self-Promotion
Experience: you have it, but do you know how to leverage it? You should – and be able to share it, promote it and connect with others through it. This is the process called networking. (I just heard that collective “ugh,” but before you abandon the idea, hear me out!)
Traditional Networking vs. Connecting
Many people are way out of their comfort zones going to networking events, doing the handshake, sharing their “elevator speech,”’ and then exchanging business cards. You don’t have to do this to connect.
After networking for years, I found real success when I was connecting other people, most often in small group settings. Here’s my definition of connecting: you meet someone, and during the course of learning more about them (what they do or want to do), you realize you know someone that would be of interest to them, or be able to help them, and you facilitate an introduction. Introductions can be made in person, via email, text or a phone call. You have now become a valuable resource, possibly to both parties.
That’s right, being a resource to others is incredibly beneficial to you in networking. There is no direct or immediate benefit for you other than you have introduced individuals who could potentially help each other professionally — and you were the one who put them together. But the great result: people remember you, value you, and will become the individuals with whom you can follow up during your career search.
This is the best-kept secret of successful networking, and it’s a secret that many have not discovered because they are too focused on what they will get out of the event. Collecting business cards is not the answer; rather, connecting people reaps the rewards.
If you are looking for a job, first and foremost, leverage your natural, professional network. If you are not on LinkedIn, why not? It is, hands-down, the epitome of professional networking sites.
LinkedIn begins with a profile, which is also a reflection of your professional experience or career, skill set, education and much more. Then you connect or “link” with people you know – current or former business colleagues, alum, board members, people you have done business with, etc.
If you are already on LinkedIn, are you maximizing it as part of your job search? Here are steps to make it easy:
- When you find a position you want to apply for, go to LinkedIn to see who you already know at the company or who can connect you to someone there. Then reach out for an introduction or referral. Statistics show that an increasingly high percentage of positions are now being filled through referral or connections; it’s “who you know” that gets you the interview.
- Share on LinkedIn. Articles, timely news in your industry, tips and events. Each time you post something, it goes out to your network, keeping your name out in front. Reposting articles or blurbs from reliable sources pertinent to your career/industry enhances your professional image.
- LinkedIn also has a wealth of jobs posted by recruiters. You can search and apply for positions without leaving the website, and do it all confidentially. To utilize this feature, I recommend upgrading to the Premium Job Seeker version. It’s definitely worth the expense, and may also be tax-deductible.
- If you elect to do this, be sure your profile is fully up to date and that you have maximized every feature available – and most importantly, have added a current professional photo of yourself. Remember, recruiters are looking here first to learn about you, and Facebook second (keep that in mind next time you decide to post party photos on Facebook!).
Stay in Touch
Stay connected with your network, especially during a job search period. Email, make dates for coffee, check in with people you know at companies where you want to work, and find out if they know about any opportunities.
Letting people know you are looking, and more importantly, what you are looking for, is key. On that note, a question that comes up often is whether or not to update your LinkedIn profile after being placed back in the job market, and to include a paragraph with your career objectives. (My recommendation is to not update your profile until you have been hired in your next position.)
Also, join groups, and start groups. When I was trying to develop my own business a few years back, I started a professional women’s group and limited membership to females in my specific region. The objective of this was not to exclude anyone, but to be inclusive of all professional woman in my area. The group has grown and continues to grow. It now has over 2,500 members: women CEO’s, business owners, entrepreneurs, career-changers, women in job transition, and many corporate recruiters. Keeping it local has also kept it extra-relevant for those seeking to make a career change.
Now that you have taken care of the basics, and are all prepared, your next task is to stay positive and focused – which can be the most challenging task of all, especially if your job search takes place over an extended period of time. Sitting at home, in the library or at the local coffee-shop is not enough. Here are some ideas that I believe will help get you into your next job:
- If you have not successfully found a full-time position in the industry you want to be in, look for part-time or contract opportunities.
- Register with agencies that place people with the companies where you want to work — and be willing to accept temporary work just to get in the door.
- Volunteer with non-profit agencies that are aligned with companies where you want to work, and get to know people at the agency who could be potential references.
- Search for and apply for board opportunities with agencies and non-profits.
- Attend employment/hiring fairs sponsored by companies in your area.
The important thing is to think outside of the box. If you are not having any success in finding your next job or getting to the interview stage, re-evaluate your career choice. And think positively: being unemployed presents opportunities — many people choose this time to take a hobby, talent or passion and make a living out of it. Entrepreneurs spring forth! So whatever your situation, keep an upbeat outlook, stay connected, and above all believe in yourself.18