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Job Search Strategies
by Ashley Cash
Now that you’ve crafted the perfect resume from our story last month, it’s time to put it into action — by finding the job that’s right for you. Everyone knows about websites like careerbuilder.com and monster.com, but there are several other places to look when searching for a job. Here are a few tips on what to do before searching, where to search, and how to put your best foot forward.
Before beginning your search, clean up your online image. Today’s world is very public, and potential hiring managers have access to your personal information like never before. While most won’t conduct a full investigation prior to hiring, some may do a quick search on LinkedIn or Facebook to quickly see your background. Take a precautionary step and go through your social media outlets — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. — and remove any pictures or comments that may cause someone to question your character. Ask close friends to remove questionable pictures of you and un-tag yourself in other posts and pictures if necessary.
While you’re on the job hunt, change the privacy status of your Facebook page to either friends-only or unsearchable. While toning down your personal social media presence, increase your professional one. Create or update your LinkedIn page. Find colleagues, past employers and professionals in your industry to connect with and join a few groups like Emerging Professionals of Portland or others relevant to your chosen field. Employers will check LinkedIn, so you want to put your best virtual foot forward.
Aside from the major search engines, there are several other places to look for jobs. Indeed.com and simplyhired.com are job search engines that compile job listings from websites, staffing firms, professional associations and company career pages. These may seem like a one-stop shop for job searches, but there are many less-frequented places to search with possibly less competition.
In Portland, visit OregonLive, Oregon’s online source for news and other information. Oregonlive.com has a link to local jobs, boasting over 700 open jobs. Other local job sites include macslist.org and pdxpipeline.com/jobs. Mac’s List offers a weekly newsletter to keep you informed about job and volunteer opportunities, along with other resources for networking and job hunting. PDX Pipeline posts open jobs throughout Portland weekly, in addition to local events. Craigslist has a job seekers section but always double-check the business and person you’re dealing with either online, through verified references, or LinkedIn. If you know where you want to work, go directly to that company’s website and look for job openings that may not be posted elsewhere.
There are a few specialty websites like idealist.org for people interested in working in the nonprofit sector, and planetizen.com or planning.org for those interested in community and urban planning. LinkedIn is a great source for employment opportunities. Through LinkedIn, you can search jobs by title, location and industry. Members of groups often share job opportunities, so get active and comment on professional articles and debates that are relevant to you.
Look at city and state websites for open opportunities, and scroll through the departments to find a contact person in your area of interest. Reach out and set up a meeting. They may not have a current opening, but many jobs are found through networking. They can also provide information on current job openings and possibly volunteer opportunities.
Jobs aren’t secured from your couch. You have to get out there, meet people and let them know you are interested. Join a local chapter of a professional association. Check out Portland Connect, a face-to-face networking group. Other common groups to look for are local associations of project managers, legal professionals, young teachers, etc. If you don’t quite know your niche, try pdxMindShare. They have events for young professionals to network and meet other like-minded people. At most of these meetings, individuals will share open job opportunities that may not be posted on a website. You’ll also have the chance to meet potential people in your desired field. You can try BNI Oregon, a weekly networking group that regularly exchanges business referrals.
Don’t forget the tried and true method of putting on a nice suit and walking into a place of potential employment. Although not as common as it once was, for small organizations and businesses, walk-ins may leave a lasting impression. Take advantage of your “pop-in.” Do a little research ahead of time to find out the person you should ask to see. Take a copy of your resume, and while there briefly talk about your passion and why you like what the company or organization is doing. Ask for a business card on the way out. Remember to keep your visit short, five to ten minutes. If the person you are talking to seems receptive, ask if you can schedule a lunch or coffee meeting to talk about the work they do and their company. These small steps can lead to either a job or a connection to a job.
Now that you have places to search for a job, let’s talk about making your search and application efficient. After applying to your first two “real” jobs, you will find that applying for a job is much more time-consuming than it seems. You want to put together a quality resume and cover letter that’s specific to the job you’re applying for, but customizing resumes and completing online applications can be lengthy processes. To reduce the time it takes to apply for a job online, you need a few things. If the jobs you apply for are in the same field, you can use the same basic cover letter. The letter should highlight skills and major accomplishments. Within every cover letter, add a line that shows you understand the agency’s mission and goals and how you can contribute to the team. A quick internet search should reveal the hiring manager at the company where you’re applying, and his or her address. Use this information to further personalize the cover letter; a personal name sounds much better than, “To Whom It May Concern.”
Personalizing your resume isn’t that different. Your skills and activities will stay the same, but the order in which they are presented should change. Look at the job description for your potential job, add key words where appropriate and move the skills mentioned in the description toward the top of your resume so that they stand out to the reader.
Lastly, most online job postings have an application template. They generally ask for your work history with a description of job duties, duration of employment, supervisor and contact number. Create a document with just this information and update it as your skills and employment change. Using this document, you can copy and paste your online application and be confident that the information will be accurate and free of errors.
When looking for a job in your career, remember that money isn’t the most important factor for an entry-level position. Look for positions that will give you the most exposure and knowledge about your field. Clean up your social media and make it work for you. After applying for a job, visit LinkedIn to see if you know someone who works at the company where you applied. Remember, networking is just as important as surfing online job boards and persistence is key. Many of your fellow classmates are also in the job market, so it may take longer than you expected to get an offer. Keep putting your best foot forward and pay attention to details when applying for jobs. Until you find your dream job, set a goal for the number of jobs you want to apply for and treat that like a job, until you snag that all-important interview.
Next month: how to ace the interview from start to finish.
Ashley Cash is a freelance author and a modern southern belle. Her work includes articles on interior design, wellness and resource conservation.