A number of things have happened in the past year that led me to think about being prepared for a job search. In addition to fears created by a difficult economy, I’ve had friends who lost their jobs and asked for my help in finding new employment. The following suggestions were born out of many years of frontline management where I’ve interviewed, hired, and fired a lot of people.
First, be aware that hiring managers these days are conducting searches differently than in the past. You still need a resume, but you’ll probably never need to print it out. In addition to a resume, you’ll want a professional online presence that allows a hiring manager to “look” at you without necessarily contacting you. That means it will need to sell you on its own. So, here’s a list of things I would suggest you do. . .
Create a permanent, personal email account if you don’t already have one. I call it “permanent” because this will be an email account you use for the rest of your life regardless of where you work. It’s “personal” in the sense that it’s YOURS and can be used for anything you wish. But don’t pick a name that’s so “personal” that it’s not professional. Choose a name you can live with the rest of your life. A GMAIL account at Google.com is probably one of the best places to do this. It’s free.
Update your resume. Get several others to proof it. Then proof it again and again. Once it’s ready, save it as a pdf so you can send it to people. A pdf is preferable because you can control how it will look when it’s printed and be relatively confident the content won’t be changed or edited by anyone. Update your resume when anything changes.
Ask for several people to write a letter of recommendation for you. Start with current and former supervisors. These probably are the most important. A pastor or a professional who can provide a character reference is also helpful. Ask co-workers who will say what a “wonderful person” you are to work with. If you have supervised people, ask one or two people who reported to you. Friends are good as well, but won’t carry as much weight as supervisors and co-workers. In each case, ask the person if you can use the letter in whole and IN PART because you may want to excerpt isolated phrases to use on a web site or reference summary.
Of those who write a letter for you, select 4 or 5 to list as references on your resume. Your most recent supervisor is probably the most important. Then include former supervisors, one or more character references, and friends.
Create an online presence using either LinkedIn or Plaxo or both. Keep it professional. Do the same with Facebook and/or MySpace. Now, be aware that most hiring managers are savvy enough to “Google” potential employees. If you have stupid or embarrassing photos or comments about you on the web, they may find them. If you’re not careful, your “online presence” may reveal more about you than you really want. Create professional online profiles that will allow a potential employer to get to know you. This is your best place to sell yourself. If you have lots of goofy friends who may be writing embarrassing things about you or themselves, tell them you may need to “defriend” them for a while. They need to understand that THIS IS YOUR ONLINE RESUME. KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL, CLEAN, AND ATTRACTIVE!!!!
A nice photo is important. I realize that, traditionally, you don’t include a photo on a resume, but times are changing and it DOES help for someone to see you smiling in a photo. It helps create a positive first impression and that’s important.
Determine that all communication will be the best you can make it. Proof, proof, and reproof. Mistakes in emails or on your resume create a really bad impression and are inexcusable. Get friends to read stuff for you before you send it out. Discipline yourself to make even personal communication the best you can make it. Texting is creating a world of abbreviated and truncated verbal communication. That world needs to be kept separate from normal communication like email. DON’T WRITE IN ALL CAPS. don’t write in all lower case. Use correct punctuation. Check spelling. The way you communicate can create an important impression and you want it to be a good one.
Once you’ve got a nice resume, an online presence, and the determination to present yourself well, then start networking. Ask friends, family members, co-workers, teachers, employers, and anyone else who will help to watch for job opportunities and pass along your resume. Remind them every month or so that you’re still looking. Don’t be annoying, but a quick email (with your resume attached) reminding them you’re out there is appropriate.
Be aggressive in your search. Find several job search web sites and check them regularly for possibilities. Be proactive and persistent in contacting potential employers. Use email (with your resume attached) and include links to your online profiles. Faxing a resume can be good because it places something physical on an employer’s desk, but don’t rely on faxing alone. Faxing alone suggests that you’re living in an earlier century. Some employers and Human Resource departments may not want you to use email, but make them tell you that, then respect their wishes.
If an employer will communicate with you at all, that’s a good sign, but it may not mean much. Ask for an interview, even if they’re not hiring. It never hurts to get acquainted and a face to face interview will make you stand out above candidates who have only a resume or application to represent them.
Times have changed in how you present yourself to possible employers. Email and the Internet make it easier to provide a more comprehensive picture of who you are. Use them. What hasn’t changed is that first impressions are still important impressions. Work at creating a great one!