To say that the last few years have been unusual is an understatement! We went through a terrible global pandemic and people lost their jobs in unprecedented numbers. Then the jobs came back and people began to quit – the Great Resignation. But even if they didn’t really quit, many experienced a ‘silent quitting’. And then the economy turned down again – layoffs are happening at companies where you would never have expected them, and we may be going into another recession. Who could have predicted all this a mere 3 years ago?
But always in crisis there is opportunity and as someone famously said – you’d hate to waste a good crisis! If you were too stressed or busy to take the opportunity 2 years ago, now could be the time to take a fresh look at your job and career prospects, short and long term, before you are forced to. Or maybe now you are already in that tough position of being laid off and have to scramble to react.
Either way, you are the only one who can be responsible for your career – everyone is too worried about their own stuff to have time for yours. So it never hurts to take some time occasionally to make sure you are on the right path. Whether you need a new job just like you had before, or wish to change or pivot to something different, here are 4 steps that can help you jumpstart your way on that journey:
1.This is an opportunity to re-evaluate your life to think about whether your job or career is something you are happy with. A time to dig deep and say “what do I really want to do with my life”? (a version on the never ending, what do I want to do when I grow up!) Are you living your passions, doing things that bring you joy? Can you look out to the end of your career or even your life and say if you follow this path, you will have no regrets?
Most people never take the time to stop and reevaluate what they have been doing and if it makes them happy, even a little bit. The pandemic caused some to do it, but if that wasn’t you – now might be the time. Your future self will thank you.
Even if, right now, you may need the next job to live, you can still be intentional in what you go after by creating a plan for where you might ultimately want to end up.
There are many different visioning exercises you can do to drill down to find that passion, that best path. To start, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- a) Where have you found the most meaning in your work and personal life?
- b) What are the skills that make you unique and that you can offer to the world?
- c) Where & when do you feel most fully on, fully yourself?
- d) If you were to let yourself dream, what do you regret not having done yet?
- e) What are the nonnegotiable things that this new job or career should have?
- f) Where do you see yourself in 2, 3 or 5 years if you weren’t afraid to fail?
Hopefully this will spark some ideas and thoughts – if not, I have a fairly simple visioning exercise I can send you if you need more work.
Once you’ve come up with some insights, you will want to write down 5-10 jobs that fit into the scenario you can see yourself working in now and in the future, and also 5-10 companies that you would love to work for. This is your dream list and it can help you focus your job search efforts moving forward. Do thorough research on those jobs and companies and that will get you ready for the next step.
2. Update your resume so that it will make it through a company’s online application tracking system (ATS) while putting your skills and accomplishments in the best light. Most companies are using these online systems now and unfortunately, they weed out a good percentage of resumes before they ever get to a human (because of the way the resumes are formatted or the words the applicants use). So you will want to use a simple, standard resume format, nothing fancy, with a statement of the job you want, a (hard) Skills section, Professional/Work Experience next, (highlight the successes and accomplishments you have had in numerical terms), Education and any other Volunteer positions or Affiliations (if they are important to highlight skills needed for the job). Most importantly you want to tailor your resume to each different job description & job you apply for. It’s a fair bit of work to start but it is important to do that work if you want to get selected. And the same thing goes if you need a cover letter. The ATS’s (and recruiters for that matter) look for certain keywords (attributes or dimensions that the job requires) in each online resume that they track and it will spit out the ones that don’t have them. If it gets into a recruiter or hiring manager’s hand, they will just quickly scan the resume. So the more you can make the skills and accomplishments that pertain to the job stand out, the better chance they will look more closely.
3. More Importantly, use LinkedIn for networking and promoting yourself. Having a great resume traveling through multiple online systems is only one way to get noticed. And maybe not the best way. Some companies will often get hundreds of resumes (especially now) and you want yours to rise to the top and get to the right people. You can use LinkedIn to help your job search in several different ways. First of all, you will want to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and reflects the type of job that you are looking for – especially in the Header. Recruiters, HR & hiring managers use this platform a lot to search for potential hires and will also take a look if they get a resume through their online system. So you want it similar to your resume but you don’t want to just cut & paste your resume into LinkedIn. You can be a little more creative here but do want to highlight the skills you have developed to make you a great candidate for the industry or specific positions you are looking for. Be professional and articulate and have a business-like headshot or photo. As well, you will want to be active on LinkedIn, post thoughtful content about your chosen industry, read and like articles, join groups and make comments when you can. And most importantly build your network here. If you have a list of dream jobs & companies that you want to work for, who in that company should you connect with? Reach out and ask for informational interviews, even if there isn’t a job yet in the area you want. Some jobs might not even get posted (especially in times like these when there are so many applicants) so it’s great to have an ‘in’ that can help you navigate the organization, pass your resume around and help you get to the right hiring person. It’s best to have contacts in these companies already set up, but if you haven’t already, and you have just applied online, it’s still a good idea to try to reach out to a recruiter or hiring manager to get your resume noticed and hopefully moved to the top of the pile. Tell them you’ve applied online but want to be sure they get your resume, so would you mind sending to the correct person etc. Use LinkedIn as a resource to see if you know anyone that works at the company or if a friend or a friend of a friend works there. And you definitely should use it as a networking tool to proactively build contacts for the future. Don’t ever just send a resume in and sit and wait. People tell me often that they apply for lots of jobs and keep getting rejected. Usually this is through those automated systems and no one ever sees how good they are. Don’t leave it to chance, networking is your best way to ensure success.
4. Practice your interview skills. It is never easy to interview even if you are very confident and especially if you haven’t done it for a while. Practice in front of a mirror, with a friend or a coach and get clear and concise on the story you want to tell about yourself. Practice your ‘elevator pitch’ and how to promote yourself in a non-obnoxious way – people are often hesitant about singing their own praises, but you can’t expect the interviewer to just assume the best by looking at your resume. Look for things in your job history that might be tricky to clarify and work on a smooth explanation. Most interviewers use some sort of a behavioral or situational interview where they ask you to “tell them about at time when” … This is where they will look for you to tell a story that demonstrates the skills that you have talked about in your resume and that they are looking for. Many say the STAR system works best – you talk about the Situation, Task, Action & Results. Prepare 5-8 stories in advance so you aren’t struggling to come up with something off the top of your head. Research the company so you know their mission and values and can speak to how that aligns with what you are looking for. Think about how you can help them solve their business problems – all companies have them and love it when people come to them with ideas to help. Also prepare some thoughtful questions in advance to ask them when it is your turn. You also might want to think about asking “is there anything you’ve seen in the interview today that might prevent me from moving forward?” They may not tell you, but it shows initiative and courage. For sure ask if you can reach out to them after the fact to see how things are progressing (and get some contact info so you really can!)
Again, we are in another tough time right now and some have it tougher than others for sure. Whether you need a job immediately or are considering a switch, use this time as an opportunity to move forward in the direction of your dreams. These steps should help. You can come out on the other side stronger than ever before and will be on your way to living your life with no regrets.