Tackling the Job Search

Open door with businessmenAn acquaintance of mine recently started a new job. I was extremely happy for her, but after speaking with her, she admitted to me that she had been unemployed for months. I was shocked. Not only because she hadn’t told me (which was her right) but because in the time that she was unemployed, I could have recommended her for a few positions that she was qualified for. I don’t claim to be a rainmaker, but once in a while I will get an email that says, “Hey, I need to hire….do you know anyone?” I am more than happy to recommend someone, but it is impossible to do this if you don’t know that they are looking for a job.

This situation leads me to believe that there are probably many others that are in the same situation. So, here are my 10 tips for jobs seekers:

1. Get up in the morning. This clearly also applies to job seekers outside of PR but it is the most important aspect of success. Create a routine, whether it’s going to the gym or bringing your laptop to a Starbucks. It’s easy to get bogged down in the job searching process and at times job hunting seems like an impossible battle. I don’t want to say wake up every morning with a ‘positive attitude’; that seems unfair and unrealistic (though I will get to that later). But make sure to wake up.

2. Let people know you’re looking for a job. If you are out of a job, this is a pride swallowing admission that just plain sucks. But the truth is that I’ve hired someone because they tweeted, “I hate the job searching process!” I saw that she was looking for a job and coincidentally had just walked out of a meeting about hiring someone with the Tweeter’s exact qualifications. Yes, in this situation, the stars aligned. But it never would have happened if she wasn’t open about her search.

For job seekers who currently have jobs, this is a little trickier. DO NOT TWEET “I WANT A NEW JOB.” But, you should let friends and acquaintances know that you are looking for new employment. Make sure they have an updated resume that they can pass around.

3. Get Coffee. Identify professionals in your field whom you admire and email them. It has never been easier to find someone’s email address, particularly in PR since people put their email addresses on press releases. Shoot them an email and say, “I’m looking for a new job. I’m impressed with your company and career path [flattery will get you everywhere]. My experience is _____. I would really appreciate it if we could get coffee and I could pick your brain about potential career paths.”

I would venture to guess that a good percentage of people will get back to you and be willing to help. Most PR veterans genuinely want to help younger professionals; they have been in your shoes.  Meeting them will give you a leg up in the hiring process, and even if they’re not hiring now, they may be later.

If you do have a meeting like this, bring your resume, but keep it casual. No clipbooks or references. Always bring a notebook.

There will be some emails that go unanswered. That’s OK. People are busy. But if you choose to email people, make sure that when you are a seasoned PR pro, you damn well answer emails you get from younger professionals looking for a job.

4. Fix up that resume. Following the last two points, ask people to give you feedback on your resume. Recruiters are fantastic at this. They have seen hundreds of resumes and know what works and what doesn’t. Additionally, ask mentors and friends to look at your resume; they may catch something you didn’t realize was missing.

On that note, keep an updated resume handy. I am shocked by the amount of times that I email someone about a job lead and they don’t have a resume ready.

5. Apply, Apply, Apply. There’s an old statistic I like to tell younger colleagues about pitching the media. The average sale is made on 19th call, the average salesman quits on the 13th. Will you make it to the 19th call? This applies to getting hits with the media.

But the same rule applies to job hunting. Keep applying, don’t get discouraged. Make a goal everyday such as, “I am going to apply to 5 jobs everyday.”

6. Use Connections. Go to networking events and follow up with people you meet. This is the reason there are networking events.  If you meet someone who works at a company that is hiring, email them. Ask advice on the best way to get the position. If you’ve made a good impression, they may offer to pass along your resume themselves.

It is important not to be belligerent.  Also, if you know that a friend of yours has a friend who works at a firm that is hiring, ask your friend to make an introduction.  When someone inside a company will vouch for you, it gives you an ‘in’; it also pushes you to the head of the line.

7. Skip HR. This is a useful trick I learned that often helps you get the interview. Instead, or in addition to emailing HR your resume, find out who the reporting manager for the position you are applying for is, and email them your resume. This will help you skip the gatekeepers and get your resume into the hands of the people who will ultimately make the hiring decision.

8. Build Your Online Brand. Make sure that your professional profile is available via Google. Create and maintain Twitter and LinkedIn profiles and a blog.  Keep the content professional. That doesn’t mean ‘boring’ but make sure ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’ Make sure that your full name is included in all your profiles so a hiring manager can Google your name and find content that shows that you are intelligent and understand the industry.

9. Pitch your friends. Just because you may not be working right now, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep in touch with your media contacts. It’s important to keep building your portfolio. (I also give this advice to peers who only pitch local stories or clients who only attract limited attention.) Find things your friends are doing and pitch the media.  If you have an uncle who is a doctor, pitch him as a medical expert, which he is. This will help you make new contacts and keep in touch with current ones

10. Keep a positive attitude. This is the toughest aspect of the job search. The job hunting process is a gut wrenching, soul bearing experience. It’s essential to keep a positive attitude and keep moving. When you wake up in the morning, listen to music that puts you in a good mood.  When a prospective job seeker comes in for an interview with a negative attitude it is very apparent and the reality is that no one wants to bring that into their work environment.

Job hunting is one of the most difficult experiences you will have in your career, so if you can persevere here, you can excel in any job.

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  • Thanks. Your suggestions are familiar and worthy reminders. However, “Apply, Apply, Apply” is disingenuous, at best, in today's market. With more than 150 resumes submitted for posted jobs, it's best to apply ONLY if you can also get your resume to an insider or contact who will put it in the hands or In box of the hiring manager.

  • Great post and excellent points! I think some of the same tips apply for people who are currently employed, but might be looking to make a change, especially number 2. If you don't tell anyone you're looking, they don't know to let you know when something crosses your radar screen.

  • Hate to disagree but after speaking with a number of HR managers for various projects (including our own Pitch Yourself program) applicants are sending in resumes for everything and anything in communications without regard to the ad's specifications.

    I've heard (and seen) traditional PR and media relations jobs get numerous applications from advertising students, marketing specialists, and individuals with experience in a very different sector (without any explanation of why or how they could make the transition).

    150 submitted cvs doesn't mean any number of them make their way past HR. Personally my best jobs in the field have been from resumes submitted without knowing anyone on the inside – merely responding to a classified ad.

  • you got to be in it to win it yo

  • I'm also going to have to disagree with this point. As someone who spent the whole summer applying for jobs in PR, I was able to get called in for a number of interviews at companies where I had no “in” or “contact”. Even though I didn't end up getting those jobs, going through the process gave me GREAT experience in interviewing and gave me a better idea of what sort of company I'd like to work for.

    I think the advice to only apply to a job if you know someone on the inside is a little silly. If you're out of a job and have free time on your hands anyways, why not apply for any job that you think you might be a good fit for? You never know what could happen and at least you won't have missed out on an opportunity.

  • Great ideas here, Elliot. I wrote a similar post where I talked about what has worked for me in my job search and what hasn't worked. Honestly, contacting companies where I didn't have an “in” has only worked once out of doing so many, many time (this could have something to do with the job market I'm looking in). I think that people should apply to jobs they are interested in, even if they do not know anyone at the company, BUT that should not be their only strategy in finding a job. Networks, friends, professors, and past contacts can provide a wealth of knowledge and opportunities.

  • bethvonbehren

    Excellent tips, and I like that you repositioned the schmooze networking thing as “Go for coffee.” Easier to think of it in those terms. I would add one tip to your list: Keep a sense of humor. I was unemployed for 19 months and some of the situations I encountered were downright absurd. I found myself laughing at them and it felt good to laugh.

    Here's a topic for a future post: How to look for a job in another city. I may find myself in that position in a year and a half when both of my kids potentially move west (one to work, one for college). Obviously, going for coffee will be more difficult between St. Louis and San Diego, so any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

  • bethvonbehren

    I agree, Jess. Even if you don't know anyone on the inside, you should apply for any job that meets your qualifications. I have been hired in some of those situations as well. Btw, the best place, imho, to find good job fits, is your local PRSA job posting board. I have been interviewed for numerous positions I found there, and I landed one of those, so check it out.

  • beccameyers

    Coming from someone looking, great points! I think most people especially overlook #1 and let me tell ya, it's an important one for your sanity!

  • I agree with a number of these points — especially No. 1, as it ended up being a HUGE help to me (and has me feeling at least somewhat more confident about being able to resume a workday routine when I return to the workforce next week).

    However, I strongly disagree with No. 5 (“Apply, apply apply”) … but not for the reasons others have mentioned. Instead, my disagreement with No. 5 is that you could be shooting yourself in the foot by applying for jobs that you aren't really interested in — whether it's that you aren't keen on the company, the job itself, the place you'd have to move/live if you accept said job, etc.

    How can this backfire? In some states (including Michigan), if you're collecting unemployment, you are *obligated* to accept a job offer that pays at least X percent of what you previously were making. If you've applied for jobs willy-nilly and get offered a position you don't really want (for any of the previously mentioned reasons), you're stuck.

    So, instead of setting application quotas for yourself, I think it's better to investigate available opportunities and set a goal of only applying for the ones that truly interest you. Otherwise, you could wind up in a bad situation.

    Also … I'd suggest adding “Do freelance and pro bono work” and “Look for opportunities to attend conferences and other professional development activities” to this list. Those are two BIG things that helped me feel active, useful, relevant and up-to-date during the 10 months I was out of work.

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