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.
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!
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