Let’s face it: Job-hunting sucks. With the unemployment rate for Latinos at 11%, chances are you, your partner or family member might be looking for work at some point, and will definitely become frustrated at the slim prospects. I know this firsthand, as I’ve had to look for work more times than I’d like to admit.
Since the recession first hit in 2008, I’ve been hired, fired, laid off, promoted, demoted, phased out, had contracts expire, or my services no longer required. Each time, it feels like a sucker punch to the gut. But for real, you just gotta dust off get back up again. And I say this not just as a public service announcement, but as a reminder to myself when those negative thoughts start to form ominous clouds overhead. Over the years, I’ve met with mentors, career coaches and HR people who have given me valuable advice on how to get noticed. So in addition to some of our expert career advice, I thought I’d share with my comrades a few helpful tips on navigating the 21st-century job hunt, straight from the trenches:
1. Create several versions of your resume. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all resume. And in this economy, the competition is cutthroat, with literally hundreds of applicants for one job opening. Depending on the position, you want to make sure your top-notch, polished resume touches on the majority of the job requirements listed in the job description. As annoying as this process is, most businesses only allow online applications, rendering the cover letter somewhat moot. Whether it’s an actual person or a resume-bot, someone or something is ticking off and tallying those basic touch points. So you need your resume to speak for itself without extra commentary.
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2. Prepare to jump through hoops. With the cattle call of applicants, hiring managers are overwhelmed, and they need ways to thin the herd quickly and easily. So, your first callback (or email) might come weeks, even months after you originally applied, and may not even be for an in-person interview. Phone interviews are becoming more and more common as a first step, as are additional assessment tests via email. Sometimes references are requested first. The process may be frustrating, but whatever you’re asked to do, be gracious about it and respond quickly. Any hesitation or resistance might automatically bump you out of the running.
3. Practice your “elevator speech. This is a professional statement about who you are, what you’ve accomplished and where you want to go—said in two minutes or less. Think about it: If you’re stuck in an elevator will Bill Gates for just a few floors, you don’t want to be tongue-tied or start with an uncomfortable, “Um, Well…” When opportunity knocks, you need to be prepared to take it. Write down your statement. Memorize it forward and backward. Practice your speech in the mirror. Project confidence in your voice. This will also help you give “good phone” for any phone interviews.
4. Network online. If you’ve put off creating a LinkedIn account, you are literally letting all types of job opportunities pass you by. LinkedIn is really how businesses find qualified people nowadays. Personal yet professional, LinkedIn is a network of anyone you’ve ever worked with, done business with or gone to college with. Hiring managers will check for you on LinkedIn first, even before Google. Job postings are listed here, as are requests for part-time or freelance work. Subscribing to Professional Groups can also expand your network exponentially. On LinkedIn, you can afford to cast your net wide, and connect with all kinds of past colleagues and supervisors, even if you don’t like them personally. You never know who might be able to help you. And there’s nothing better than having a personal “in” at a company to which you are applying. Having someone vouch for you can move your resume to the top of the pile.
5. Network offline. Try not to just hide behind your computer scanning the want ads or Monster in your PJs. Whether you’re employed or not, find ways to network within your industry. Is there a group that has a get-together once a month? Is there a local alumni chapter of your alma mater? Be sure to have personal business cards to hand out that have your cel phone, email and LinkedIn profile. There are inexpensive options that are also classy. (Check out MOO) And at least once every two weeks, grab a cup of coffee with a former colleague or friend who understands your industry. Not only is the facetime valuable, but the socialization helps you feel less isolated and loserish. (And forces you to take a shower!)
6. Say gracias. Your mami taught you manners for a reason: It still pays to be polite, especially when it comes to any potential employer or client. Of course, hand-written notes offer a special touch, but in this dog-eat-dog, high-speed, dialed-in world, a quick email to the people with whom you meet within a 24- to 48-hour period shows that you’re enthusiastic and keeps your name top-of-mind.
We are all works in progress. No matter where you are in your career path or job search, whether you’re already employed or reentering the workforce, preparing yourself for the job hunt with these professional exercises can help. The main thing is to remain positive and confident, two qualities that all companies look for in an employee. So, from one job seeker to another, echamos pa’lante!
Are you also in the trenches? Share your job-hunting tips in the comments below: