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Finding a job is a full-time pursuit, and it’s even harder when you’re just starting your career fresh out of college. But the keys to kickstarting your career are building a job search strategy, networking the right way along with mastering your online presence, application, and interview, experts say.
Sound intimidating? Five career experts break down 25 easy, digestible steps to supercharge your career search.
Master the job search
1. Make a list.
Look into the companies you admire and would like to work for, instead of just searching for open positions anywhere, according to Neely Raffellini, a career coach.
“Starting your search this way can help you narrow down the jobs you wish to apply to and makes your search that much more targeted,” Raffellini said.
2. Schedule it.
After you know where you want to apply, organize your application process and schedule when to submit your resume for each opening.
“Break it down into something more manageable by making a list of job searching tasks you must finish each day,” Raffellini said.
3. Use your network.
Sending out an application may not be enough to land that coveted job. Instead, consider if you know someone who can help you get a leg up. For instance, ask new or existing connections what events they have attended recently.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Raffellini said, “and never discount how someone may be able to assist.”
4. Be specific.
When talking to people in your network, be specific about what you want to know. For example, explain what you want to do, where you want to work and ask if that person has contact at the company you’re looking at.
“It’s much easier for someone to respond to a specific request than ‘can you help me find a job?’” Raffellini said.
5. Follow up.
Your job hunt isn’t over after you submit your application. It’s ok to check in with your potential employer one or two weeks after sending in your resume to get an update.
“Following up in a respectful, professional way ensures that you stay top of mind while continuing to express your interest in the position,” Raffellini said.
6. Start early.
Don't wait until you're actively job-searching to start networking. Connecting with the right people, organizing meetings, and developing relationships takes time, so the sooner you start the better.
“Start doing research and making connections in areas you're interested in three to six months before starting an active job search,” said career coach Erin Ewart.
7. Use all available resources.
Get the most out of your situation. If you’re still in college, take advantage of the school’s career tools, attend events for students and alumni, and look into any free career-coaching programs.
“Getting feedback on things like your networking strategy, your resume, and your interview skills is incredibly valuable,” Ewart said.
8. Get LinkedIn.
“LinkedIn is a great place to connect with mentors, current and former colleagues, and classmates,” Ewart said.
Find more connections with LinkedIn’s alumni tool that allows you to filter people by geography, industry, and current organization. This way, you can be more specific in your search and find the most appropriate connections for your needs.
9. Connect in real life.
While connecting with people online is a good start, make sure to meet them the old-fashioned way: face to face.
“Set up in-person informational meetings, attend networking events related to your target industry, and join professional groups,” Ewart said.
Volunteering for causes and organizations you’re interested in is another way to find the people who work there.
10. Give, don’t just take.
When networking, consider what you can bring to the table. For example, ask whether there's something you can do for the other person like saying you know other people looking for opportunities.
“One of the most powerful ways to build trust and relationships is to create value for others,” Ewart said.
Create your best online you
11. Focus on the future.
Make sure your online profile or portfolio has an introduction about you, according to Valerie Sutton, director of career services at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Keep the introduction brief, but don’t forget to include the skills you love to use and what your interest areas are.
“Your introduction should focus on your future career and not your past,” Sutton said.
Focus on skills that you want to use in the future and tie them to your interests.
12. Separate social from professional.
If you use a social media profile to connect with your professional network, don’t mix that with your social contacts. Use privacy settings, filters, and groups to manage the two networks and keep them separate.
“You may be friendly with professional contacts, but that does not mean you share all your social content with these professionals,” Sutton said.
13. Manage your social media.
Even if you’re not an influencer, managing your social media profiles can boost your chances of getting the job you want. Follow, share, comment, and post daily as well as focus your posts on your area of expertise and interest.
“Set times daily to review your feed and post content to stay relevant to your network,” Sutton said.
14. Create a portfolio.
Creating an online portfolio with your best achievements and products you developed could help you in the interview process.
“Once you have interviewed, you can send the hiring manager a link to your portfolio with more information about your work,” Sutton said.
A web search may not be enough to find the right job. Instead, research hashtags on Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms to explore companies and roles.
“Think of topics,” Sutton said.”Then, turn these topics into hashtags to learn more about how your interests intersect across education, organizations, and roles.”
Master the application
16. Find the recruiter’s name.
Sending generic applications to different employers won’t get you very far. If you want to make your application distinct, find out who the recruiter is and address them by name when you send in your application, according to Kaila Kea, a career coach.
“Since most job seekers won't take the time to do it, it helps you stand out as a candidate,” said Kea.
17. Don’t repeat your resume.
Your cover letter should provide richer details about how you’re the right match for the job. It shouldn’t just reiterate what your resume shows.
“Cite specific examples from your work history, highlight additional skills, and expand on important data that didn’t fit on your resume,” Kea said.
18. Focus on results.
Employers are looking for people who can achieve goals and produce results in a team environment. Show that you have done that in your resume and cover letter.
“If you were able to boost sales, secure new clients, or generate revenue in your last job, include it in your resume,” Kea said.
Be specific and don’t shy away from using numbers and percentages to illustrate your accomplishments.
19. Add keywords.
Analyze a company’s job posting to identify keywords that are repeated throughout. Include these in your resume and cover letter.
“Don't feel pressured to ‘stuff’ them where they don't fit,”Kea said. “But be mindful of recurring buzzwords in the job posting and try to incorporate them into your documents.”
20. Get a second opinion.
Ask a friend, colleague, or career coach to take a look at your resume and cover letter before applying for a job. They can identify easy-to-miss mistakes like typos and grammars, as well as point out what you might want to highlight more.
“Getting feedback from someone else can be the difference between getting a callback from employers and not hearing back at all,” Kea said.
Master the interview
Come up with responses ahead of time to classic interview questions like ‘Tell me about yourself’ and ‘Why are you the best candidate,” said career coach Maggie Mistal. Practice your responses the night before the interview.
“Go back to performance reviews, emails, LinkedIn recommendations, reference letters. See the great things people have said about you,” Mistal said. “Having this information for the interview will help prepare you for these challenging questions.”
22. Do your research.
Make sure you know the company you’re interviewing with. Learn more about your interviewers on LinkedIn, read the company’s website, and search for recent news stories about the company. Understand where the company operates, how many employees it has and who their main customers are.
“Check out the bios of those in charge, such as the CEO and other members of the leadership team,” Mistal said. “Look for commonalities you share.”
It’s also helpful to find contacts you and your interviewers both have in common and schedule informational interviews with them.
23. Master the video interview.
As video interviewing becomes more common, you need to pay attention to your home setting too. Record in a place that looks uncluttered, Mistal said, and where you won’t be interrupted. Do a warm-up call with a friend beforehand to test out your environment.
“Have a glass of water nearby in case you need a sip while talking,” Mistal said. “Wear a full interview outfit — including shoes. This will make you come across more confidently and professionally even if no one else can see.”
Even if you’ve prepared ahead of time, it’s still hard to show your true potential if you’re anxious. Getting your nerves under control is essential to a successful interview.
“Spend five minutes in a quiet place. It could be your car or even a corner in a coffee shop,” Mistal said. “Close your eyes [and] see yourself having a successful conversation with the interviewer.”
25. Say thank you.
As easy as it is, very few candidates take the time to write a thank-you note to the recruiter or interviewers. By sending one, you will stand out, Mistal said.
“The thank-you is also an opportunity to reiterate why you’re a great fit for the job,” she said, “and a chance to stay top of mind with the interviewer.”