How I got a job in today’s market

As you’ve probably noticed, and some of you have commented, I haven’t been posting as regularly as I used to when I first started this blog over a year ago. I’ve been busy. Due to some some major changes in my life, I’ve been job-hunting — a daunting prospect for someone who’s been out of the workforce for fifteen years.(!) However, after a year of trying, revising, and trying again, I did it. Yay! (Whew!) I start my new job in January with a company I am truly excited to be a part of. (Nope, I don’t even think they’ve seen my blog, and I’m still saying that.) Here are a few tips I learned along the way that I thought I’d share for anyone else who’s currently in a career-change/job-seeking situation.

1) Have a great-looking resume. I was lucky on this one because I came from a desktop publishing background and knew a thing or two about good formatting. In fact, over the years I’ve helped a number of six-figure professionals with their own resumes. Sure, it was mostly friends and relatives, but I was consistently told that they were complimented on their great-looking resumes. The trick is to keep it simple. And clean. A resume should paint a mini picture of your well-rounded self, highlighting your best, business-worthy features. A great-looking resume will make you look professional.

Stick to one page. Hiring managers don’t have time to read your whole life story, and you don’t want to seem too full of yourself. Consider this: I have a lawyer-cousin with an Ivy-league pedigree and powerhouse job creds, including several years in D.C., working one step down from answering to the Commander-in-Chief. Yeah. That chick can piss in the pot with the big dogs. But her resume is still only one page long. One very impressive page. Keep it simple, keep it clean. Less is more.

The other side of having a good resume at the ready is the actual application process. Since I don’t have a great network of business contacts, I did my searching entirely online. Almost every job I looked at allowed applicants to download an existing resume. Having to type and re-type the info in every. single. time. would have been ungodly. My resume is in Word, and they all accepted that format. Also, even if the site parsed the info incorrectly (which sometimes happened), all I had to do was cut-and-paste the correct info from my resume.

2) Don’t sell yourself short. I put “Stay-at-Home Mom” as my most recent job title. It was honest and direct (and not cutesy, like “Domestic Goddess” or something), yet in the job description section I demonstrated that I could translate my mom skills to the business landscape:

- Responsible for coordinating and facilitating school, homework, extracurricular activities, party-planning.
– Responsible for budgeting and financial management.
– Implemented and regulated scheduling procedures of daily functions for organized workflow.
– Utilized skills in conflict-management and crisis-resolution on a regular basis.

Most employers already have a clue what it takes to be a parent. Many of them are parents, themselves. But by using business language to describe mom functions, I was able to convey to them that I had a clue what it took to make the career transition to their world.

3) Focus, focus, focus! Nothing will sink your job chances faster than apathy. In the beginning, a year ago,  even thought I knew I needed a steady income, I couldn’t wrap my mind around fitting an 8 a.m. start-time into my days. I (sort of) looked at part-time jobs, with hours (sort of) between 10-ish and 4-ish, with no weekends. And maybe no Fridays. But I wasn’t sure about those, either, because on the other hand I knew I would eventually need something full-time. I also wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do, professionally. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to get a job job (because I still wanted to work on my writing), and only half-heartedly filled out applications. This uncertainty did not reflect well, in-person, in the two interviews I managed to score back then.

I reconsidered and began revising. After assessing the pros and cons of all the different jobs that interested me, against the practical realities of those jobs and my existing qualifications, I narrowed down to two searches: “Receptionist” and “Assistant.” I also bit the bullet and made myself face the reality of the fact that I needed to work full-time. And I got over my hang-up about an 8 a.m. start time. (I mean, I’m up by 5 a.m. every day, anyway!) Simple, clean, and focused.

An interesting thing happened when I finally did get focused: I actually got excited about the jobs I was going after. And not just the jobs, but the companies, themselves. I was applying to do what I wanted for whom I wanted. Not just aimlessly going after a paycheck. And now I can’t wait for January, so I get to be part of that team.

4) Your great-looking resume won’t count for squat unless you can get past the bots. That’s what a temp-agency recruiter explained to me in October, after complimenting my great-looking resume. She stressed that there are sooooo many people going after the same jobs that most companies use computer programs to search for applicants whose resumes “tick” ten or more keywords for that job. Many highly qualified candidates get lost by the wayside, she said, because they don’t use enough keywords. She liked my “Skills” section because it highlighted the computer programs I knew, and my “Extras” section that listed my extracurricular interests, making me seem more well-rounded. (She also liked that I’d put “Stay-at-Home Mom” as my most recent job title.) She recommended, however, that I add in a “Summary” or “Objective” section — just a sentence or two — for a chance to get in more of those keywords and help me get past those darned bots. I made this revision in late October and immediately started getting more interest from employers. A month later I had an offer. Go figure.

5) There are good job-hunting sites and bad job-hunting sites. Indeed.com is great because it aggregates other job boards, so it’s kind of like one-stop Wal-Mart shopping for jobs. I was on Indeed at least once a day, seven days a week, once I really focused my search. With most job boards, you usually have to create accounts for other job boards. Some of these other boards were pretty decent. I liked Monster, Career Builder, and Zip Recruiter because not only would they e-mail me with new listings daily, but the listings they sent me were relevant to my search. Also, I found out that Craigslist has a great employment section. I didn’t even think to look there until a woman interviewing me mentioned that they’d had a ton of applicants for the position, from both Indeed and Craigslist.

Other sites, however, like Gigats and Job Diagnosis sent me listings that were completely ridiculous. I have neither an M.D. nor a J.D., so getting listings for jobs with titles like “Physician” and “Lawyer” were a waste of my time. As were the listings for positions that were already closed. Or that didn’t exist in the first place. Yeah. And I swear that the unsolicited emails from insurance companies looking for salespeople and U.K.-based firms I’d never heard of, with “guaranteed, commission-based positions,” started coming in after I filled out a profile on Jobs.com. I do not recommend filling out profiles on any of these sites.

6) Social networking sites count. Prospective employers do look you up on Facebook. And if you say you have a blog, chances are they may look it up, too. I know, because I’ve been told by more than one hiring manager that they Googled this blog. :) Fortunately, I’ve kept my online persona clean and, if not always professional, at least friendly. A no-sniping zone.

Also, I recently joined LinkedIn. I did this because it was the only way to apply for one of the jobs I was going after (you had to have a LinkedIn profile). Then I found out how much easier it was to apply to other jobs, because many job listings allow you to apply by linking to your LinkedIn account. Would’ve done that way earlier, if I’d known!

Well, live and learn. I hope these tips can help someone, because I know it’s not easy to be in the searching phase. Best of luck to you, if you are. And hopefully now I can get back to some more-regular blogging. Cheers! :)

2 thoughts on “How I got a job in today’s market

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