5 important learnings from job hunting

​​Before I get started on what I learned while job hunting, a bit of a background. In 2006 I was hired by a small, family-run company to manage one of their larger clients. By 2008 I was promoted to a position where I managed all the clients, and the suppliers, and the employees. I held this mystical position known as Operations Manager. This meant that I did pretty much everything: sales, payroll, scheduling, accounting, hiring, firing...basically everything to do with the ongoing operations of the company. I thought I was invincible. With the processes I put in place, 4 people's jobs became 1 – mine. Then to my surprise, one spring morning in 2016 the pedestal came crashing down. I was provided a working notice. It was a pretty bad day, just after a great day. The day before Sarah and I did our official launch of Couple of Sense.

The Working Notice

For those of you lucky enough to not know what a working notice is. Essentially a working notice is a piece of paper letting you know that you've lost your job. You have to continue to work at a place that has legally said you aren't wanted. This instead of severance pay. It is a slap in the face that lasted for over 7 months in my case.

I was semi-actively looking for something new for almost a year before I got my notice. My confidence in job security was solid, so I could have the patience to wait for something great to come along. I immediately kicked the job hunt into high gear the day I was proven wrong. That's where the learning really started.

Lesson Number One: Be Prepared to Be Humbled

What hit me hardest was when I started job hunting I figured it'd be a piece of cake. I have an education, I have 10 years' experience, I have an incredible portfolio of successes and an open mind. My booming confidence was knocked around like when a piece of fruit gets loose in the trunk when you are coming home from grocery shopping. Every turn was an ouch. Jobs that I knew I could do in my sleep, I wasn't getting a sniff for. I set up an Excel file to track my progress, formatting the text to red with every no I received. That spreadsheet was like Fight Club, and my ego was Jared Leto.

With full respect to Lesson Number Four, check your ego before you start to hunt. The truth is sometimes it doesn't matter how amazing you'd be for a job. There are a hundred things that can come between you and an interview.

Lesson Number Two: Beware the Algorithm!

One thing I took for granted when I started sending out my resume was that when I had applied for jobs in the past my resume went to a person. Larger companies, and even a number of smaller companies use software to sort and analyze incoming resumes. This software spews out a report that grades your worthiness of the job you are applying for. If you make it to a certain score, then HR takes a look. If your resume doesn't hit the right number of triggers, you get an automated response letting you know that other candidates more suited for the role are being considered.

Using the right terms in your resume might seem pretty straight-forward. You just pick some key phrases from the job description and include them in your resume. That should get you past the computer screening and onto someone's desk, right? Unfortunately it's not quite that simple. The software doesn't just search for certain terms and give you points; it is much more intuitive than that. These algorithms actually analyze your experience and decide what role you are best suited for. Sometimes your experience can actually scale you higher than the role you are applying for so you get denied automatically.

I was applying for sales jobs with a resume that ended up scoring high for financial administration and security. Worse it was quite low for sales despite including a number of strong sales phrases like "exceeded quota by...". Also make sure to keep your resume in a text based file (like a MS Word file) instead of a PDF. Apparently the computers have a hard time analyzing a PDF and might eliminate you due to missing information.

Even if you think your resume is fantastic, I'd recommend using a free resume analyzer like RezScore, TopResume or LiveCareer's Resume Check. I don't have any affiliation with any of these services, however I wanted to share some resources I found to be helpful. These services use the same type of software that a lot of potential employers use.

Lesson Number Three: Be Flexible on Where to Search

When I first started looking for my next career, I was quite stubborn in where I was looking. I stuck with the job search through LinkedIn. Don't get me wrong, they have a great tool that has thousands of potential roles for you. You just can't rely on one source, when employers have so many choices for posting. Here are a few suggestions that I used to help find some openings:

  • Search for "Top Employer Of..." lists for your location or area of work. Employers with that level of recognition are highly coveted (aka loaded with competition for every role). If you do manage to stick out from the crowd you may end up with the job you've been dreaming of.
  • Sign up for daily job alerts. Set up an email address strictly for daily alerts (so you don't spam out your normal inbox) and let automatically generated lists provide you with the openings that match your criteria. Searching for a job can be as time consuming as a part-time job, so any bit of help goes a long way.
  • Reach out to recruiters. Recruiters get paid when they are successful in finding the right fit for their client – that could be you so get on their radar and see if you can get them paid!
  • Don't be afraid to go to the local ads. While additional caution is always warranted when looking through the local "want ads" on sites like Kijiji – a lot of legitimate employers use this service because it is targeted, and free. My story has a happy ending since I found my new employer through one of these postings. I'm actually writing this post on the night of my first day of work. If you go this route, definitely use your "job hunting email address" and scope out the address before you go to an interview.

Lesson Number Four: Keep Confident

Even though lesson number one was about being humble, lack of confidence will come across incredibly poorly to an employer in an interview. As difficult as it is going to be, it is so vital to remember how amazing you are at what you do. A prospective employer isn't going to care about what you've done for others on paper – they care about what you can do for them. Being passive about what you bring to the table is a huge red flag. If you let 1,000 rejection letters influence you in an interview you might as well not show up at all.

So while job hunting, be humble – but once you get into an interview you have to treat it like this was your first choice of employer, and you know you are their first choice of candidate. After the interview, make a point to follow up with your interviewer to thank them for their time and to remind them of just how much of an asset you'd be in their organization. You'd be surprised how often this puts you back towards the top of a pile.

Lesson Number Five: You Should Have Multiple Resumes

Remember lesson number two, about watching out for the algorithms? In order for a person to see your resume, you may need to tweak it. Try and have your resume fit the role almost perfectly. I sent out hundreds of resumes listing my current role as Operations Manager. Then one of the recruiters I was working with told me that might scare off a hiring manager. Just by changing my title to reflect the role I applied for I starting getting more traction. That didn't require as much creativity on my part as it may for you since I was doing multiple roles.

If you are applying for a more supporting role, you may want to avoid any focus on managing others. This might flag you as less likely to follow direction. A potential employer might also see your experience as a sign that you might be a flight risk. If they want leadership skills they'll make a point to ask you in an interview. Your first priority is to get that interview so make sure to match your resume with the role you are applying to. Don't make up a role that doesn't apply to you at all of course – if the company you apply to does an employment reference check they may get conflicting information on what it is you do from your current boss which might get your resume a trip to the shredder.

Number or label your resumes to the job you are applying for as well and save copies. If you are doing a job search tracking database like I did (which I recommend), make sure to track which resume went to which job. If you do get an interview you'll likely be asked to bring a copy and you don't want to bring the wrong one.

School's Out

So those are the main five lessons I learned in my job hunt. For me it was 19 months, 542 applications, a dozen interviews and numerous revisions to my resume before I finally landed a new job. Where I lucked out was that the timing of when I got my new job worked perfectly with when I left my previous job so I managed to avoid being unemployed.

In a future post I'll reveal the proactive steps Sarah and I took to protect our household finances and why it became even more important to have a working budget. With economic uncertainty always threatening, losing an income can be an incredibly scary experience and I look forward to sharing some tips that might make it easier for you to manage if you ever get a working notice of your own.

Do you have tips or tricks for the job hunters out there? Regardless if your experience is from the hiring or applying side your input would help those struggling with this greatly.

If you are looking for a new job, happy hunting!

The post 5 Things I Learned While Job Hunting appeared first on Couple of Sense.

RELATED: Finance tips you need to know

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Finance tips you need to know
Making your budget work for your lifestyle

"Are you on a laptop all day? Would keeping an excel file or Google doc file help you track your expenses easier? Would it be more convenient to keep an old fashioned pen and paper type of budget? How about keeping a running tab on the fridge so that you are tracking all expenses?

The bottom line is do whatever works for you! Make it as easy as possible for you to stick to your budget by fitting your budget-keeping into your lifestyle." -Everything Finance

Revisiting your goals

"For the few that actually look at their goals again, it’s common to revisit them only at the end of the year. This is a crucial error.  As our circumstances may change day to day and month to month, so will our goals. A lot can change in twelve months, which is why I propose reviewing once a month, or at the very least every three months.

Revisiting also keeps our desires relevant.  It’s helps us remember that we even have them.  Ideas aren’t enough, we must execute.

As the great Thomas Edison said, 'Vision without execution is hallucination.' " -Jiu-Jitsu Finance

Increasing your income

"After you have lowered your expenses, it is time to bring in more income. There are many ways to bring in more income especially during the holiday season. Maybe your full-time gig will let you work extra hours for overtime. In addition, retail stores typically hire for the holiday season. That part time holiday gig could turn into a longer gig...

Retail jobs aren't the only part-time jobs available. There are plenty of other side hustles you can pick up right at home to make extra money like: Freelance Writing, Virtual Assistant, Social Media Management." -Financially Fit & Fab

Turn on your automatic savings

"Another no-hassle way to save is by setting up an automatic transfer to your savings account. By automating your transfer, you're making sure that you don't forget or pay your savings last–and as a bonus–automating your savings means you never "see" that money and subsequently makes it sting a little less.

Two new apps that I am loving lately are Digit (which has a cult following). It automatically transfers money from your checking account you won't miss. I also love Qapital, which has rules you can set to "save the change" from your purchases. I saved over $75 my first month of Qapital, which was really astonishing to me. Click here to give it a try." -Financial Best Life

Develop the habit to spend with cash than card

"To spend with cash is also an actionable way to get out of debt. According to the research on peoples spending with credit cards; it was revealed that those who shop with credit card are impelled to spend more on luxury items because they feel they are paying with “play or fun money”. In other words, people who shop with credit card spends more than required.

Evidently, finance advisors hold a strong stand on this. They strongly advise that people who are working on eliminating their debt should cultivate the habit of spending cash, to avoid being tempted to spend on irrelevant items." -MoneyMiniBlog

Leave your wallet in the car when shopping
"This trick is simple but impactful. When doing any kind of shopping, use cash, and only take the amount of money you want to spend in the store with you. Leave all other cash, credit cards, and debit cards in the car.

This is very powerful, especially when grocery shopping. In addition to the amount you plan to spend, you can consider bringing in a small cushion of a few dollars (in case there are hiccups at the register). You will shop (and spend) completely differently when you only have a hundred dollar bill with you versus a hundred dollar bill and your debit and credit cards.

Don’t give yourself a way to spend more money than you want to — and you won’t." -Hope + Cents

Start and maintain an emergency fund

"There is no fixed formula for how much you should have in an emergency fund. Some school of thoughts say 6 months’ worth is sufficient, some say a year’s worth. Everyone’s situation is different and as such, each strategy should differ. To start however, I would suggest understanding your spending habits, and then implementing a 3-6-9 guideline.

3 Months: If you are single without kids, renting, no car, partially dependent on parents for income or any combination of these factors, start off with a target of 3 months’ worth of expenses for a rainy-day fund.

6 Months: Married, kids under 18, own a house or condo, own at least one car, or any of these combined, the base target should be 6 months’ worth of expenses (if married, base it off the income of the highest earner).

9 months: Self-employed, freelancers, anyone with a volatile job or unpredictable paycheck, 9 months’ worth should be the benchmark." -Investment Conversations

How students should avoid the debt trap
"The easiest way to prevent yourself from falling into the debt-trap is by living within or below your means (that is, not overspending). In addition, it is necessary to do research before getting credit cards (or signing any contract to take on loan/ debt) so that you really understand how it works. As a student, you must learn to treat your credit card with respect.-Investment Conversations
Build a budget and stick to it
"There are many free apps available to help you track expenses, but I always prefer using my own spreadsheets. That enables me to have the most control over what I’m doing. I understand that being able to access your spreadsheet on your phone makes tracking significantly easier, which is why I prefer Google Sheets over Excel. You can download the Google Sheets app and pull up your expense tracker wherever you are to input a transaction or monitor your spending. By combining the expense tracker as separate tabs within the same spreadsheet as the bill tracker, you can have all your finances in one easy-to-access location." -The Budget Boy
Create an automatic savings account for travel.
"Here's how this automated system specifically works for you and your travel fund. Once it's set up, it goes like this:

-Your checking account receives income.

-The next day, your checking account automatically transfers money to a separate (different bank) savings account—aka your travel fund.

-Transfers repeat every month.

-You end up with a big, fat travel fund to see the world." -Take Your Success

Know your interest rates and then lower them
Know Your Interest Rates
If you have anything that you are making payments on every month, you need to know how much interest you're paying. Make sure you know these numbers, too. Ideally, you'll want to pay debts down that have a higher interest rate first. However, there is another school of thought out there that suggests paying the bill with the lowest balance first. I'd say either way is fine as long as you're making progress and as long as the higher interest rate stuff isn't astronomical.

Action: Look at your statements or call the companies to get your current interest rates on all monthly obligations.

Negotiate Lower Interest Rates
If, by chance, you ARE paying astronomical interest rates on any of your liabilities, call and try to negotiate a lower rate. Oftentimes, if you've demonstrated a history of paying on time, the company will work with you to reduce your rate. The only trick is, you have to ask.

Action: Know your numbers and call the companies to negotiate if you're paying high interest rates.
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