Like many recent college graduates, I had a tough time finding a job in today’s economic climate. The ability to deal with the frustration seems like it deserves a spot on your resume.
I often think about what I know now that would have made my search easier. There are a lot of nuances to the job market I did not understand until I started working for the Brett Fisher Group – nuances I wish had learned in the job search articles I read.
Below are my top four recommendations to supplement the advice you have received from other sources. Hopefully, these better frame the suggestions you have already seen.
1. You always hear that you should consider your long-term goals in finding a position – one reason is that it is too easy to get stuck in a career track.
I have looked at hundreds of resumes, and Brett has seen countless more. We know that the resumes that catch employers’ attention show progressive movement in a single field.
This will not surprise candidates who constantly see a requirement for two or more years of experience in a field. What people might not realize right away is that, because most jobs these days require prior experience, workers tend to get pigeonholed in their fields and find it very difficult to make a major career change.
Many jobs have a natural progression into a higher position within that field – retail associates can become store managers, auditors can become audit managers, CEOs move to a company that pays them more, and so on. Making a complete career change means starting over, and it has become very challenging to get even an entry-level job with no relevant experience.
You do have to think ahead in your search. When looking into jobs, consider the career possibilities that stem from that choice. Find a way to learn about the trajectories that most interest you to make sure you choose a career path you will actually enjoy long-term.
2. Learn what is reasonable to expect in a salary negotiation – salary bumps are usually steps, not leaps.
Brett and I always discuss salary expectations with our candidates – we do not want to waste their time by presenting low-paying roles. However, some candidates’ expectations can be rather unrealistic. We have to talk them down from overly optimistic ideas of what they can make.
What we have found in the market is that employers will pay, on average, a 5-10% increase over an employed candidate’s current salary. If the candidate is unemployed, the employer will rarely pay more than their previous salary.
As with anything, these rules have exceptions. A candidate who is objectively underpaid could reasonably expect a larger jump in pay. On the other side, an objectively overpaid candidate may have trouble finding any employers willing to pay what they ask for.
Some of you may not know market rates for certain positions. You may be starting out in your career or moving to a completely new industry. Fortunately, there are always ways to find out the market rates: you can ask friends who are comfortable talking about pay at their companies or look on the web site Glassdoor. Use any resources you have available to you.
3. Add accomplishments to your resume, but make sure they mean something to hiring managers.
Your references are there to vouch for you – hiring managers can trust them to say how well you performed in your past jobs. If you fail to impress hiring managers early on, however, they will never call your references. You need to show accomplishments on your resume that will catch their attention right away.
Candidates often fail to convey how impressive their accomplishments actually are. Common phrases like “managed a team” and “provided excellent service” offer employers only a vague sense of what you have actually done and make you sound just like the five hundred other people applying for each job.
Lou Adler, a frequent LinkedIn contributor, recommends sharing accomplishments that are measurable. Numbers especially help. Instead of vague cliches, include measurable accomplishments, such as “increased store sales 15% over the previous year” or “managed a team of five and reduced time spent on closing the books by 20%.”
Employers like numbers because they are objective – numbers are numbers. It will also feel less like you are boasting: you are simply showing the actual results of your work.
4. Posting to a job board is very unlikely to land you that job. You have a much better chance if someone knows you, and that someone could be a recruiter.
Disclaimer: I work for a recruiting company, so keep in mind my professional biases.
Posting to a job board is hit-or-miss for several reasons. Screening software may reject your resume for not including the right keywords. Job descriptions often fail to fully explain and sell jobs to great candidates. Many companies give up on job boards – which often do not turn up great candidates – and turn to recruiters or other avenues of finding people.
Hiring managers prefer to hire candidates known by someone within the company. If a good employee can vouch for someone, that candidate becomes a more comfortable choice than the unknown quantity who applied to a job posting.
Networking or working with a recruiter can be helpful in that you gain a contact who can vouch for you. As the adapted adage goes, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” Make sure people know you and can vouch for you so that you have a leg up in your applications. If you find people who know you well and who are well placed in industries that interest you, you have a better chance of finding a role that is a good fit.
I hope that, with these insights, I am able to turn job search clichés into actionable information. The job-hunting process is tough, but now you have more knowledge at your disposal. Good luck in your search!