The Job Search
The dreaded job search. As a professor, I work with numerous job seekers. Unfortunately, what should be an exciting time of adventure and exploration is often a time of stress, trepidation and anxiety. This anxiety is only partially from the thought of “adulting” or additional responsibility. A major reason for anxiety is the anticipation of getting stuck in a job we really don’t want.
This fear is shared with many searching for jobs. We hear stories of people landing amazing jobs and sometimes wonder “why can’t we do that?” There are things we can do to tip the odds a little more in our favor and ease the stress. After a working with job seekers with a wide variety of background, experiences and education, after researching the subject and after some experimentation, I recommend everyone looking for a job follow the simple instructions below:
Find 5 companies you would like to work for.
Finding 5 companies you’d like to work for requires more work than just “Yeah, my uncle Tim said this was a good place, so sure. Why not?” Spend the time and research your companies. I’ve seen people spend more time deciding what to eat for dinner than where they are going to work next! Your next job could be a job for life! This could be your future friends, your future work-life flexibility options, benefits, pay increases, promotions, etc.! Spend the time to do the research on the jobs you want. Specifically look for the following:
- Pay. Money is not everything…but you do have bills to pay. Look at what the pay is for the job that fits your qualifications. Is it enough? If it isn’t what you were hoping for, is there potential for it to grow beyond what you were hoping for?
- Product. Every employee in every organization at every level represents the product they work with. Does this company produce a product that you can get behind? Is the organization heading in a direction you agree with? If you are against movies, you probably shouldn’t work at a movie theater. You won’t fit in the company and fit is one of the leading criteria in determining job satisfaction, future promotions, etc.
- Culture. Is this a place that has a culture you could thrive in? This goes along with fit as well. If you are not a competitive person, then choosing a competitive culture is probably not for you. When thinking about culture, many people default to Google. They do provide a lot of benefits, but did you know they tend to work 12 hour days, a lot of times more than 5 days a week? Is that something you would like? Look at how they treat their employees, work-life flexibility benefits, education benefits, rewards for employees, company gatherings, nonprofits they support, mission statement, etc.
- People. Do you know people that work there? What are they like? Are they similar to you? Do they have similar stories to you? Do they smile? Smiling seems like a silly requirement, but I’ve been to many job fairs across the country. There are two companies that manufacture soft drinks that often attend. One always has smiling, laughing, friendly employees. The other does not. I know which one I would choose.
You may need to look at 20-30 companies to narrow it down to five. If so, that is great! You now have extensive information on five companies. Why does this matter?
There are three main reasons to narrow down to five companies you would like to work for.
#1 – To focus your attention. Ever notice how when you get a new car you notice that lots of people are driving that same car? Well, when you narrow your list to five companies, you’ll notice other people that work there, commercials, billboards, sponsorships and many other ways the company has been present in your life all along.
Also, it is more efficient. One of the reasons the job search can be so difficult is because there are so many jobs out there! While you will apply for more than five jobs, these five are the five where you will focus most of your efforts. Cover letters, tailored resumes, and anything else possible to get their attention.
#2 – Put your social network to work! If you aren’t specific with your social network, then your social network most likely won’t be specific with you. If you just say to your friends and family “I’m looking for a job,” then they’ll tell you when any job appears. But, if you say “I’m looking for a job at these five companies,” something different happens. Now your social network knows what to look for and will return answers such as “Oh, well you know uncle Tim has worked there for years…” or “Oh, that’s where Amanda works.” I have found those looking for a job locally are rarely more than two degrees away from someone that works at their target company.
This is critical! Now you know someone on the inside that can let you know how the application process works! They might even be able to recommend you to their boss or give you additional information that could help your application process. Ever heard the phrase its not what you know, but who you know? Well, now you know someone!
#3 – The third reason researching five companies is critical is because the job interview is perhaps the most important part of the job search. It sounds far better to say “I’ve researched your company. I know where this company has been and where it’s going. I’d love to be a part of the journey,” than to say “Well, I heard you guys were good to work for and I saw an opening…”
Your future company is going to invest money in you. Onboarding, job training and future training could total tens of thousands of dollars. They want to hire someone that wants to work for them. In fact, many companies will even sacrifice some qualifications if it means they hire someone that is 110% committed to the company. I’ve heard it time and time again from Fortune 500 companies. They want to know you’re there for the long haul, that you are a worthy investment that intends to stay. If you are emotionally committed to the organization before you start, that is a major bonus. The company can train you on some of the other qualifications, but they cannot train passion and commitment.
In summary, the job search is difficult. It is filled with subjective judgments and luck, companies that want experience but no one will provide experience, online filters, specifics that are so detailed that only a few actually qualify, and so many other weird anomalies that cannot be listed. It can also be extremely rewarding and life changing. I’ve heard many, many success stories from people applying these principles along with other key principles. I hope it works for you as well.