Working for The Muse means that I have a lot of friends coming to me for job search advice. (It also means unlimited vacation time and Whisky Fridays, but that’s an article for a different day.) And while every situation is different, there are a few things I find myself saying over and over. Especially to people who have a few jobs on their resume and don’t exactly remember the job search basics.
So no, none of this advice is rocket science—in fact, a lot of it is common sense. But it’s also exactly the kind of stuff that is easy to forget when you’re in the thick of it and panicking about landing a new job fast.
Whether you’re just starting your job search or you’re feeling like it’s taking forever, here’s the advice I often offer to my friends. And—since any friend of The Muse is a friend of mine—to you, too.
1. You and I Know You Can Do That Job, But the Hiring Manager Doesn’t (Yet)
Embarking on a job search is a great time to rethink what you really want out of your career. Maybe you’ve always worked in PR, but you really love hiring and connecting people, and you think you’d like to try your hand at recruiting. So you see a recruiting position at a PR firm and think—perfect!
You know you can do this job. I know you can do this job. But since the hiring manager has no idea who you are (and is likely interviewing loads of people who do have recruiting experience), you’re going to have to go out of your way to prove that you can do this job.
There are plenty of ways you can do this. You can craft a killer cover letter explaining your passion for recruiting, your transferrable skills, and why you think—above candidates with more traditional experience—that you’d be the perfect one for the job. You can create a new resume with a summary section or “Recruiting Experience” section up top that makes your recruiting experience come through loud and clear. Or, better yet, you can find an in with that company and get recommended as someone the team should most definitely take a look at.
But you’ll definitely have to do something other than sending in that same ol’ resume and cover letter you’re using everywhere else.
2. Step Away From Your Resume
But once you’ve done that? It’s time to stop tweaking those bullet points and start getting that bad boy in front of other people.
You’ve heard it before (but, yes, I’d probably still repeat it to you): The vast majority of positions are filled by people who come recommended. So, the majority of your job-hunting time and energy should be spent connecting with people who work for your dream companies, not debating (again) whether Garamond or Georgia is a better font choice. Close Word, open your browser, and head to Meetup, LinkedIn, or your professional organization of choice to start making those job-landing connections. Or, start with the network you already have, which brings me to:
3. Tell Me How I Can Help You
I can’t count the number of emails I’ve received to the effect of: “I’m looking for a new job. Let me know if you hear of anything!” And while this is definitely well-intentioned—I get that no one wants to bother anyone else with a complicated or specific ask—it’s actually much, much more helpful (for me) and productive (for you) to send a detailed description of what you’re looking for.
One of the best things you can do for your job search is to craft an email to the people in your network spelling out the position titles you’re most interested in, the types of companies you’re targeting, the locations you’re open to, and, most importantly, how exactly others can help. Do you want people to keep an eye out for specific position types? Make introductions to people who work in the field? Suggest a few more companies that might be interesting? Being detailed isn’t annoying—it’s helpful in showing people exactly what they can do to help you.
Oh, and here’s a template that makes this whole process very, very easy.
4. For the Love of God, Stop Saying “I’ll Take Anything”
Especially when a hunt drags on, it’s easy to feel desperate and start bargaining with yourself about what you will and won’t take (“OK—maybe that big company 45 minutes away wouldn’t be so bad…”) or worse, getting desperate and telling yourself and everyone you know, “I just need a paycheck—I’ll take anything!”
Stop. You want to be happy in your next role, right? (I certainly want you to—and not just because I don’t want to hear you complaining about your job at happy hour anymore.) Believe me when I say you don’t want to be looking again in six months, so it’s important that you do it right this time around.
Even if you’re not 100% sure what you want to do, try to narrow in on a few specific fields or types of positions, and focus your search there. This will not only help you find a job that you actually like in the long run, it will help your search feel less overwhelming and more focused. Plus, hiring managers would prefer to hire someone who is excited about the job versus someone who will “do anything,” so your chances of landing a job will only improve if you stick to your guns.
5. Hang in There, and Stay Positive
Yes, I say this because it is nice and encouraging and what any good friend would say when you’re going through a tough time, but I also say it because it will help you get a job. As career expert Lily Zhang puts it, “Nothing could be more important in your job search than keeping your spirits up.” (She offers some great tips about how to do just that here.) Grumbling, complaining, and just generally hating what a PITA your job search has been is totally fair, but it’s also going to show to people you’re networking and interviewing with that you’re not very much fun to be around. On the other hand, if you approach each day with optimism and excitement for what’s next, that’s going to rub off, too—and in a good way.
So, hang in there. You’re really great—and when you show everyone you interact with that? Your next big thing is around the corner.
And no, I’m not just saying that.