I’ve just finished up 6 months of being unemployed. It sucks! The job hunt is different for everyone, but here’s some advice I have. (I write this assuming that you are already confident in your skills and you know that you have to hustle).
- Talk to people who have the job you want. Find out how they got there and what advice they have for you. This is your first step in assessing what will be most helpful in your search, including knowledge of the industry if you are switching industries.
- Be prepared for the job hunt to take a long time. Think to yourself, “If I don’t have a job in X months, I will consider X kind of job,” and on and on several months out. As a mental exercise, it’s good to consider that because it will help you assess your priorities and values in a job. You need to know what is “worth it,” which you will also figure out along the way (you may find that the job you wanted isn’t all you cracked it up to be). Watch your spending from the beginning; create a budget for yourself. I underestimated the amount of time I would be unemployed and found myself running out of money more quickly than if I had been more frugal in the beginning.
- Brand yourself when applying to each job. As hard as it is to lie or to cut yourself short, your interview and resume should fulfill one purpose only: getting that specific job. Think of the resume not as a history of your employment, but rather a demonstration of how your past experiences have given you the skills you need for the job you’re applying to. If people see a resume with diverse experience, they will be confused because they can’t put you in a box. Additionally, they will think that you won’t commit yourself to the position if you aren’t singularly interested in it. It was very hard for me to remove experience from my resume because I was very proud of it, but the sad truth is, nobody cared and they preferred to see key words that resonate in the industry.
- Meet as many people as possible. Email every single person who someone puts you in touch with. Ask questions – even if you already know the answers – just so that you are on that person’s radar. Follow up every now and then to update the person – wish them happy holidays, tell them where you’re interning, tell them if you worked on a project. Keep a spreadsheet so that you remember all the people you’ve been in touch with. If you get an in-person meeting, send a thank you email, or even better, a thank you note in the mail if you have their address. You are more likely to get a job through a connection than through responding to an online job post.
- Use every second of the interview to pitch yourself. Don’t assume that the interviewer has read your resume. Pick 4 adjectives to describe yourself (make sure these are the skills the job requires) and use specific examples of when you have been this adjective. If the interviewer says what he is looking for, validate his/her words and give examples of times that you have been that way. It may feel like s/he just wants to have a conversation, but don’t be fooled, your task is to sell yourself. As women especially, it is really hard to get into a room and talk yourself up, but the interviewer needs to hear that because it means a lot more coming from your mouth than it does written down on your resume. If anything, your confidence and forwardness will be admired.
- Interview: In addition to #5, anticipate the interviewer’s questions, your answers to the questions, and what questions you have for the interviewer. This link has a great set of questions that I encountered A LOT during interviews: http://www.fastcompany.com/1839723/10-job-interview-tips-ceo-headhunter. ALWAYS send a thank you note in the mail after the interview.
- Remember that it’s mostly out of your control. You can drive yourself crazy, as I did, thinking about what you’re doing wrong, but the biggest reason you’re not getting a job has nothing to do with you. It has to do with the fact that there’s a bad economy, all jobs are very competitive, and you might not be lucky enough to have the right connections. This is America, and it should be a meritocracy, but it’s not. Sometimes it just takes a while to get lucky or to make those connections that will lead to something.
- In the meantime, if money is an issue, find something that will keep you afloat that won’t make you want to kill yourself. I made some money leading High Holiday services, Bar Mitzvah tutoring, and teaching kids drama classes. Tutoring is an easy one if you have a college degree.
- Sometimes having a goal gets in the way of other opportunities that will make you happy. I don’t at all regret moving here, but I’ve realized that I gave up a lot of happiness in order to seek a goal that has turned out to be less fulfilling, less respected, and less challenging. You have to explore what you want in life, but I’ve seen too many people make the mistake of pursuing one thing to the detriment of their own happiness. You never know what what you want will actually be like, and with that in mind the stakes are a little lower: it’s not all or nothing. Be open to riding the wave.