Job searches aren’t just for recent graduates.
I didn’t graduate yesterday; however, I’ve scanned job boards and crafted tedious cover letters more frequently within the last decade than I care to admit. Many millennials and non-millennials find themselves turning again and again to the job search for a variety of reasons, even while they’re more or less gainfully employed.
Unemployment rates may be hovering just below 4% in America right now, but this percentage doesn’t really say anything about the emotional challenge of trying to wrangle out of unemployment. It’s easy to forget your own power when trying to sell yourself in applications.
If you’re looking for your next job, pondering a career transition, or eyeing your first period of gainful employment with wary eyes, I have some words for you. It is possible to feel empowered as you search for employment, no matter how long that search lasts.
Gather the right tools.
It’s vital to approach the job search as you would, well, a job itself. Most jobs require a certain set of tools for completion (a hammer and a wrench, a computer, a headset). The job hunt isn’t excepted from this!
In the past, job hunts have often involved a hefty amount of anxiety; I write cover letters in surges of confidence and despair. Accordingly, my “job search tools” include strategies for managing this anxiety. One tool in my toolkit involves making myself as comfortable as possible while applying.
I brew a cup of my favorite tea, munch on some vegan brownies, put on my thick wool socks. Before I plunge into a resume revision or job board, I try some deep breathing. I set Spotify to a station that empowers or calms, whichever I need.
Beyond this, there are other tools worth adding to your arsenal: a proper computer, most likely, with document formatting capabilities. For a while I was banging away at a Chromebook until I got lost in my endless pages of Google Docs. The tint of the screen also provoked headaches, compelling my valuable purchase of blue light reduction glasses.
Know what platforms are available when it comes to postings, too. Try to look beyond Monster and Indeed, the go-tos for millennials. Browse postings on industry-specific sites or check out government positions at USA Jobs, for example. Some college alumni networks have job boards that cater to graduates.
Yes, a shiny resume should be part of your toolkit, as well as knowledge about crafting a great cover letter. Make sure your resume is in fine order before you send it out to potential employers and do some research on cover letter writing tips before writing To Whom It May Concern.
Bring along your community (i.e., network).
You may feel alone as you fire off resumes, but you aren’t. (Remember that 4% unemployment rate statistic?) Chances are, someone else in your community is reaching for a new position.
Bring your community with you on your job search. This may mean using social media to find compatriots. Drop by an employment agency in your town. Locate local professionals in your dream industry via LinkedIn and aim to connect with them in person.
You can still network as you apply for jobs. In fact, this is an essential component of the job hunt that goes in tandem with staring at your computer screen.
Let your family, friends, and past colleagues know about your job search. Remember: it is not shameful to be looking for a job! This is a stigma that society unfortunately perpetuates. Your connections may be able to put feelers out or chat with friends who know someone in need of a strong employee.
Recognize all of your skills and your standards.
Sometimes you may be pigeon-holing yourself into a certain industry without even realizing it. I’ve definitely been guilty of this in the past.
Take some time to assess all of the skills you bring to the table. Think outside the box here as much as possible, and try to disassociate skills from careers. This is a valuable strategy, as some skills are applicable to multiple industries.
It’s possible, for example, to get certified as a professional coder without a formal degree in coding. If you were an English major like myself, you’re not eligible solely for teaching and writing positions (you may be eligible for design, management, translation, and even biomedical positions!).
In addition to your skills, recognize your standards. We’ve all heard about “settling” for a job as a gateway position. While sometimes these are unavoidable, it can be disempowering to take a position you know you’ll truly hate or one that undervalues you. It’s okay to set standards for employment, even if it means extending the job search.
I’ve bounced in and out of the service industry, for example, out of sheer need. But once I realized how my time within this industry kept me from using some of my most vital skills–and also compromised my mental health–I knew I couldn’t go back, even out of grueling necessity.
Recognizing your own value as a prospective employee–truly determining your employment needs and the bounty you have to offer–can simultaneously hone and empower your job search.
Consider professional development.
Sometimes an additional degree or certification can give you the boost you need in the application process, although it is possible to jump into an industry with little to no experience. Professional development can give that extra dose of confidence you need to pursue a career that is beckoning.
Professional development does not have to mean “going back to school.” It’s possible to register for a local college’s non-degree program, for example, or acquire a technical certification of some kind. You can even take an online class.
You may also wish to reach out to individuals who currently have your dream job and ask them what they would recommend you pursue in order to qualify for similar positions.
Meet disappointment with fervor.
This can be the hardest aspect of job searching. I spent months receiving little to no response from applications, and I questioned my ability to become a component of the U.S. workforce. I received rejections with many a tear and many a scowl.
Do your best to meet these rejections with the same fervor you instill in your applications themselves. Thank employers who send rejections (some don’t even bother to do this), even if it hurts. Better yet, ask employers who have rejected you what they would recommend for a stronger application.
Recognize that a rejection merely indicates that that door was not the one to open to your greatest potential. After all, a wise person once said, “We arrive at our YES through a series of NOs.”