Creating a story …
I think of a job search as one point on a career continuum. This timeline starts in high school, goes through additional education programs, past jobs, past volunteer experiences and extends into the future – 5 and 10 years out from today. It is helpful to have a story that weaves all of these different events and experiences together. This story will help you when you are putting together a cover letter to explain why you are interested in a particular position. This story will also help you when you are interviewing and the hiring manager asks how this position will be a fit with your future plans.
This story will also explain different twists and turns in your career that will likely cause a question in the interviewers mind. For instance, I worked as an accountant before discovering my passion for Human Resources. I always get asked about how I decided to change careers and why. By being able to clearly explain how I came to the realization that I needed to make a change, and how I made that change, I can answer any issues in the hiring manager’s mind and put him or her to ease about my career decision making process.
This is also a great opportunity to showcase your past experiences and education fit into the position that you are seeking. Companies want to feel wanted – the hiring manager wants to know that the target position is a great fit for you, and that you value it in terms of your overall career plan and strategy.
Networking and connecting
Making personal connections at your target companies is critical. Doing research will help you better understand if the company will truly be a good fit for you, and it will provide you with a foot in the door as early as possible if an opening arises.
Some people think that networking is intimidating. Some people feel like they will be looked on as “using people”. If done thoughtfully and with an eye toward long term relationship building, networking can be done that will expand your professional circle of friends for long term, creating mutually beneficial results.
First of all, get familiar with the wide range of networking resources – LinkedIn is a must! This professional tool is the gold standard of business relationship development. Google +, Facebook and other tools are also good to check out and explore. You can also cultivate relationships at events and through your social network. For instance, you can send out your list of target companies to your friends and family and ask if they would be comfortable making any connections for you.
Do use good networking etiquette – be sure to try to identify how you can help your new connection, and try not to ask for something that people would be uncomfortable giving. For instance, most people enjoy talking about themselves or their company. However, some people would be uncomfortable for an ask for a job during the first few minutes of a conversation. Networking is an investment – sometimes the benefits are longer term and you need to be patient.