Wednesday, July 27, 2011

3rd Annual Job Hunters Workshop - pt. 5

Computers are so vital in the workplace today that everyone at least needs to know the basics of navigating websites, sending e-mail, or just logging onto a computer.

If there are gaps in your employment history, you’ll have to fill them with something. Hopefully, you were involved in volunteer work while unemployed, or else you’ll have to explain in the resume why you weren’t working and have a really good excuse. Don’t give anyone a chance to assume the worst about why you weren’t working. Unfortunately, if you are currently out of work, that’s working against you because a lot of hiring managers and HR staff have been told not to hire unemployed people. So you’re going to have to make yourself look too amazing to pass up, either with volunteering, or speaking engagements, or having an impressive web presence, like I mentioned earlier. If you don’t have any of those three things yet, you might be able to get by with padding your resume with personal interests and hobbies, but only if your interests show teamwork, long-term dedication, cultural interest, or a willingness to volunteer.

Of course, just like the cover letter, you’re going to save your resume in multiple formats. Microsoft Word is getting to be a problem because there’s so many incompatible versions out there. Save your resume as a PDF document and as a text file and send it as attachments in those two ways. You’re going to keep the font size to 11 or 12, 10 at the smallest. If you’re trying for a job that requires writing, layout, or computer skills, do not use a template for your resume. HR staff will recognize templates and think you don’t know how to make a resume on your own. If you don’t need to prove you have any of those skills, then you can use a template. If you’re on a company website that gives you the option of uploading your resume or cutting and pasting it, choose to upload it. Cutting and pasting could strip out some of your formatting and make you send a bad-looking resume.

If you’re printing out your resume, use good quality white or off-white paper and no flashy colors. If the resume is more than one page, make sure you have your all-important contact information on each page – but in the body of the page and not the header or footer where automated systems might not be able to read it. And if you can’t or don’t want to carry paper copies of your resume everywhere you go, then carry a CD or flash drive or smart phone with your resume on it at all times.

And, last and possibly most important piece of resume advice – you’re only sending this once. You’re going to go to all this work to customize your resume for this one job and then start all over again with your very next resume. And you will not spam a hirer with multiple copies of your resume. Unless your circumstances have radically changed and your old resume you submitted is badly out of date or if you’re applying for different jobs in the same company, that company should never see your resume more than once. Just submit once and wait, even if you don’t hear back from them. They will notice you spamming them with multiple resumes and it won’t be good attention.

Like cover letters and resumes, thank you cards will need to be personalized for each person, but it would help to have a batch of them ready in advance and add personal touches before you send each out. You’re going to be sending thank you cards to everyone – your networking contact who gave you a good lead, the people who agreed to be your references, the person who gave you your interview, and so on. A card should suffice. Don’t come back to your interviewer with a cake you baked for him or a box of cookies you bought for him, unless someone high up in the company knows you and can vouch for you that you’re not creepy.

With your preparation done, it’s time to get started on execution. This is going to be your networking, applying, and interviewing. Networking, I’m constantly reading and being told, is the most important step in job hunting today. It’s also the hardest step for me to coach you through. It’s not like I can tell you what font size to use while you’re networking. But I do have tips that should help.

Keep to a routine so you do not fall out of the habit of working on a schedule when you are not working. Try to fill your days with interesting activities so, if an interviewer asks what you’ve been doing while you’ve been out of work, you will sound interesting! Try to do something job search-related every day. According to the Illinois WorkNet Center, you should be applying for five jobs a week, networking four times a week, and interviewing once a week. That’s a difficult schedule to maintain, especially the last part as interviewing scheduling isn’t even under your control. But there’s always something you can be doing. Revisit the self-assessment and preparation steps with your extra time.

100% of all jobs start in the “hidden job market” -- where jobs are not publicly advertised and filled by word of mouth – and only about 25% ever make it out of the “hidden market”. This is why you have to network, because only people you personally contact may know about these hidden jobs. If you’re going to use four networking contacts a week, you’re going to have to meet a lot of people, or call people you know, or use social networking websites like, or attend networking groups – though only if people hiring attend them. It does you no good to sit around with a group of unemployed people complaining about how they’re out of work. Present company excepted, of course.

I personally hate networking. The only thing I hate more than looking for work is having to talk to other people about how I’m looking for work. If you’re the kind of person who loves to network, you don’t even need this workshop. Luckily for everyone, the days when networking meant pounding the pavement or cold-calling people on the phone are over thanks to social media online. These websites allow you now, not only to connect with other people looking for work or references who might help you make connections, but you can connect with hirers directly online. It’s a movement being called “social recruitment.” If you’re using LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook in a professional way, then make sure to include this in your contact information on your business cards and resumes. If you’re not being professional on these sites, then you should probably stop that, to be on the safe side, because you never know who’s looking who might be recruiting.

I talked earlier about creating an impressive web presence for yourself. Try starting a blog or a Tweet hyping yourself and showcasing your skills. Include your resume on your blog. If you have created physical items for your portfolio, like handbills or JIST cards, scan them and put them up online too.

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