Job Search and Career Planning Tips

Job Search and Career Planning Tips

Whether you are searching for your first job or planning a midlife career change, it can be a stressful time. If the job search was forced on you via a furlough or layoff, it’s even more trying and difficult. No one really teaches you how to look for a job.

Colleges focus on recruiting you and making sure you have a positive student experience. If you are lucky, you might have a teacher cover aspects of the job search process as part of a business class. The college career center might have four or five employees to serve thousands of students with a few PDFs with career planning tips.

Once you have a job, then what? You work for a company for 10-15 years and then you get laid off and now you have to look again. I know people who have worked their entire career at one company so their job search was well before LinkedIn was invented!

I frequently meet new people who are looking for their next dream job. It is a hobby of mine to help people with their resume, cover letters, interview advice, and networking. I was laid off from my job in 2009. During that time I reconnected with many of my past colleagues and they were all happy to help and share advice. I was lucky enough to start my new job just as my severance ran out. Since then I have made it a regular practice to continue to network to help pay it forward and help others find their next job.

I think there is a lot of psychology involved with people who are looking for a job. Those looking to leave their current toxic work situation can be insecure, feel unworthy and lack confidence because of their abusive environment. They don’t believe someone else will hire them. People who have been laid off are afraid, overwhelmed, and depressed. They are frantic because they have bills to pay, need to update their resume, write cover letters, research companies, update LinkedIn, start searching for applying for jobs, apply for unemployment, research the stimulus checks, etc. They are overwhelmed and afraid and don’t know what to do first.

We at HSI recognized the need for this content to be created in an accessible and friendly format and created a series of videos to help any candidate navigate the process. If your company provides recruiting and staffing services, contact us for more information on how you can offer these courses to your clients. You can preview the career planning training videos mentioned below. You can watch all of the courses by requesting a free trial of our HSI LMS. We have created a group in the dashboard to make them easy to find.

Job Search Tips

I thought I would share a few of the tips from our new courses to give you a preview of the new content.

How to Create a Resume

A resume is a summary of your work and school experiences and your most important asset in your job search. Our course outlines the steps to create your professional resume. If you are just starting out after high school or college, it’s ok to include extracurricular activities and any part-time jobs. Those show that you are motivated and hard-working. You can develop many transferable skills while waiting tables or working retail like delivering a positive customer experience or handling the accuracy of inventory and cash receipts.

Keep your format clean, simple, and easy to read. Proofread everything. Have someone else proof it and then proof it again. You can’t say you demonstrate attention to detail if your resume is riddled with typos. Don’t undersell your accomplishments. This is the place to boast.

A proofing tip from a marketer: Read the copy normally for context. Read it backward, word by word, and you will find typos your brain fixes when you read it forward. Spell check will let the word "manger" go but when you read it backwards, the word "manger" should stand out as a typo for the word manager.

Read our blog on "How to Make Your Resume Stand Out" for more practical and helpful tips.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

Many companies use an applicant tracking system or ATS on their website to accept job applications. While these may streamline the process for employers, they can be tedious and time consuming for the job seeker. Our course walks you through the different uses for an employer and provides tips to help you better navigate the system.

Applicant tracking systems are designed to look for keywords so you need to think like Google. If the job posting is asking for experience in “customer service” but your resume uses the term customer relations or customer care, the ATS may pass over your resume. Try to use the same terms from the job description on your resume.

Do You Need a Cover Letter?

Depending on what you Google or who you talk to, you will get different answers. As an elder member of Gen X, I am absolutely in favor of the cover letter. In a world that has made it very easy to “click to apply” more and more candidates take the easy route and only submit their resume. They do the bare minimum. If you want to do the bare minimum of effort, then expect that in return in the form of fewer interview requests and job offers.

Our course explains in more detail, that if you are submitting a cover letter, it has to be a good one. This is your chance to show your personality, to handle predicted objections about your background, and demonstrate that you are a motivated candidate. If your career planning has brought you to a place where you want to switch fields, your cover letter can help tell that story.

Pay attention to the details in the job posting. Some specifically ask for a cover letter so be sure to follow directions. If the online tool only allows you to submit one document, then make your cover letter page one and your resume page two of the same document.

How to Prepare for an Interview

All of your job search efforts are designed to get you the interview. If you haven’t had an interview in awhile or this is your first time interviewing for a job, the process can be very intimidating. The best way to build your confidence is to prepare. Our course provides a list of practical steps you can take to prepare for an interview whether it is via phone, video conference, or in person.

First, we recommend you research the company. The very first interview question may very well be “So, what do you know about our company?” Prepare your answer based on what you find on their own website, especially the “About Us” section. I also suggest you search for terms like “company reviews” to find what people are saying about their products, services, or company.

Second, we suggest you analyze the job posting line by line. Compare your experience to each skill or responsibility. Know where your weaknesses and strengths are. Once I had an interviewer spend the entire interview going line by line through the job description and ask me about my related experience. I have found that interviewers are not always well-prepared and they take the easiest path by starting with the question, “Tell me about yourself,” then asking what you know about the company, and then going through the job description.

I also suggest that you choose a few of the hardest interview questions you can find, take the time to think through your answers and write them down (type them in a Google or Word Doc). If you are planning a career shift into a new field, be prepared to justify the decision and explain your transferable skills. I know this sounds nerdy, but when you have the time to use your best grammar and sentence structure and you type up your answers, you can print them out and practice and have much more confidence going into the interview.

Additional Career Planning Training Content

If you are with a temp agency, recruiting firm, or job search site, consider adding our career planning training library to better prepare your clients for their own job search.

Additional Resources

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