October 3, 2013

Outstanding in Your Field: Unconventional Job Search Advice

Six clear light bulbs one illuminated against dark backgroundUnemployment rates are gradually dropping, but it’s still an incredibly tough job market, especially for new grads and people returning to the workforce after an absence. Standing out from a crowd of dozens—if not hundreds—of equally qualified candidates can seem impossible. If you follow conventional wisdom, you may find yourself lost in a stack of one-page, references-available-upon-request resumes.

Move Beyond the One-Page Resume

Traditionally, resumes are supposed to be exactly one page, printed in black ink on heavy white or cream paper. In the digital age, however, a traditional resume may come across as old-fashioned. Particularly for applicants in creative fields, such as advertising, a dynamic, multi-media portfolio becomes both a way to advertise yourself and your skills.

Create a personal website—for less than $20, you can get a personalized domain and easy-to-use template at WordPress—that includes biographical information and examples of your work. Don’t forget to include a way for visitors to contact you!

You could also consider creating a brochure-style resume, printed in full-color, with bold text, images, and even infographics. There are several online companies that offer to turn your text-based resume into a graphic, such as vizualize.me. A video-based resume, whether it’s a slideshow or recorded greeting, can also help you stand out.

Build a Relationship Before Applying

All too often, the job search feels as though you’re casting your resume into the abyss. You find an exciting opportunity online, fill out yet another application, and then…wait. Instead of following the traditional rules of searching for and applying to open positions, build a relationship with the company you want to work for first.

Research organizations, either local or farther afield, and approach them with questions. Your goal at this point is to learn more about their culture and become a familiar face. As this Forbes article points out, administrative assistants usually know everything and everyone at a company. They can be great assets and allies, but always make sure to respect their time. Be legitimately curious and engaged with their business. You might also consider scheduling an informational interview with someone in management. That way, when a position finally does open up, you’ll be first on the list.

Establish Your Expertise

One of the worst mistakes that job seekers make is letting their skills stagnate while they focus on the hunt. Continued professional development not only keeps your skills up to date, but may also provide you with opportunities for networking. There are a number of websites geared toward professional development, such as lynda.com, as well as free online courses offered by major universities at coursera.org. Don’t neglect the resources at your local library! Most libraries subscribe to databases and online learning programs. Join peer groups and professional organizations, and take advantage of both networking events and educational resources.

Another way to establish your expertise is by blogging or contributing articles to other websites. You’ll get your name out there and, by doing research, learn more about the finer points of your chosen field. You can also offer to speak about your area of expertise. Public speaking skills are always valuable, and many community organizations, schools, and professional groups will welcome a guest speaker.

So, ditch the outdated advice and try some—or all—of these strategies instead. Regardless of whether you’re designing a personal brochure, renting a billboard, or writing a thank-you note, always make sure to proofread. A super-powered grammar checker like Grammarly will catch more errors than a conventional spell check, ensuring that you avoid embarrassing typos when pursuing the job of your dreams.

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A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and nearly FIVE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
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