We’ve all been there: Your previous job didn’t work out, and now you’re on the treadmill: job boards, networking events, and stalking LinkedIn. While you may already know how to update your resume and start putting out feelers, what are the best action steps beyond that? Here are seven to-dos that can make you more marketable and get you back to work, stat!
1. Perfect your own PR
Every job seeker needs to be ready with their “why,” says Mark Anthony Dyson, career coach, and founder of Voice of Job Seekers. Why do you want the job? Why did you enter this field? Why should we hire you? In other words, you need to be able to tell your story in a compelling way, and in the process reveal something about your passions and the motivations that have moved your career to date. “If you're uncomfortable owning your own story, you'll find it hard to be competitive no matter how many jobs are available,” Dyson says. “We know most employers are looking to disqualify before they qualify, and this is really going to set you apart from the competition.”
2. Deepen a small network of trusted and valuable people
While traditional networking advice focuses on meeting as many people as you can, it’s the people with whom we have the deepest connections who often turn us on to our next career opportunity, Dyson says. While these individuals might not be close friends, they’re people you know well enough to ask for a meeting. “You should look to keep up with 10-15 people through personal messages, phone calls, and lunch dates,” Dyson says. “These are connections who might be able to provide you with intel you normally wouldn’t see in updates online. This smaller circle will be glad to connect you more directly to meaningful opportunities.”
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3. Use that network to stay fresh on your industry
Networking plays a powerful role in your search not because of who you’re meeting but because of what you’re learning about your industry, explains Penny Locey, Vice President of employment agency Keystone Associates. If you’ve been at one company or in one role for a long period of time, you may have lost touch with industry news or terminology, and you may sound out of date. For instance, in the human resources world, what used to be called “staffing” or “recruiting” is now referred to as “talent acquisition,” Locey says, and that’s exactly the kind of thing you’d need to know if you were seeking a position in the HR field. When you’re up on the new terms and goings on, it shows you’re connected to your industry and that you’re curious.
4. Get a new certification or learn a new skill
If you’re concerned that your skills may have become obsolete, or if there is a certification in your field that’s desirable, now is a great time to add it to your repertoire, Locey says. “Between free courseware and online colleges, you can often find inexpensive ways to gain the skills. Showing the course or certification on your resume and LinkedIn profile can help get you a screening interview because it may allow electronic screening tools to find you,” she explains. And while these trainings won’t always replace on-the-job experience, taking courses can show ambition, and some certifications can even help place people into new positions they might not have considered previously.
5. Help a friend with their side gig
Whether it’s managing social media for a friend’s bar or helping your brother plan networking events for his nonprofit, working (or even volunteering) for someone you know can be a great way to add value to your resume while you’re looking for a full-time position, explains Vicki Salemi, Career expert for job board Monster.com. “This not only helps you stay active, but it may provide you with a few more skills to add to your repertoire. Especially when a hiring manager asks what you’ve been doing since your last job, then you won’t need to concoct an answer that’s an alternative to ‘binging on Netflix.’”
6. Go for an interview — even if no job is available
Not sure where to start with this one? Just call or email the HR department of the company you’re interested in working for and ask if they’d be willing to have you in for an interview, says Paul Solomon, CEO of executive placement firm Solo Management. You may need to explain that while you understand that there aren’t any positions available right now, you’re interested in learning more about the company and you want to be top of mind should any openings arise. “Also explain what you think you could bring to the company in terms of value,” Solomon says. “There’s no better way to introduce yourself to someone than to be in front of them and tell them about your experience, work ethic and value first hand.”
7. Volunteer — at a company where you might want to work
Volunteer opportunities can be found online or through people you know, but finding one via your network may be the best course of action, as most companies have needs that aren’t public, says Matt Burns, US Head of customer support for team management software platform Monday. Even the act of inquiring about volunteer opportunities can reflect favorably on you. “You can show hiring managers that you’re proactive and don’t wait for ideal scenarios to present themselves.”
Plus, when you volunteer at a company where you might want to work, you’re not just gaining experience, you’re discovering whether or not you share a company’s core values, Dyson explains. “Applying through job boards rarely provides insight into a company’s belief system, but when you volunteer, you can explore their values firsthand.” If you go this route, be careful that you aren’t taken advantage of — remember that you can volunteer for as little as 3-5 hours per week, and you can specify up front if you expect something in return. “You can trade for a reference or a LinkedIn recommendation, making it worthwhile for both parties,” Dyson says.
With Kathryn Tuggle
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