I absolutely love end of year lists, and swooned when I found Time.com’s list of The Top 10 of Everything of 2010.
Although Time’s list of lists is pretty comprehensive, ranging from apologies to new species to Twitter moments, I wanted to add my own top 10 list — top 10 tips for job seekers. Here are the tips that readers found most helpful this year.
1. Ask for honest feedback. Recruit a trusted relative, career services staff member, professor or friend to assess you honestly as a job seeker. Ask the person to list your best qualities and most impressive accomplishments. On the flip side, ask for constructive feedback on your weaknesses. Find out if the things you’re most concerned about — lack of experience, a less-than-desirable GPA, shyness, etc. — are legitimate concerns or if you’re obsessing over nothing. If your fears are unfounded, let them go once and for all!
2. Don’t be turned off by the terms “internship” or “part-time.” This tip came from Lauren Porat, co-founder of UrbanInterns.com. In a difficult job market, sometimes you need to be flexible and “settle” for a less-than-perfect opportunity, such as a non-full-time job. According to Lauren, many people have developed incredible careers by serving multiple part-time clients. Also, starting out this way may allow you to get your foot in the door with some very cool, interesting startup companies.
3. Overprepare. Think about your confidence level when you walk into a test for which you’ve studied really thoroughly versus how you feel walking into a test for which you’ve skimmed your notes for ten minutes the night before. Most people don’t realize that a job hunt is something you can study for. Before attending a job fair, spend an hour or two on the websites of companies that will have booths. Before a job interview, spend an hour reading the organization’s website (especially the mission statement, recruiting pages and recent press releases) and study the LinkedIn profiles of the people who will be interviewing you. Read e-newsletters and blogs from your industry to keep up with current events that might be discussed at a networking event. The more preparation you do, the more confident you’ll feel when you interact with recruiters and other professionals you’ll encounter during your job search.
4. Do not ask to “pick someone’s brain.” Okay this one is more about how not to ask me in particular for advice on your job hunt (or anything for that matter!). Some people don’t mind this phrase, but I definitely do. Why? First of all, I think it sounds kind of gross (think about it). Second of all, it is very one-sided: if you are picking my brain, what’s in this conversation for me? It feels as if I’ll be left brainless afterwards. My advice is to always request advice in a way that makes the ask-ee feel respected and like he or she will leave the conversation with something, too.
5. Clean up your online image. According to a recent Microsoft survey, 85 percent of HR professionals responding said that positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions, and 70 percent said they have rejected candidates based on information they found online. Make no mistake about it: your online image will affect your job search and your career. If you haven’t already, set up strict privacy settings on all social networks (often, including on Facebook, the default setting is for all of your information to be public, so check every setting!), take down any inappropriate pictures or content, set up a 100 percent professional profile on LinkedIn and Google, and think twice before posting any new content on Facebook, Twitter or a blog. In many recruiters’ minds, you are what you post.
6. Spell recruiters’ and hiring managers’ names correctly. Of the emails I received responding to a part-time position I posted this year, about half (!) spelled my name wrong. To me, that was an instant sign that a candidate lacked attention to detail. None of these people were called for an interview.
7. Don’t be too early for a job interview. While we’ve all heard the advice never, ever to arrive late to a job interview, employers are equally peeved when you arrive too early. By all means get to the company’s building or parking lot as early as you’d like, but don’t enter the actual office any more than 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time.
8. Focus on what you can do for your employer, not the other way around.
In cover letters, email messages, conversations with recruiters, salary negotiations, etc., make sure you frame your value in terms of what you can offer, not what you need. Recruiters roll their eyes at cover letters that begin with, “I would like to find a position in which I can learn.” Likewise, negotiations fail when you ask for more money because, “I need it.” You’ll have a better chance of getting what you want when you focus your argument on how it will benefit the company in terms of increased sales, more productivity or lower costs. Always ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”
9. Never call to say “Just following up.” There is a fine line between appropriate persistence and pointless pestering. It is absolutely fine to call or email a recruiter to say thank you for a company information session, to ask a few questions or to mention that you’ll be attending another event they are hosting. But “Just calling to follow up!” doesn’t add much to your candidacy. If you find yourself calling multiple times with no response, you may have to accept the fact that, as the famous dating book title says, this particular employer is just not that into you.
10. It’s never too late to say thank you. I’ve had a lot of students ask me “how late is too late to send a thank you note?” and I truly believe that a thank you is always warranted and always appreciated, even if it comes much later than expected. If you do find yourself sending a belated thank you, simply say something like, “I truly apologize for the delay in thanking you…” or “This note is late but I am deeply grateful…” It’s better to feel a bit awkward and do the right thing than to hope the person doesn’t notice that you never showed your gratitude.
What other job hunting tips were most helpful to you in 2010? Please share!