Originally published on MySpace on March 23, 2009
As most of you know I was a contract technical writer for the past two
years. However, what most of you don’t know is that I was doing it out
of necessity not by choice. Like a lot of you, I too was unemployed.
However, I recently found a great job in a dream company during the
worst economic times since the Great Depression. How did I do it? I
spent at least an hour every day for two years doing all of the things
I have listed below. These are my Cliff Notes for landing your dream
job, or at least a job that is a stepping stone to your dream job. This
is a really long blog, and I’m sure most of you won’t read it all. But
you at least have to scroll down and read the last section about first
There is so much more to say, but I think I’ll just put it in a book and let you download it if you want it.
Find a Business Networking Group
A business networking group is a place where you can
go and meet people from all kinds of industries who may or may not be
able to connect you to someone who can help you get a job. I attended a
networking group called “The Breakfast Club” every other Tuesday
morning for a year, and made some fantastic connections.
Update Your Resume
Customize Your Resume Every Time
I know it sounds like overkill, but the only way you’re going to get a
job in this economy is if your skill set is an exact match to what the
hiring manager is looking for. If the job description says they’re
looking for a one-legged pirate who can knit, by God you’d better be a
one-legged pirate with lots of hand-knitted sweaters in your portfolio!
Have Someone Review Your Resume
Give your resume to someone in your industry and have them give you
constructive criticism. I probably have 10 different versions of my
resume thanks to all of the suggestions I got.
Know Which Industries are Hiring
I come from the land of high tech, but high tech isn’t doing so well
these days, so I had to broaden my search scope into other industries.
Let’s brainstorm here for a minute and come up with a few companies and
industries that are thriving in this economic downturn:
- NetFlix. People are staying home more, going out less. NetFlix is hiring.
- Certain media companies. The company I work for creates, supports and manages
interactive TV applications that allow you to interact with applications on your TV.
In the UK you can even buy stuff from QVC with your remote.
- Be willing to change industries.
Join an Industry Group
I am a member of OEN (Oregon Entrepreneurs Network) and SAO (Software
Association of Oregon). These groups hold business and social functions
where you can meet all kinds of people, and get introduced to companies
you’ve never heard of. Find an organization in your area and join!
Subscribe to the Online Business Journals
I subscribe to the headlines for three business journals: Portland,
Puget Sound and Silicon Valley. Every day I get little snippets in my
Inbox telling me which companies are laying people off, which new
companies just got more funding, etc. This is the way you track where
the jobs are.
Create a Profile on LinkedIn
Become a Master Networker on LinkedIn
I have been online since the word was coined. Seriously. If there is a
new business or social networking site in town I check it out. LinkedIn
is a business networking site that allows you to keep in touch with
current co-workers, ex co-workers, friends and recruiters.
- If you’re not on LinkedIn, sign up. It’s free.
- Create a profile that showcases your job experience.
- Start looking for people you know to connect to.
Ask for Recommendations
Ask anyone you’ve ever worked with to write a recommendation for
you on LinkedIn. These are public references that potential employers can view. The more recommendations you have on LinkedIn the better.
Update Your Status
- Change your status on LinkedIn at least once a week. Why? Because it keeps your
name showing up at the top of everyone’s update list. It keeps you visible.
- Put industry keywords in your status, because that’s how recruiters will find you.
I swear if my status said, “Kelly is slaying SQL Server dragons and writing complex queries,”
my profile would get views from all kinds of people in the database industry, and I would get
contacted by recruiters.
- Say you are interviewing for jobs even if you have no interviews lined up.
Which brings me to…
I’m not exactly sure how the LinkedIn search engine works, or how the
paid part of the site works, but I will tell you that keywords are
everything. If you are looking for work in the IT industry you better
have buzzwords in your profile and in your status. Use hot words like
“whitelisting” and “positive IT tools.”
LinkedIn Jobs Page
Linked in has a jobs page, and there were probably 25-45 jobs listed
within 15 miles of my house at any given time. Not just job jobs, but
great jobs. Many of the jobs actually give you the recruiter’s name, so
you can apply directly. Many of the jobs say “recommendations
preferred,” which is why I say get as many people to write
recommendations for you as possible. It really pays off.
Other Places to Find Work
Create a Profile on Monster.com
Create a profile on Monster.com, and sign up for the job alerts. Update
your profile on a weekly basis, even if you only change one word,
because it pops you to the top of the stack when employers are
searching for people. You land in the “recently updated profiles”
Which leads me to…
Hang out a Shingle
Start a business on your own. My fallback skill has always been
writing, so I hung out my shingle and started my own contract writing
business. How did I get that first job? A friend on MySpace. Gary
(Garibaldi) hired me to help him with an RFP. How did I get the second
job? LinkedIn jobs board. I interviewed for a sales engineer position,
and I didn’t get the job, but they did hire me as a contract writer for
almost a year, which was much more lucrative.
Yes, craigslist! Not only are there many jobs posted there, it’s also a great place to post your resume.
I posted a mini resume on craigslist and got three
contract jobs in less than a week. There are hundreds of people
looking for jobs on craigslist so the key is to differentiate yourself.
My headline was this:
>>> Not Your Typical Tech Writer <<<
The first line of my posting was something like, “Highly technical
perfectionist with a Journalism degree, social skills and a sense of
humor.” Then I had 10 bullet points that listed what my skills were.
You have to differentiate yourself or you will get lost in the rubble.
Register on Company Websites
Go directly to the companies you want to work for and use their online
registration to post your resume. And sign up for their job alerts!
Get to Know Some Recruiters
Some companies still have inside recruiters, but more often than not
companies will hire outside recruiters to fill positions. I had
recruiters coming out of the woodwork when I posted on craigslist, and
I called every one of them, and then chose ONE to work with. Not all
recruiters are created equal. Choose one who will go to bat for you.
Get Someone to Hand-Walk Your Resume
Many jobs on company websites are in the final stages of interviewing
before you even see them posted. The only way you’re going to get an
interview is to have an inside source who can tell you what jobs are
going to be posted BEFORE they get posted. Have your insider walk your
resume to the inside recruiter or the hiring manager’s desk.
First Impressions Are Everything
When I had been doing all of the above for two years and I still hadn’t
been able to land a full-time job I had to ask myself why. Why did I
always get down to the top two candidates and come in second? I finally
decided to try something that even I didn’t believe would work: I
changed the color of my hair. Why? Because most people, whether they
will admit it or not, have preconceived notions about blondes. They are
perceived to be flaky, fun and dumb.
I found myself having to work harder in interviews to
overcome this misconception, so I said f*ck it, I’m coloring my hair!
And guess what? I interviewed for a job at my current company once as a
blonde and once as a brunette, and guess who got the job? The brunette.
I know plenty of guys in their 50’s who colored their hair when they
were interviewing so they would be perceived as being younger.
The moral of the story is this: keep rowing even if it feels like you’re getting nowhere, think outside the box, and be willing to color your hair.
And never ever give up!
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