When I was 16, my parents told me to get a job.
I had not a clue about how to do that.
There was no internet then so I couldn’t look up how to get a job. I suppose I could have asked the school Guidance Counselor but it didn’t occur to me to ask grownups how to do anything. I certainly didn’t ask my parents. They seemed to assume I knew what to do.
So I did what most teenagers do – asked my friends. As clueless as I was, they were of little help. I ended up applying for and getting a job at McDonald’s. I’m glad I worked there, and yet I wish someone had given me a piece of paper that outlined the process of looking for a job that would perhaps have ended up with me doing something a bit less odiferous. I smelled like hamburgers for the next 2 years.
Here is that list, based on my experience and vantage point as a job seeker, job finder, recruiter, employer, and coach to job seekers.
- Decide what you are willing and able to do, based on what you have done for work, volunteering, at home, for relatives; what you like doing and find yourself always doing no matter what (e.g. organizing things and people, or writing and editing); and what you have been told or know you do well.
- Establish a reasonable salary range, based in part on the market, but mostly on what you can live with (covers expenses and you won’t be insulted) and what you’d ideally like. For under $100,000, a $10,000 range is best (e.g. $60-70,000). For under $50K, use a $5K range (e.g. $35-40,000). For over $100,000, a $15-20K range is usually understandable.
- Come up with a short statement that answers the question “what are you looking for?”
- Prepare a resume that showcases the results you have had and the impact you have made in your previous/current jobs and volunteer work. Use a format that is easy to read and geared to Applicant Tracking Systems.
- Proofread your resume. Then proofread it again. Typos get resumes thrown out without regard to your qualifications.
- Ask trusted people who know about work to look at your resume and to tell you if it positions you to get the work you want.
- Identify one or two samples of your writing, design, art work, budget or other work product that you can send with an application if necessary.
- Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Use email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, G+, in-person conversation, parties, etc. Leave no stone unturned! It takes a while to find something, and the more people who know you are looking for a specific kind of work, the faster it will go. Be bold! Ask people for help that you’re nervous to ask.
- Put together a list of references. If you’re recently out of school, you can use professors. You should always have at least one supervisor. Co-workers can be a reference, as can a consultant or vendor who worked with you extensively.
- Keep copies of your resume handy to give to someone. You can also point them to a LinkedIn profile, or to a website you create with your resume. A Google profile can work, too. (Get a Gmail account to have access to all Google provides.)
- Check out the many sites that offer great career and job search advice, starting with careerealism.com and Alison Doyle’s excellent advice on about.com.
- Look at job posting websites to find out what kind of jobs are out there for someone with your qualifications and experience.
- Once you find a job or jobs that interest you, draft a targeted cover letter that tells the employer why you want to work for them specifically and how you will meet their needs based on your past success. Use the company name and position title at least twice in the letter. Put your contact information in your cover letter.
- Proofread your cover letter. Typos get applications thrown out without regard to your qualifications.
- Submit applications for jobs – resume and cover letter at least.
- Follow instructions! If the employer wants a writing sample, include that. If they want a Word document, send it that way. If you don’t follow instructions, your application will not be considered.
- Pull together an interview outfit. It needs to be professional-looking, comfortable, well-fitting, and seasonally appropriate. Remember shoes! You can wear the same outfit for every interview – unless you’re in the fashion industry in which case you need to find a couple outfits.
- Respond promptly to any request to do a phone or in-person interview. Make yourself available for interviews. If you’re offered times, choose one. Take an hour off work, find a quiet place, and just do it.
- Get a Skype account, in case you need to do a Skype interview. More and more people are using Skype as the compromise between a phone and in-person interview. Test it out with a friend or family member to make sure it works!
- Prepare for the interview by reading the job description again, visiting the company website or Facebook page, anticipating questions and coming up with answers, and having one to three questions of your own about the position and the company. DO NOT ask about pay or hours or anything self-interested.
- Remember employers care only about meeting their own needs.
- Be enthusiastic and confident to the best of your ability in the interview. Answer the questions. Be as specific as you can. If you don’t know the answer to a situational interview, at least show how you’d think about things.
- Bring a copy of your resume to the interview in case they don’t have one. Print it on white paper.
- Expect the unexpected: another person joins the interview, a question is asked that really throws you, the interviewer is in a bad mood, the interviewer forgets the appointment – it’s all happened. Take it in stride, be positive and gracious.
- Send a thank you note after the interview, reiterating your enthusiasm for the job. Send a thank you note to everyone in the interview process. Send a thank you note after EVERY interview you have.
- When asked, tell the interviewer you really are looking for the right fit job and are confident you can agree on compensation. When pressed, tell the interviewer the salary range you came up with earlier in the process.
- Expect the hiring process to take a long time. Weeks at least. Employers look for the right fit, and it takes time to schedule interviews, get feedback, make decisions. You are just one of the people being interviewed.
- Check with your references to make sure they will give you a positive reference, and to make sure they are expecting the call from a prospective employer.
- If you are offered the job, be enthusiastic! Say “thank you!” Reiterate how excited you are to join the organization and that you can’t wait to get started. Then you can talk start date and salary. For a mid-level or senior level job, you may be able to negotiate salary; certainly you can only negotiate if you are offered the job. If it’s an entry-level job, you probably won’t be able to. Re start date, ask when they absolutely need you and if you’re now working, say you need to give you employers at least 2 weeks notice. This is the time to budget some vacation time for yourself, also.
- Give your current employer the courtesy of asking how much time they need for you to finish up and transition your work. As a guide, use 2 weeks as minimum, 4 weeks as maximum. Entry-level may require less – a week. The more senior you are, the more notice you need to give to preserve the good will of the people who will probably serve as a reference for you.
I’m sure I’ve missed some critical step here, so please give me your comments and suggestions!