We’ve all heard the tales of the lucky ones who walk up to big-league employers, ask for jobs, and just get them. Are these stories simply urban legends, keeping our hope alive that, one day, we too will find full-time employment with the company of our dreams?
Recently, an article in the Business Insider talked about how one young man crafted a blunt, honest, and clever cover letter in the hopes of getting an internship with a finance company. By writing things like “the truth is I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities, but I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you” and “in all honesty, I just want to be around professionals in the industry and gain as much knowledge as I can,” he got a favourable response from multiple finance companies who appreciated his unique way of trying to find a job—and, more importantly, wanted to hire him!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be this lucky?
Although the idea of having a full-time job offered to you seems appealing (and, frankly, a little miraculous), finding your dream job isn’t just about getting lucky; it’s about getting noticed and hired for your talents, skills, and experience. But how do you get noticed when employers are flooded with a sea of resumés from candidates that are just as qualified as you? David Perry, author of Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0, says that the biggest mistake people make when looking for a job is “to go looking for a job.” In an age where we quite literally have unlimited resources at our finger tips, it may be wise to think outside the box when trying to find that perfect career.
“The easiest way to find a job is to figure out what you want to do, who you want to work for, and then get them to call you,” says Perry. Sounds simple enough, except most people still venture into the traditional send-your-resume-and-cover-letter-to-a-potential-employer route, and don’t know how to just get employers to call them. He says that to get ahead and stand out, people shouldn’t scrap their cover letters and resumés. He says that people in search of a job need to make themselves accessible for potential employers who are now using the Boolean method to find candidates.
The Boolean method
The Boolean method, or a Boolean search, according to Perry, is a tool that employers are using to find best-qualified candidates for positions that they need to fill within a company through keyword searches online. They started to search for candidates this way when the recession hit because the job hunt became exponentially more competitive.
Once job opportunities became harder to come by, companies who advertised job openings were bombarded by thousands of resumés and there just wasn’t an effective system to sort through the constant flow of resumés submitted for a select few job opportunities. Although “they still had jobs, they stopped advertising them,” says Perry. This is why “the simple way to find a job—fast—is to make sure you’re online, whether it be LinkedIn, Zoominfo, or Facebook. Make sure that you can be found using the keywords an employer would use to find someone that’s got your skill set. Then you’re answering the phone, rather than leaving another jumbled, fumbled voice message for an employer who’s not going to call you back.”
Like Perry, Ian Greenleigh, manager of content and social strategy at Bazaarvoice, knows the value of having an online presence. He found his job simply by being connected online. “I got my job using a Facebook ad, pointed at the employers at the top of my list,” he says. “Three weeks later and [having spent] less than $200 in total, I had multiple offers.” This is the sort of creative approach that employers are looking for.
The idea of using this type of strategy came to him after reading a blog post about another job seeker named Grant Turck who had used Facebook ads to find employment. Greenleigh thought it could be an effective way to find a job and, after a meeting with Turck to go over his strategy, he went forward and started a targeted Facebook ad for the kind of job he was looking for. In addition to the ad, Greenleigh also put a ‘Hire Me’ page on his blog with a link to his advertisement on Facebook.
The experience, to Greenleigh, was inspiring. “Even before the first click, I felt a renewed optimism. I was doing something different, something only a handful of people had tried—ever.”
Sites like meetup.com are also a great tool to get yourself noticed by potential employers. Meetup.com alerts you to social and networking events happening in your area that are geared towards your field of interest. With a few clicks of your mouse, you could be receiving email notifications of networking events that you can attend, which could potentially lead to connecting with an employer and finding a job.
Don’t underestimate the power of utilizing the many online tools are your disposal. Greenleigh discovered how beneficial online resources were to his job hunt, and he says, “What I found was a social side door, a way around the barriers that pose constant threats to our forward progress.”
Find your way
Barriers to finding your dream job don’t stop with the thousands of other people who are also in search of their dream jobs. In fact, sometimes, before you even encounter the competition, you have to battle it out with yourself first.
“College students often drown in the job search because they lack direction. If they pick a destination and start swimming there as hard as they can, they'll land an offer,” says Alan Carniol, creator of InterviewSuccessFormula.com. Perry says “a successful job search starts with the candidate sitting down and asking themselves questions, starting with ‘what do I wanna do?’ and more importantly ‘who do I want to work for?’” Carniol says that once students do that, they should also consider changing their attitude towards the job hunt.
“In practical terms, college seniors need to stop saying ‘I need a job, any job. Someone please help me.’ Instead, they need to say ‘I really want to try working in xyz industry, doing abc job. I should reach out to alumni from my school who work at those places and ask all of my family and friends who they might know there as well.’”
He also understands that this is sometimes easier said than done, so he suggests thinking about the things that interest you most, and trying to figure out how that may fit into a career in an industry you want to work in. “Remember, you aren't married to your first job and can always switch later,” he says.
Passion makes a perfect resumé
Roy Cohen, a career counsellor, executive coach, and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide, agrees with Carniol. “Convey your passion for what you want and make sure you can show why you want it. Enthusiasm that is directionless serves no purpose and is a waste of time.”
How do you convey that you’re passionate about a career? “Focus on how you can distinguish yourself,” Cohen says, “and make up for lack of experience through additional training and certifications. Often, older employees are less committed to professional training and development, so what you lack in hands-on experience, you offset through continuing education.”
For recent grads who can’t quite picture going back to school just yet, John Francis, president of Theonera Inc., suggests taking a less radical approach and starting by fine-tuning your resumé and cover letter in order to appeal to potential employers by doing something a little bit different. “Offer potential employers something like a PowerPoint presentation or a video resumé,” he says. “Those things have a much greater chance of getting you noticed and hence getting hired.”
However, if you want to stick to something a bit more traditional yet still stand out, Perry says that resumés and cover letters do work, but “most candidates forget that the purpose of a resumé and cover letter is to explain to the employer, ‘Here’s what’s in it for you [if you hire me].’ A big mistake students make is that “when they go looking for a job, in a cover letter, they say, ‘I, I, I. Me, me, me.’” He says that this often proves to be ineffective because employers want to know how hiring you will benefit their company, not how their company will benefit you.
“You start your cover letter and swap out the I’s and me’s, and replace them with you’s and you’re,” he says. “For example, instead of writing, ‘I would like an organization where I can advance and use my six months of experience in project management at the Dairy Queen,’ you say, ‘You will benefit from my six months experience in project management at the Dairy Queen.’”
Scott Vedder, agrees. “Instead of writing a resumé that reads like a job description, be sure you use specific examples to quantify what makes you a great candidate.
The next steps
Now, what happens if you’ve put the new job hunting strategies you learned to use and you land yourself an interview? Perry suggests treating your job interview as if it were a blind date that someone was setting you up on. Basically, get to know your potential employer during your interview. “Ask some preliminary questions like, ‘Who are you?’ ‘What’s this all about?’ ‘What’s the opportunity about?’ ‘Why did you call me?’ ‘Why do you think we’d be a good fit?’” Perry says that by doing this, you encourage the employer or recruiter to tell you what’s in it for you. “So rather than you fumbling all over yourself, you’re now forcing the employer to tell you about the job,” he says. “And it changes, psychologically, the dynamic between candidate and recruiter, or candidate and employer. Now suddenly, you’re on an equal playing field, and you end up having a discussion about the opportunity or a discussion about their needs, as opposed to you trying to pitch yourself or pigeonhole yourself into that opportunity.” Cohen says, “When you have an interview, go above and beyond to show that you are committed and hard working. For example, if you interview with a hedge fund to be a junior analyst, prepare an analysis to show how you think and how smart you are.”
Even with all of the job hunting tools and experience you have on your side, there may be times that finding a job in your chosen industry proves to be difficult. If you’ve explored all the different avenues for your job search and are still finding less than desirable results, don’t be discouraged. Perry says that perhaps looking for an internship could be a fantastic idea, “providing that the internship is with one of the companies, or within the field that they eventually want to work in.”
Interning may also be a good idea if you’re looking for a job, but are unsure of what you want to do. Internships give you a chance to explore different industries you feel you may be interested in working for, and you may even be able to turn an internship into an offer, or at the very least, extend the internship so as to establish a meaningful relationship with the hiring manager who can provide a strong reference while you expand your skill set. “Volunteer for the heavy lifting. No task or request is too small or too mundane,” says Cohen. “Your goal as an intern is to accumulate valuable hands-on experience, establish good will, and to build your resumé.”
It’s important to note that there are many, many ways to go about your job hunt because oftentimes people stick to one method that they may have learned early on, and then feel discouraged when that method doesn’t work for them. You shouldn’t be afraid to explore different methods to find what you’re looking for because the creative way you find a job not only shows your potential employers that you’re a resourceful and smart candidate, but also that you’re passionate enough about your career to explore unconventional ways to find a job. No matter what strategy you use to find a job, however, whether it be through a Facebook ad, networking events, or a video resumé, the key is to stay positive and keep your mind focused on your ultimate goal: finding a job. As long as you keep your end goal in your sights, you will have a successful hunt, and hopefully the career you’ve been dreaming of.
Scott Vedder, author of Signs of a Great Résumé, has created a method to remember exactly what to include in your resumé. “I like to say that your resume should be full of !@#$%,” he says.
! adding any part of your experience that was amazing
@ defining points, places, dates, and things in your experience
# numbers that quantify and prove your past successes
$ the dollar value of your contributions
% figures that easily show growth and results
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