by Troy Heerwagen
1. Start early and be patient. The rule of thumb is that it takes a month of searching for each $10,000 you expect in salary. I thought I could get a job faster than that, but not really. If I weren’t employed while looking, it would have been easy to panic. Whenever I look for a job in the future, I’ll have to keep that guideline in mind and just be patient until I find the right position.
2. Don’t settle or give in. I knew the whole time that I didn’t want to work for one of the major manufacturers here, and despite all the suggestions from people and offers from people I met, I refused to apply there. I could’ve gone that way and maybe found a job faster, but I stuck to what I knew I wanted, and it worked out in me getting a position with a company that I preferred to work for.
3. Keep options open. There was a company that I interviewed with and after the first interview I really didn’t think I wanted to work there. But I didn’t rule the employer out and went back for a second interview. After the second interview, I saw a lot of good things and felt that if my first choice didn’t work out that I would like to work there. At the same time, though, I learned not to lead a company on if I’m not interested in working there. I kind of did that with one company to see if they’d give me an offer even though I felt that I would have to decline it no matter what.
4. Know what’s important. I knew I didn’t want a long commute, so I screened all positions and excluded those in suburbs that I was unwilling to commute to. This was one major screening criterion, but I also had a pretty good idea of what kind of company culture and work environment I was looking for. I eventually found a company that I feel will be a very good fit on all criteria that I felt were important. A good grasp of what;s important goes along with Lessons 1 and 2 above; once I knew what was important, I didn’t panic or settle for less than what I wanted.
5. Applying directly to individual companies is a good idea. I applied to some job postings, but the other prong of my attack was applying directly to individual companies. I bought a book that listed local companies, I searched for local companies in the industries I was interested in, and I also used Google Maps to search for companies nearby. I found many companies and just had to slog through all of their Websites to determine what they did, whether I thought they might have positions I would qualify for, and whether the company would be a good fit. From there, I followed the process for applying to them, whether by uploading or emailing my resume. This strategy is how I found the job that I ended up selecting.
6. Job postings aren’t as important as I’d hoped but they’re not worthless. Once I got my resume and cover letter ready, I started looking at job postings on the major job sites. After a few weeks of applying and hearing nothing back, I began to feel as though applying to individual job listings was worthless since I was competing against so many other people doing the same thing. I almost gave up on browsing job postings but kept going to make sure I didn’t miss out on anything. It took a while, but I finally got some responses from my applications; in fact, I made contact with two of the three companies I interviewed with by applying to their job posting on one of the major career-search Websites.
7. It takes time to learn to sift through job postings. The first few weeks of my job search, I tried to filter the available jobs with the highly inadequate searches on the major sites. Then I normally read most of the postings I found in my search, finding a very small percentage worth applying to. It was discouraging that it was taking so long for me to review all the job postings and then more discouraging that there were so few jobs that I could actually apply to. However, after a few weeks I got much better at identifying positions that I would possibly be suitable for before clicking on them and then in skimming the posting to quickly determine whether it was worth my time to investigate further.
8. Don’t stay somewhere out of fear of not finding something better. One of my first jobs was with a good company to work for. Everyone I talked to there said it was a good company to work for. It paid well and had good benefits. I chose not to work there again. The next company I worked for had tons of perks — free tickets to sporting events (in a suite), travel, nice views from the office, good bonuses. But, I’m leaving that company. The company I’m going to seems like a much better culture fit, and it has been rated as one of the top companies to work for.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Troy Heerwagen is originally from Fort Worth, Texas, and now lives with his wife in Seattle, Washington. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering before working as an IT Business Analyst for almost two years. His latest job search had him looking for a job in a new state, with few networking connections, and led him to a great position that blends his engineering background and IT experience. His Website can be found at Troy’s Pages, where he shares some of his personal photography. Troy can be contacted at TroyH@TroyH.us.
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