You’ve worked hard over the last several years and you have an impressive resume to show for it. But you’re not interested in coasting; in fact, you’re ready for your next challenge. Maybe you’d like to continue advancing in your field—to move from managing a small team to a large one, or to try the C-suite on for size.
Or, perhaps you’d like to apply your experience to something totally different, and so you’re scoping out different functions and industries. Or, it could be that it actually wasn’t your choice: You got laid off from the company you’ve been at for some time, and now you’ll have to market your skills somewhere new.
For whatever reason, you’re a job applicant again. In some ways, the process will be the same as it always was (networking, resumes, interviewing, and so on), but you’ll want to customize your approach to your level of expertise. Much like an entry-level candidate has to compensate for a lack of experience, you want to capitalize on a breadth of it. So, to be as successful as possible you’ll want both specialized tips and a crash course in the basics you may have forgotten since the last time you applied.
With that in mind, here are 100 tips to help you through every step of the process as an advanced job seeker.
Reach Out to Your Network
OK, you might annoy someone if you send an email that says, ‘Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but you know someone at a company I want to work for, so please email me back as quickly as you possibly can.’ However, if you put a little thought into who you ask for help, and how you approach those people, the odds are that you won’t bother them. Seriously.
Richard Moy on asking for help in your job search
- Network in multiple directions (i.e., not just with people who have more experience than you do). Your peers, and yes, that person who worked as your intern or assistant a few years back could now work at your dream company.
Shift focus from what you need to how you can help. According to Muse Career Coach Ryan Khan it’s a great way to meet someone new. (It’s also a reason to reconnect with someone you’ve fallen out of touch with.)
Flip the script. Khan also notes that, “people—especially successful executives—like talking about themselves.” But if you focus on listening instead, your contact will be more invested, leading to a more productive conversation.
Be genuine. As writer Rebecca Knight shares in How to Maintain Your Professional Network Over the Years, don’t brag. Save the impressive stats for your interview, and talk to your old friends the way you’d talk to an old friend.
Conquer your fears. Even if you’ve networked a ton in your career, nerves don’t always go away with experience. Here’s a trick to get over them.
You should always ask the people you know for help—really.
Tell your network you’re looking for a job. Go ahead and use this template if you’re unsure of how to start that email.
Avoid well-intentioned mistakes like following up a non-urgent email in less than 24 hours. Simply put, it’s too much.
Get more comfortable with small talk by focusing on how it fits with who you are (e.g., that you’d always be nice to someone standing alone) instead of the aspects that turn you off).
Use specific subject lines that’ll make people want to open your email. Avoid a generic “Hello” and be as specific as possible so they’ll want to click.
Be Clear About Your Personal Brand
While many thought leaders do eventually make massive splashes, most get their start the same way: by identifying useful ideas and sharing the heck out of them.
Erica Breuer on becoming a thought leader
- Take Muse Writer Erica Foss’ advice and “emphasize the continuities” across your career.
Don’t assume your experience will simply speak for itself. As Muse Master Coach Erica Breuer writes, “Your degree and the timeline of accomplishments on your resume won’t do all the selling for you. Unless you can explain how [it] can benefit potential clients or employers, you’ll have an extremely difficult time creating the traction you want.”
Nail the answer to “What do you do?”
Give just as strong a reply even if you’re currently between roles.
Consider guest blogging: It’s great exposure!
Stop worrying that job-hopping will hold you back. Address any fears head on when you tell your career story.
Take note of what you can be doing every day, week, and month to build out your brand.
Optimize Your Social Media
Did you know that 93% of companies use LinkedIn to recruit new employees? You heard that right. Every day recruiters spend countless hours scouring profiles on the site in search of great candidates to hire. Needless to say, whether you’re an active candidate…or a passive candidate… you want a presence on the platform.
Nathan Tanner on getting your LinkedIn profile ready for recruiters
- Make sure recruiters can see your interests on LinkedIn.
Skip the formal bio. Muse Master Coach Jenny Foss cautions against using your corporate bio on the platform: “LinkedIn’s designed to facilitate conversation. …It’s absolutely appropriate to write your summary in the first person, in a conversational manner.”
Find inspiration from these LinkedIn summary templates.
Establish yourself on Medium, the increasingly popular platform that lets anyone publish while still looking professional.
Take Muse writer Jim Belosic’s advice and make sure your profiles include work samples. That way, anyone can see what you’re capable of.
Update your LinkedIn Summary.
Join a Facebook group. Yes, you read that right! It’s the most underrated way to connect with great people.
Don’t go from zero to 60—make your updates (and timing) look more natural.
Establish a strong online presence: It’s a key way to get poached.
Don’t share any of these deal-breakers. For example, no matter how steamed you are, you should never post anything negative about your boss or colleagues.
Update Your Resume
Tailoring your resume means finding what is most relevant, creating a section for it, and filling it up with experience or qualifications that will catch a hiring manager’s eye. If that means nixing ‘Work Experience,’ creating a ‘Marketing and Social Media Experience’ section, then throwing everything else in an ‘Additional Experience’ section, then so be it.
- Change your job title—seriously. If you feel like it undersells what you actually do, you can adjust how you share it on your resume.
Rest assured that executive resumes can be two pages.
Cut jobs that are over 15 years old—unless they’re super important to your career story.
Don’t forget to include the volunteer work you’ve done over the years. More than 75% of hiring managers favor candidates who volunteer and nine out of 10 think it’ll make you a stronger leader.
Don’t start every other bullet with “managed.” Use descriptive verbs instead.
Make bullets more impactful by including numbers, even if your role didn’t directly involve them.
Format it so it’s very easy to skim.
Create more than one version: one you can send out for any opportunity, and more specific options, tailored for each job you apply to.
Write a Knockout Cover Letter
Highlight work and projects that prove that you’re the best candidate for the job—even if you might not be the candidate the company had in mind.
Stacey Gawronski on writing cover letters
- Don’t work off a cover letter you wrote several years ago? Trying to fit your new experience into an old template can hold you back. Start with where you are now.
Consider one of Breuer’s non-traditional approaches, including a “Wham-Bam” message, which is where, “instead of selling yourself with three to four paragraphs, you do it within a matter of sentences.”
Interested in a role that’s a step down in prestige or (pay)? Here’s how to address that right off the bat.
Do as Jenny Foss suggests and “Tell a story…that’s not on your resume.” It makes you application more interesting and fleshes out your experience.
Name drop the right way. Breuer says to lead with the value you’d add, followed by the name of the mutual contact who informed you of the opening (and not the other way around).
Take Muse writer Alexandra Franzen’s advice and “pretend” the hiring manager already knows and likes you. It’ll help you get out of the fake, formal trap and write something more approachable and interesting.
Edit your own by imagining you’re a stranger.
Reign in the vocab. Simple words make a better impression.
Don’t listen to people who tell you cover letters are dead—they’re not. 45% of hiring managers still read them, and while that may be just under half, what you write can make all the difference for them.
Browse these cover letter openers for inspiration. For example: “After about three years of trying out different roles at early-stage startups around San Francisco, watching more “find your passion” keynotes than I’d like to admit, and assuring my parents that, yes, I really do have a real job, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I’m only really good at two things: writing great content and getting it out into the world.”
Find the Right Roles
It might seem logical to only go after jobs you’re fully qualified for, but it’s an extremely limiting (and unnecessary) mindset, and you’ll wind up cutting yourself off from potentially amazing opportunities! Not only have I given this advice to my own clients, but I’ve had HR professionals and hiring managers back me up on this.
Kristen Walker on applying to jobs you’re not qualified for
- Apply strategically. Muse Career Coach Lea McLeod shares: “Targeting companies and roles puts you in the driver seat of your job search. You have way more control over the activities you undertake to identify, connect with, and network into … than you do by firing resumes into [a] black hole... Stop applying, start targeting, and go find hiring managers who have problems you can solve.”
Check out Erica Foss’ five step plan for landing a job you’re too qualified for on paper.
Keep stretching. Even if you have a wealth of experience, see if there’s something slightly out of reach that’ll challenge and engage you. Then remind yourself, you can apply for it.
Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions—including about turnover and company financials.
Don’t pass on something just because it doesn’t fit with an exact picture you had.
Ask yourself three questions to decide if you like the company culture.
Find out if the company really defines work-life balance the same way you do.
Explore working from home.
Set up informational interviews that’ll actually be useful.
Get back to work with a “returnship.” It’s perfect for someone with experience who’s been away from the sector for a bit, and it’ll help you see if this is really the work you’d like to be doing now.
Ace Your Interview
First and foremost, be easy to meet with. Be on time, efficient, and prepared so the person doesn’t have to sit there for five extra minutes watching you rifle through your bag for a resume or pen. Work to create an engaging, enjoyable conversation with your interviewer so that the time this person has to spend with you feels like time well-spent…
- Remember that job descriptions aren’t definitive. Expert Career Coach Jenny Foss suggests using this to your advantage by sharing the depth of your skill set and how you’d add value beyond what they’re asking for.
Avoid over-preparing: You want to have a genuine conversation.
Consider completing a pro-bono project to pull ahead of the pack.
Make sure your interview presentation hits these five notes. Step one, as McLeod writes is, “Clear priorities…Based on the interviews you’ve had, the research you’ve done, and the questions you’ve asked, you should be able to smoothly articulate the most important issues and priorities that you’ll address in the first 90 days.”
Be your most impressive and memorable self—by bringing your “sparkle.” Leave canned responses at home and replace them whatever it is that’ll make you memorable.
Don’t forget to do your research in advance.
Check out this refresher on how to answer the most common interview questions.
Use this template for your thank you note—as well as the tips to make to it even more impressive.
Remember to prep your references before just listing them—even if you’ve known them forever.
Negotiate Like a Pro
If the organization cares enough to make you an offer in the first place, the team isn’t going to rescind it just because you asked for more. If there’s budget there, they’ll try to offer that. If there isn’t, they may get creative with other incentives (mentoring, access to a C-suite executive, an educational bonus). At worst, they will just say they’ve offered you the best they can.
Anne Marie Clifton on not being afraid to negotiate your salary
- Do your research. McLeod says: “The best way to get what you’re worth is to know what you’re worth and ask for it. Research the market and know what the benchmarks are. Top if off with powerful statements about the evidence you have to make contributions swiftly and quantifiably.”
Here’s how to calculate that.
Get over your fears and negotiate your salary. On average, candidates who negotiate make $5,000 more each year.
Negotiate other benefits, too. This is a great option if the company you’d like to work at can’t quite pay you what you’re worth, but you’d like sign the offer letter anyhow.
Read this true story of someone who got $15,000 more than what the company initially offered.
Remember the basics. (Rule 1: “Don’t lie!”)
And the magic words.
Be aware that there are actually three times you shouldn’t(like if you already accepted a lower offer).
Know that, according to Muse writer Victoria Pynchon, “it doesn’t matter what you were making before.”
Check out 37 more tips for all the negotiating advice you didn’t even know existed.
In those moments when you feel utterly defeated and like you don’t have the inner wherewithal to take on a new challenge, it’s important that you lean on your network of supporters…They can help to boost your confidence back up again in those times when you’re being unnecessarily hard on yourself—and ultimately talking yourself out of taking chances.
Kat Boogaard on seeking out support as you take risks
- Consider whether you want to change jobs—or change careers.
Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the big questions about meaningful work and go from there.
Take heart in McLeod’s advice: “Moving away from anything familiar, whether it’s a job, or a career path is hard. We cling to what we know. It’s safe. But change is about taking risks. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” Someone doesn’t return your call? Someone doesn’t accept your LinkedIn invitation? Are those risks you’re willing to live with? Likely so. So take them, and move forward if you want to create something new in your life.”
Explore something new—but feel free to turn down a job that doesn’t feel like it would be a fit. Here’s how.
Remember Muse writer Kat Boogaard’s advice and “Lean into the fear.”
Save up in advance so taking a paycut to try something new is more feasible.
Defeat nerves by examining your risk in the context of your whole life.
Remember that when people reflect, they tend to regret the things they didn’t pursue, as opposed to the risks they took.
Realize all careers will experience changes, so you might as well take a risk.
But you can start with smaller steps, if taking a big risk doesn’t feel right for you.
By incorporating structure into your daily job search, you’ll accomplish small wins each day, which helps foster positive feelings of self-efficacy—that is, a sense that you are capable of finding a new job. Knowing that you’re able to accomplish goals you set for yourself can help revive your waning motivation and flip your mindset around.
Melody Wilding on how to keep going during a lengthy job search
- Make “I will not cave” your mantra when the job search runs long. According to Jenny Foss these four words can make a huge difference.
Believe you will make it through. Sound easier said then done? Read the stories of others who’ve survived and gone on to find jobs they loved.
Bounce back from (what feels like) failure.
Ask someone else—be it a trusted friend or a career coach—for feedback, help, or some encouragement.
Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and ditch a strategy that you used in previous searches but doesn’t seem to be clicking this time around.
Take a breather if you’re advancing but not getting offers. This is a sign you should step back and reassess, and by doing so now, you’ll keep yourself from burning out.
Choose to stay positive, even if the search is taking longer than you’d like.
Keep in mind that some of the most successful people landed in a career they never expected.
Sure, this isn’t your first (or second or third) job search, but that’s no reason to simply work off memory and old materials. Remind yourself of the basics—and learn a few new skills—to set yourself apart from other candidates and have a more successful search.