How to Get a Job
Whether you're looking for your very first job, switching careers, or re-entering the job market after an extended absence, finding a job requires two main tasks: understanding yourself and understanding the job market.
Presuming you've already chosen a career and are currently searching for jobs, here are several ways to actually get a job.
Part 1 of 4: Build your Qualifications
1. Revise your resume
Before you start job hunting, make sure that your resume is as complete and up-to-date as possible. Your resume is an important distillation of who you are, where you come from, and what you can offer. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Be honest. Never lie on your resume; it will come back to haunt you later.
- Use active verbs. When describing what you did at your last job, make the sentence as tight and active as possible. For instance, instead of saying "Served as patient contact for getting bills and contacting insurance," say "Liaised with patients and insurance companies, and managed financial transactions."
- Proofread. Review your resume several times for grammatical or spelling errors. Even something as simple as a typo could negatively impact your ability to land an interview, so pay close attention to what you've left on the page. Have one or two other people look at it as well.
- Keep the formatting clean. How your resume looks is almost as important as how it reads. Use a simple, classic font (such as Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica), black ink on white paper, and sufficiently wide margins (about 1" on each side). Use bold or italic lettering sparingly if at all, and ensure your name and contact information are prominently displayed.
2. Develop your personal elevator pitch.
Many structured interviews, particularly those at large companies, start with a question like "Tell me about yourself." The interviewer doesn't really want you to go back to grade school and talk about your childhood. This is a specific question with a right answer: in two minutes or so, the interviewer wants to get you to relax and loosen out your vocal cords, understand your background, your accomplishments, why you want to work at XYZ company and what your future goals are.
- Keep it short — between 30 seconds and two minutes — and have the basics of it memorized so that you don't stammer when you're asked to describe yourself. You don't want to sound like robot, either, so get the skeleton of it down, and learn to improvise the rest depending on who you're talking to. Practice your elevator pitch out loud on someone who can give you feedback.
- An elevator pitch is also useful for when you're simply networking, at a cocktail party or with a group of strangers who want to get to know you a little bit more. In a networking situation, as opposed to a job interview, keep the elevator pitch to 30 seconds or less.
3. Make a list of work-related skills you'd like to learn.
Your employer will be interested in hearing about how you intend to become a better employee. Think about which skills will make you more competent in the position you're applying for. Find some books and upcoming conferences that would significantly improve your abilities. In an interview, tell the employer what you're reading and learning, and that you'd like to continue doing so. Here is a list of some of the most important job skills, wanted by employers, that a job-seeker must have to be sure of landing a good job and just as importantly, keeping it.
- Logical thinking and information handling: Most businesses regard the ability to handle and organize information to produce effective solutions as one of the top skills they want. They value the ability to make sensible solutions regarding a spending proposal or an internal activity.
- Technological ability: Most job openings will require people who are IT or computer literate or know how to operate different machines and office equipment, whether it's a PC or multi-function copier and scanner. This doesn't mean that employers need people who are technology graduates — knowing the basic principles of using current technology is sufficient.
- Communicating effectively: Employers tend to value and hire people who are able to express their thoughts efficiently through verbal and written communication. People who land a good job easily are usually those who are adept in speaking and writing.
- Strong interpersonal skills: Because the working environment consists of various kinds of personalities and people with different backgrounds, it is essential to possess the skill of communicating and working with people from different walks of life.
Part 2 of 4: Do Your Homework
1. Prepare for a behavioral interview.
You might be asked to describe problems you've encountered in the past and how you handled them, or you'll be given a hypothetical situation and asked what you would do. They'll basically want to know how you'll perform when faced with obstacles in the position you're interviewing for. Be able to give honest, detailed examples from your past, even if the question is hypothetical (e.g. "I would contact the customer directly, based on my past experience in a different situation in which the customer was very pleased to receive a phone call from the supervisor"). You might find yourself listing facts — if so, remember that in this kind of interview, you need to tell a story. Some questions you might be asked are:
- "Describe a time you had to work with someone you didn't like."
- "Tell me about a time when you had to stick by a decision you had made, even though it made you very unpopular."
- "Give us an example of something particularly innovative that you have done that made a difference in the workplace."
- "How would you handle an employee who's consistently late?"
2. Research the company.
Don't just do an Internet search, memorize their mission, and be done with it. Remember that you're competing with lots of other candidates for a single position. You may not be able to change your natural intelligence, or the skills that you come to the job with, but you can always change your work ethic. Work harder than everyone else by researching the company or companies you wish to work for like your life depended on it.
- If it's a retail company, visit a few of their stores, observe the customers, and even strike up a few conversations. Talk to existing employees — ask them what it's like working there, how long the position has been open, and what you can do to increase your chances of getting it. Become familiar with the history of the company. Who started it? Where? Who runs it now? Be creative!
Part 3 of 4: Pound the Pavement
1. Do informational interviews
An informational interview is when you invite a contact or a professional out to lunch or coffee, and ask them questions without the expectation of getting a job. Informational interviews are a great way to network, expand your list of contacts, and find out tips and tricks from professionals who are on the ground.
- Have lots of questions prepared — "What's a normal day like for you?" "What are the advantages of your job?" "What might you have done differently?" are all great — but be mindful of their time.
- When the interview is done, ask them politely for three different contacts who you could speak to. If you impress them enough, they could even hire you or refer you to someone who could hire you.
The best companies to work for tend to rely heavily on employee referrals. Make a list of all of your friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Contact them one by one and ask them if they know of any openings for which they could recommend you. Don't be too humble or apologetic. Tell them what you're looking for, but let them know you're flexible and open to suggestions. This is not the time to be picky about jobs; a connection can get your foot in the door, and you can negotiate pay or switch positions once you've gained experience and established your reputation.
- Touch base with all of your references. The purpose of this is twofold. You can ask them for leads, and you'll also be refreshing their memory of you. (Hopefully their memories of you are good ones, or else you shouldn't be listing them as references.) If a potential employer calls them, they won't hesitate as much when remembering you.
- Keep in mind that, as with dating, "weak" personal connections are the best way to find a new job because they expand your network beyond options you're already aware of. You probably know all about your sister's company, and you know that if they were hiring she would tell you; but what about your sister's friend's company? Don't be afraid to ask the friend of a friend or another slightly removed acquaintance for recommendations during your job search.
If you aren't already, start volunteering for an organization that focuses on something you're passionate about. You may start out doing boring or easy work, but as you stick around and demonstrate your commitment, you'll be given more responsibilities. Not only will you be helping others, but you'll also be gaining references. Emphasize your volunteer experience on your resume, as companies that treat their employees well tend to favor candidates who help the community somehow.
- Internships may fall into this category. An internship is a great way to get your foot in the door, as many companies prefer to hire from within. Even if you're far removed from your twenties or your college days, the willingness to work for little or no money shows companies that you're serious about putting in the work, learning the skills, and getting ahead.
- Believe it or not, volunteer positions and internships can lead to jobs. In today's economy, many companies are turning to internships as a cost-effective way to vet potential future employees. This is because many companies simply don't have the money or resources to take a stab in the dark and offer a job to someone who isn't tested. If you put in hard work, demonstrate your ability to solve problems, and keep your chin up, your value to the company might be too big for them to pass up on.
4. Cold call
Locate a specific person who can help you (usually the human resources or hiring manager at a company or organization you're interested in). Call that person and ask if they are hiring, but do not become discouraged if they are not. Ask what kind of qualifications they look for or if they have apprentice or government-sponsored work programs. Ask if you can send your resume indicating what field you want to go into. Indicate whether you would accept a lesser job and work up.
- Reflect after each phone call on what went well and what did not. Consider writing out some standard answers on your list of skills so you can speak fluently. You may need to get some additional training to break into your chosen field. None of this means you cannot get a good job, only that you need to become further prepared to do so.
- Visit the company or business in person. There's a saying among employers: "People don't hire resumes; people hire people." Don't underestimate the value of personal relationships. Go to the company or business where you think you might want to work, bring your resume, and ask to speak to the Human Resources manager about job opportunities. If you make an excellent personal impression on the HR manager, you've done your job: s/he will have connected your face to a resume, and will have a much better idea of your natural intelligence, your persistence, and your likability. People don't always hire the person best suited for the job; people often hire the person they like the best.
Part 4 of 4: Tweak Your Mentality
1. Change your attitude
There's a difference between making phone calls and going to interviews thinking "I'm looking for a job" versus "I'm here to do the work you need to have done".
When you're looking to get a job, you're expecting someone to give something to you, so you focus on impressing them. Yes, it's important to make a good impression, but it's even more important to demonstrate your desire and ability to help. Everything that you write and say should be preceded silently by the statement "This is how I can help your business succeed."
2. Settle down
If you've moved around a lot, be prepared to offer a good reason for it. Otherwise, you'll need to make a good case for why you want to stick around in the area where the job is located. A company doesn't want to hire someone with wanderlust who still wants to relocate.
- Be prepared to outline why you are where you are today, how long you intend to stay there, and why. Give specific reasons like, "This country has the best school systems in the entire continent, and I have a daughter who might find the cure for cancer" or "I was drawn to this area because it's at the cutting edge of innovation for this business and I want to be a part of that." The more details, names, and specifics, the better.
3. Fit the job to the skills rather than the other way around
Many people search for jobs, then try to see how they can tweak the way they present their own skills and experiences to fit the job description. Instead, try something different. Instead of this top-down approach, start from the bottom up.
- Make a list of all of your skills, determine which kinds of businesses and industries need them most (ask around for advice if you need to) and find businesses that will benefit from having you and your skills around. You might find that you get more satisfaction and enjoyment out of a career that wasn't even on your radar to begin with.
- It's important the nature of the job fits your personality and salary requirements, otherwise you'll have spent a significant amount of time to find a day job you dread getting up for every morning. So be realistic about what you expect, but be open to what you explore.
- Be mindful of your social media profile online. It's not uncommon for employers to check Facebook pages and other forms of social media, so keep it clean.
- Dress for success! When you go to a job interview, dress like it is your first day at the job. Dress appropriately to create the right impression during an interview.
- The surest way to obtain employment is to stop complaining about no work, get off the couch and go knock on doors with resume in hand. If you do that all day, every day, you will then be choosing which job you are willing to take. This tactic is independent of any economic times. They don't call them go-getters for nothing. Anything less than that and you're hoping someone feels sorry for you.
- Specify your resume to a specific job offering: Remove items which are less specific to the talents the job calls for.
- Treat your search as a full-time exercise: the job of getting a job. You are employed by yourself as a sales person/marketing person selling the product you.
- Be confident, be sure.
- Your resume (or 'CV') represents you, work hard to prepare it. You never know if even a small project you did during college or related modules/subjects you studied could give you an edge over your competitors.
- Be prepared for tough questions like "What are your wage expectations?or "Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?". These questions can leave dead air spots in interviews and potential employers can see how quickly, or not, you can be with personal thoughts.