A Quintessential Careers Special 15th Anniversary Report
The one, best piece of advice — the critical nugget of information — that our experts think every job-seeker needs to know.
Compiled by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
We invited 15 of the top career and job-search experts — our Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds — to share their advice with our readers as part of our 15th anniversary. This question is just one of several, which you can find here: Expert Job-Search Answers and Advice from Career Experts.
Best Career and Job-Search Piece of Advice for Job-Seekers
You are, inevitably, part of a community. Don’t job-hunt by yourself. Whatever path you decide to take with your life, other have been down that same path before you; find out who they are, go interview them, ask them what they learned, what mistakes they made. This process will give you a tremendous head start on finding your dream job and your dream life.
— Richard Nelson Bolles
Get out from behind your computer and start networking. I recommend that job-seekers spend at most one full day finding the right job boards for their search, registering at those sites, applying to all jobs of interest which are advertised on those sites, and setting up job-match alerts (also known as “agents”). At the end of that process, go away and never go back to the boards unless you receive an alert for a job that is of interest to you. If you do, apply to it and then leave the job board immediately. It isn’t that job boards are bad — more job-seekers find their job through job boards than any other source other than referrals — but job boards are over-used as the return on your investment in time drops off significantly after that first day’s worth of work.
— Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com
There is a difference between being able to DO the job and being able to GET the job. Job-acquisition skills, like all others, need to be learned and practiced. One of the most important job-acquisition skills is learning how to use corporate online applications to your benefit.
Corporate application tracking systems (ATS) are considered black holes with lots of steps to just get through. The systems aren’t black holes, but rather a technology tool that recruiters use to organize, screen and contact candidates. The ATS enables recruiters to consider more candidates, not fewer. Candidates sometimes get impatient with all the data entry, questions, and uploading. However, it’s essential not to slop through the online application.
At my company, we get 100+ applicants a day. If a candidate has rushed through the online application, we can tell. Some don’t use sentence case in their own names. Some don’t think to look at their uploaded resume to check for parsing problems or to see if it needs reformatting for readability. Some don’t include a cover letter, even though we offer the opportunity. I know you will hear that “no one ever reads cover letters,” but that’s just not true. What is true is that some recruiters do and some recruiters don’t, but you don’t know which kind is going to be triaging your application, so shouldn’t you write one just in case you get the former and not the latter?
Keep your application fresh by going in and updating your profile at least once a month. Put it on your calendar and go in and change one or two little things. I can see when you’ve last been into the system, and I am much more likely to contact candidates whose resume is fresh.
Set up a job-alert in the ATS if it lets you. I can tell if you’ve done this as well. If you have, it implies to me that you are VERY interested in our company, when really it may just be that you are part of the 5 percent of people who remember to click the button to set up the alert.
Do not, not, not apply for every job that is posted. We can see that you are doing this, and it just makes you look lazy and inconsiderate.
Each of the steps is in there for a reason. Plan to spend about a half an hour for each online application and make sure you practice patience with the realities of the online application world. Pay close attention to detail. You will separate yourself from the pool. Guaranteed.
— Maureen Crawford Hentz
You control more aspects of your job-search than you probably recognize. I’m a big proponent of teaching job-seekers to “drive their own career bus.” So many believe they will either find a job or not because of the economy, or due to luck. No doubt, there may be luck involved, but it’s your responsibility to take the “wheel” and map out a destination. Use every resource at your disposal: talking to people, engaging via social networks, reading and learning about companies and positions online — there is a lot of information out there. Don’t be overwhelmed; take your search one step at a time, and make a point to try to differentiate you from everyone else applying for the same job.
— Miriam Salpeter
Listen more than you talk. In the age of social media, where everyone has a mouthpiece, listening has become more important than ever. Twitter provides you with the opportunity to “eavesdrop” on recruiters and industry professional from companies where you might want to get hired. You can review employees’ profiles on LinkedIn and review their discussions, recommendations, and comments. Use this to your advantage and integrate this into your cover letter or interview, and your genuine interest in the job will come across.
On job interviews, it is paramount that you listen. One of the reasons that recruiters say it’s so important to prepare questions to ask your interviewer is that they want to observe your listening skills. In fact, I’ve heard that the more the interviewer talks during a job interview, the more likely the interviewee is to get the job! Why? The more you listen to what a prospective employer wants, the more you can cater your answers to fit those needs.
— Lindsey Pollak
You are uniquely valuable to the right kind of company. You have a set of skills, experiences, and personality traits that no one else offers. In the right job, you will make an impact that no other person could make.
To be successful, you must first identify the right job — the type of company that will appreciate your unique value — and then develop a resume, cover letter, and online presence that communicate loud and clear about that unique value. Don’t look to anyone else. Don’t copy resumes or mimic online profiles. Don’t try to squeeze yourself into a different shape just to fit in. Be proudly, magnificently, and gloriously yourself — and find a place where being yourself is valued. It’s not only a recipe for job-search success — it’s also a recipe for happiness, and that’s even more important.
— Louise Fletcher
Pay attention to the career dreams and inclinations you’re consistently drawn to, and go for them! Where there is vision, there will be provision. Look for, and believe that, the provision, the resources, the help… everything you need… is already out there. It is. And, control the controllables along the way — if something doesn’t work out, ask yourself, what part could I have done differently, then do it. Finally, give yourself permission to tweak your timeline or consent to some compromises along the way. Life is a generous journey for those who see opportunity at every corner. Enjoy the ride!
— Susan Whitcomb
It’s so easy to blame the economy and to assume “nobody’s hiring.” While there aren’t enough jobs to go around, you need only one — and that one should be your sole focus. Desire and determination trump experience, education, and economics. That means you can indeed go get what you want if you’re willing to hustle. It all boils down to the hustle — the daily decisions you make and actions you take to connect with people and pursue the position you desire.
— Tory Johnson
Rebuild your network and make your network thrive. You’ve got to fuel your network to fire it up. In this way, your network is there for you when you need it. If you’ve lost touch, now’s the time to reconnect. And not by asking, “Hi Carl, I know it’s been 10 years since we last spoke, but I’m in the job market right now. Do you know anyone who’s hiring?”
Instead, how might you be of value to this person? Know that value does not have to equal money. Here are some quick tips to get back in touch and provide value at the same time:
- Send a congratulatory note. You’re reviewing your LinkedIn updates and saw your friend got a new gig. Your congratulatory note will likely result in a quick phone call or email back to you. You can then set up a quick meeting to reconnect.
- Send a link to a great blog post. You just read a terrific blog post. Tweet the link to your Twitter followers and, if relevant, to your LinkedIn connections as a status update.
- Volunteer. If you’re not working, you’ve got a little time on your hands. Volunteering not only helps others, but also helps you make new connections and stay positive.
- Serve on a board. Boards need great people with solid work ethics and talent. Sound like you? What non-profit can you serve on? Boards can be a great way to connect with community leaders, while doing something positive for a cause you believe in.
- Check out your local Chamber of Commerce. What can you do for them? One of my clients (who had an MBA in information systems) volunteered to revamp her chamber’s Website, which led to meeting top guns from local businesses who were chamber members. One of them hired her.
Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “If you help enough people get what they want, you’ll get what you want.” This knowledge makes networking much easier because you’re not asking for a job; you’re helping your friends. Next step, stay connected by touching base regularly, which helps you fuel your network to fire it up. Your network will be there for you when you need it, because you never lost touch. Good luck!
— Wendy Terwelp
Squeezing a square peg into a round hole is tough — whether you push it with your hand, slam it with your palm, or hit it with a hammer, it never truly fits. In fact, more often than not, it splinters and breaks. Something has to give; it’s not sustainable.
If you’ve been a square peg in a round hole, you know how it feels to be pounded but never fit. How do you become a successful, sustainable, and happy square peg in a square hole, or round peg in a round hole? How do you get a company to want your particular peg? How do you do it in a tough economy?
Know and market your Why-Buy-ROI.
Your Why-Buy-ROI is the who-how-what of delivering measurable results (primarily in dollars or percentages if you are in a revenue role) — OR enabling the delivery of those results (if are in a support role). It says (fast!): “I know what you need, I can do it, I can prove I can do it, and I can do it again!”
Read more in her article, Get Clear. Get Found. Get Hired! — With Why-Buy-ROI’.
— Deb Dib
Stop talking about what my company can do for you and your career. Start talking about what you can do for us. Talk about why you want to work for us. My company is not a stepping-stone for you. If we hire you, we will grow together — our success and quality of life will be mutually intertwined.
Understand that we’re looking for someone who will bring enthusiasm and TLC to the job, someone who will find meaning in the time we spend together. We are going to invest in you — our money, our time, and our hopes — so convince me it will be a two-way street.
— Eric Shannon
If you’ve ever been fired, laid-off, or left a job because you hated it, then I encourage you to hire a career coach to work through your issues related to that bad career experience. I find people who have been in those situations tend to carry a lot of negative emotion with them, which shows in their job-search. Hiring managers can literally feel your anxiety and/or anger via your body language, eye contact, hand gestures, voice tone, etc. They can also read between the lines and know when you answer to Why did you leave your last job? makes you uncomfortable. This is actually one of the most common reasons why people stay unemployed for extended periods of time. If you don’t work through your issues, you end up displaying them in your job-search in a way that makes hiring managers say “pass” on you as a candidate. The solution is to get some help so that you can talk comfortably and confidently about your past experience. When you make peace with it, employers will see how you’ve grown as a professional and be more likely to hire you.
— J.T. O’Donnell
Even in tough economic times, you should not give up on the possibility of obtaining a raise or other compensation.
People think recession is the worst time to ask for more money; they’re in “scarcity thinking” like, I should just count myself lucky to have a job; I’ll forego the raise. But hard times can be the best times to get a raise! Here’s why:
In good times, money flows freely, and it’s hard to find good people because unemployment rate is low. So companies staff up with marginal people who can do the job, but they’re not really excited about them. When times get tough again, employers trim their staff and th first people they let go are those marginal people
Th n the employers are really in trouble! The still have to get a lot of work done, but not quite enough people to do it. However, precisely because of layoffs, they have freed up three or four salaries-worth of money. So they’re desperately looking for good people, now, not marginal ones, and they have the money to pay them.
If you’re one of the “survivors,” and have taken over extra responsibilities, even if there’s a freeze, they are counting on you more than ever, so you have leverage to ask for more.
Don’t always believe what you read about resumes. Changes in job-search throughout the last several years have dictated how resumes should now be written and presented — and when you factor online resume advice that can sometimes be generic and outdated, job-seekers can find themselves disappointed after following the wrong advice.
Make sure the resume writer you hire knows where your resume and resume content will end up — think online resume portfolios, social media sites, and online networking services. Resume content no longer remains stationary within an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper, which so few consider when job-hunting.
— Teena Rose
My single best tip is a really a formula. Here it is:
- Identify a job of interest to you.
- Identify 100 organizations that hold that job, and 100 percent of your friends and contacts who might be able to lead you into one of those organizations.
- Talk to those people.
- Repeat until retired.
In short, you get jobs by talking to people, not by talking to computers and databases. Interviews count; applications don’t. If you have coffee with someone in your field of choice, that counts. If you interview someone on the phone in another city who holds a job like the one you want, that counts. If you reach out to random emails at a targeted employer and write, “Hey, I am eager to get a job with you guys doing —————–. Who would I talk to about that?”, that counts. If you apply for a posted opening because someone tells you to do so, and they invite you to use their name, that certainly counts. But applying 1,000 times online without a referral from inside counts for nothing.
— Donald Asher
Our 15 Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds
- Donald Asher of Asher Associates
- Richard Nelson Bolles of JobHuntersBible.com
- Jack Chapman of Lucrative Careers, Inc.
- Deb Dib of Executive Power Brand
- Louise Fletcher of Blue Sky Resumes
- Maureen Crawford Hentz
- Tory Johnson of Women for Hire
- J.T. O’Donnell of CAREEREALISM
- Lindsey Pollak
- Teena Rose of Resume to Referral
- Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com
- Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers
- Eric Shannon of LatPro, Inc.
- Wendy Terwelp of Opportunity Knocks
- Susan Whitcomb of The Academies
Find more information about each of our 15 Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds.
Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.