Cover Letters, Featured, How to Search, Job Search, Resumes

5 ways to give your job search a boost

We’re taking a stroll down memory lane this week and revisiting some career posts you might have missed. Here, we share some tips for how to strengthen your job search. This article was originally posted here earlier in the year.

Photo credit: pobre.ch, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: pobre.ch, Creative Commons/Flickr

The holidays have passed and resolutions have been made: now is a perfect time to capitalize on the fresh-start momentum all around you and get the jump on finding a great new job this year. Here’s a five-step plan job seekers of all stripes can use.

1. Know what you want

Take the time to accurately assess exactly who you are and what it is that you want in your career. Knowing yourself and what you’d like to accomplish is the foundation of a successful job search and, ultimately, a fulfilling career. And since your career path can be a long journey of discovery, committing time early on to figuring out the direction you’re moving in, and why, can really help to sustain your efforts along the way.

To start, try the career tracks exercise to get a better sense of the kind of work you’d like to do.

2. Know what’s out there

Once you have an idea of what you want, start getting a sense of all the organizations doing the work that interests you—not just the ones that are currently hiring. While you can research organizations in many ways, here are some suggestions for making the process most effective:

3. Explore ways to become a stronger candidate

There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, but while you’re searching for a job, you’ll do well to work on strengthening your candidacy. While you may not know exactly which skill, qualification, or experience will get you that job offer, it’s a safe bet to try a diverse range of efforts:

4. Learn how to present yourself on paper and in person

The more time you spend recreating your cover letter and resume for each position you apply for, the sooner you’ll snag job interviews and, eventually, a job offer. Research the positions you’re applying for and the organizations hiring for them: really examine who they are, what they’re asking for, and what you’ve got to offer them. Then tailor your cover letter, resume, and interview talking points to best translate your experiences for the hiring team.

  • On paper:
    • The sooner you can establish that you are a serious candidate on paper, the more time hiring managers will spend on your application. An original, persuasive cover letter reflects your understanding of what the employer wants and how you are uniquely able to fill those needs.
    • While it’s helpful to follow a structure, you should write a new cover letter and tweak your resume specifically for each organization and position that you’re applying for. Don’t go generic!
    • Neither your cover letter nor your resume is your autobiography. When a hiring manager reads your application, they simply want to know the answer to three questions:
        • Can you do the job?
        • Will you do the job?
        • Will you fit in?
  • In person:
    • As the candidate, your task is to prepare anecdotes about specific times you’ve used the skills the employer needs. Try this format: name the skill, identify a specific time you used it, and explain how the skill will be useful in the new job.
    • Pay attention to the signals your body language sends to the hiring team. It’s okay to show a little nervousness (it means you care!), but try to relax and be yourself so they can glimpse who you really are—if they don’t know, they won’t be able to make an informed decision about you.

5. Use Idealist to find opportunities.

Idealist offers many free resources to assist you in your job search:

  • Start by clicking Sign up to create a free profile. Fill it in so others can find you, and start connecting with other people and organizations that interest you.
  • Activate free email alerts—save the criteria of one or more searches and Idealist will email you daily with relevant updates.
  • In addition to IdealistCareers.org, our info centers and annual graduate school fairs are great sources of info for job searchers in every phase of the game.

Good luck, and tell us how you’re jumpstarting your 2013 job search in the comments below.

About April Greene

April Greene was an editor at Idealist.org.

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