Back to School Basics: How to Launch Your First Job Search

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I learned this summer that some people have never learned to job hunt in our current climate, whether because they’ve never had to do it before or because the rules have changed since the last time they hit the job market. In the spirit of the back-to-school season, I’ve decided to cover the fundamentals. Welcome to Job Search 101!

(Don’t worry if some of this seems complicated. You can find a deeper dive into job hunting here  and a deeper dive into interviewing here.)

How to Job Hunt

  1. Use sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, or industry-specific job boards to look for job ads. The specific sites you use will depend on your industry and career level.
  2. Once you’ve found the right site, search for jobs using keywords (job titles, skill sets, etc.) that are likely to be found in ads for the jobs you want. If you’re not sure what kinds of job titles and skill sets are relevant to your desired role, check out O*NET  for some valuable resources.
  3. Write a resume and cover letter, using keywords from your target job ads wherever possible. Quantify your results as well. Never exaggerate or lie about your qualifications, experiences, or skills — it will only hurt you.
  4. These days, pretty much every application happens online. Every job ad you come across will likely have a link to the relevant application, so click the link and follow the instructions.
  5. Remember, each job you apply to requires a relevant resume and cover letter tailored to the position at hand. Generic resumes and cover letters do not work. This is one reason objective statements are no longer needed: The person reviewing your resume knows which job you are applying for, so they know your objective already.

How to Interview

  1. Check your email several times a day for interview requests. Do not miss an opportunity to interview because you did not check your email! Texting has also become a common form of communication for recruiters, so keep an eye out for any text message interview requests.
  2. Some job boards have messaging features. If you apply through a job board with such a feature, be sure to check your job board inbox in addition to your email inbox, as recruiters may contact you directly through the job board.
  3. Remember: Any call from a number you don’t know could be a recruiter calling for an interview. Only answer calls when you are in a quiet area, and always answer in a professional manner. The recruiter will start assessing you the minute you answer the phone, even if it’s not an official interview yet.
  4. When preparing for an interview, get your outfit and accessories ready ahead of time. Ensure the outfit fits while you’re sitting!
  5. Head into any interview with at least three questions prepared for the interviewer. Some good choices include: “What have previous holders of this job found most challenging?”; “What do you love most about working here?”; and “What goals would you like to see me accomplish in my first 90 days on the job?”
  6. Before leaving the interview, be sure to ask about potential next steps and an anticipated time frame regarding when you will hear back from the recruiter.

How to Follow Up After an Interview

  1. Send a handwritten thank-you note to each interviewer. Let them know you want the job.
  2. If you have not heard from the recruiter and the anticipated time frame has passed, it is okay to call the recruiter to ask how the process is going. When calling, always open the conversation by stating your full name and the job you applied for, and then ask your question: “Good morning, this is Jaynine Howard. I interviewed on [date] for the [job title] role and was wondering if a hiring decision has been made yet?”
  3. If a phone call doesn’t work or is not feasible for any reason, try reaching out to your point of contact via LinkedIn or email.

This time of year is a great time to apply for jobs in many industries. For example, as college students return to their studies, they often leave behind open roles in retail, food service, and other industries. Schools are also hiring for various positions, including non-teaching roles. Many companies are preparing to make hires for the busy holiday season, and the federal government is ending the fiscal year and will begin hiring in the next month or so.

Get a jump on your job search by starting now. Know your industry job opportunity outlook. See what skills and certifications employers desire, and gain those skills and certifications. Update your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Perfect that elevator pitch and buy your business cards. Be ready for when you see that perfect job announcement.

Jaynine Howard  is a military veteran whose work as a career strategist and reinvention specialist has been recognized by professional organizations throughout the nation.

By Jaynine Howard