Companies report that there are hundreds, if not thousands of candidates for their job postings. More than ever, it's up to you to figure out how to stand out in the crowded sea of competition. You may meet all of the criteria for selection and get overlooked without any thought. Market yourself with information that says, "You can't afford to pass me up!"
The process of searching for jobs is easy enough. You visit job websites, find the jobs you want, send the resume, and you get magically considered for the job. It's simple enough, but your resume goes into an abyss unless you can grab the attention of the company.
But, how do you know that you will be seriously considered for the job? and are you prepared to present yourself in the best light? The answer is also simple: dazzle yourself, and unless you dazzle the reviewer, your candidacy will be ignored.
1. Get to know yourself again.
Before you conduct a job search, take a long, hard look at yourself again. Chances are that your skills have changed. Decide how to impress yourself before you present your skills to prospective employers. Research your field of interest again. Brush up on the competencies of leadership and practice those qualities and become a personal expert. Be prepared to tell employers what you would do to make their job better. Don't forget, creativity is the No. 1 competency employers look for.
2. Conduct your own personal SWOT analysis to market yourself.
To refresh your memory, SWOT stands for your personal strengths and weaknesses, and the outside opportunities and threats.
- Make a critical list of your strengths. Don't expect to do this all in one sitting. Really, think this through. What activities do you enjoy? What do you do well? List your accomplishments that make you the most effective. Can you turn these strengths into possibilities for your personal growth? Take your time and you will reach conclusions that will lead you into your next move.
- Your weaknesses are just as important. Again, a critical look at your attributes including the negative ones will keep you away from things you are just no good at.
- Perhaps finding and weighing the opportunities are the most difficult. With the current job market's limited career choices, think about your horizons and potential creative opportunities from the pool of your chosen strengths. Keep apprised of the industries that are hiring in the chosen area and be aware of the possibility of relocating. If you want to start your own business, invest with your eyes open wide.
- Threats to your success are unfortunately abundant, but choose the direction that keeps you from the areas of no return.
3. Employers are checking you out, you need to check them out too.
In an ever-changing workforce don't get caught behind the times. Spend time on prospective employers' websites. Research the current challenges of the field and be prepared to discuss your creative approach to problem solving. Ask them about their goals and priorities for the coming year. They like questions that will lead them to see that you are imaginative and eager to problem solve.
4. Scope out your competition.
Your competition includes the eager, newly degreed, the "overqualified" candidates looking to reposition themselves in the job market, and the trainee who is willing to take less money to get the foot in the door. Employers like fresh, contemporary experience. You can jump on that bandwagon by writing about your fresh knowledge and by practicing the kind of questions you will be asked. Your fresh perspective can come from research. Use the Internet to your advantage. Never forget, knowledge is power. Get ahead of the crowd. Become employed. Months ago, I lamented that employers are refusing to consider job candidates who are not currently employed. This has continued to be a problem for job candidates, but you need to make sure that you are not in the rejection pile. First of all, become employed ... somewhere, somehow. That's easy enough to say, but find a job. Head this barrier off at the pass. It's an all-too-common problem. Find local opportunities for temporary or contract work. Volunteer at a local organization that's in the field your interested in, or at a local charity. It keeps you fresh, not to mention out of the rejection pile.
5. Polish up your references.
Look at the bridges that you have not burned and use them to your advantage. Ask former bosses and colleagues to write a letter that describes your strengths. Send them along with your resume. Refrain from writing "references upon request." Of course you will provide them. But head them off at the pass by being the proactive candidate they can't refuse.
6. Glom onto a former favorite professor of yours.
Believe me, we love it when former students return to visit the classroom and ask for career advice and the latest "buzz" in the business. Listen to mentors to be able to discuss the language of the industry. Familiarize yourself with the latest news in your field. You become the source of knowledge that companies need to stay afloat and thrive. Keep that in mind when you are preparing to market yourself.
7. Make a list of the most memorable learning experiences from your education.
Don't lose those thoughts, ever. Think about how you could apply these pearls of wisdom in your job search and in your career.
8. Write an impressive and custom cover letter.
There is only one of you, but every job has unique expectations. Granted, many employers don't read them, but many do. Look at the selection criteria on the job posting and address each of the qualifications that you have related to the job. Similar to your opening paragraph on your resume, focus on your accomplished, creative projects. What have you done well, what projects have you successfully completed. Don't forget, many employers are looking for new blood and new ideas. Tell them what you have done and what you will do for their organization. Focus on your success and good things will happen.
9. Clean up your Facebook page.
You may ask, what business is my personal Facebook to an employer? They do look and seek you on social media. Many think it's illegal. Let me tell you, it is not illegal and companies do their research to look at your personality. If you have pictures of yourself with a lampshade on your head at a party, assume that prospective employers can see it. Be safe, cleanse your social media!
10. Don't let them see you sweat.
Of course you are concerned about the competition but the more prepared you are, the luckier you become. Practice your confidence by rehearsing expected interview questions. Your confidence will grow with your comfort zone. When you dance, the steps you learn become second nature to you and you can concentrate on polish and flair. The same thing applies to marketing yourself. Learn those steps well.
11. Don't trash your former employer.
Oh, you may want to do just that but refrain from complaining at any cost. Despite the fact that the prospective employer may understand your plight, the job search process is not the time for complaining. You may be negative about your experiences and employment status but don't wallow in it. You need to move on. If you don't, it shows.
One wise recruiter once told me that some of the most successful job candidates circumvent the posting process by contacting the decision-makers directly. Find out who heads up the department that you want to work for and send your resume and cover letter to that person. What do you have to lose? A job opportunity? Who wouldn't want to receive the perfect candidate wrapped up in a bow?
Don't forget: There is life outside of the comfort zone. You actually might like it there and thrive.
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