Ask Donna: How can I keep my job search alive during the holidays?

Dear Donna,

I’ve noticed that the amount of jobs posted online seems to dry up around the holiday season – I know I saw a definite drop in relevant jobs for me over Thanksgiving week. I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep my job search alive during the pending holidays. How can I make the most of this slow time of the year?

– Not a Happy Elf

 

Dear Elf:

First of all, the job boards and employment sites like Indeed should not be the number one focus of your job search no matter what time of year it is. While these are helpful for generating leads, they are just one piece of your entire job search strategy. It is true that many employers hold off on posting jobs until January, however, this doesn’t mean that your job search needs to go dormant. Instead, you should be focusing on the other, more valuable aspects of your job search.

Here’s a great checklist to make sure you don’t lose traction for the rest of December…

  1. Update your resume, LinkedIn, and cover letters

Now is the perfect time to update your materials. Styles and tactics change over time, so if you are still using an old resume, be sure to look at it with fresh eyes. Look at more than just the format and appearance. You want to make sure you are pulling the top key words for your profession, based on current job postings.

Did you know that 90% of employers are looking at your LinkedIn profile? Yep. [Source: LinkedIn, 2016.] For this reason alone, make sure you are following the current best practices to optimize your profile and drive more recruiters to it.

When was the last time you reviewed your cover letters? While only 50% of HR departments value the cover letter itself [source: Mile High SHRM survey from Personal Touch Career Services, 2017], it is still a valuable component to your job search. Make sure it is well written and appropriate for your target jobs.

  1. Get involved on LinkedIn

Now that you updated your profile, so what? If nobody knows who you are, they have no reason to reach out to you. You need to build your reputation within your industry.

This can be done two ways: sharing or writing quality content and getting involved in the Groups.

First, if you are a great writer, start publishing articles or blogs on LinkedIn. If you aren’t, you can simply share other relevant articles that you find. Don’t worry – it’s not copyright infringement, as the links always go back to the original article. These can be shared both in your newsfeed and in your Groups.

Speaking of the Groups, when was the last time you got involved in the discussions in your top Groups? This is another way to build your reputation and become associated with helpful opinions on relevant topics for your industry.

  1. Take classes to fill in your knowledge gaps

Are you wondering how to do those steps for your LinkedIn account? Are you missing a vital skill for your target jobs? Now is the perfect time to take a quick class to fill in those gaps and make you a more valuable employee.

I highly recommend checking out www.Udemy.com or other online learning sites. These websites feature literally hundreds of thousands of courses that are self-paced, video-intensive, and subject-specific. To give you an idea of what you can learn, check out my LinkedIn class, “Using LinkedIn to Get a Job Without Going Crazy” https://www.udemy.com/using-linkedin-to-get-a-job/?couponCode=FLYER75

Explore the additional classes offered – everything from Microsoft Word to learning Italian – and focus on those courses that boost your value to the employers.

  1. Get in touch with your current network

The holidays are an ideal time to tap your network on the shoulder and let them know two critical things: one, that you appreciate them; and two, that you are still looking for a position. Notice that the gratitude piece must come first. No one wants to be pumped for job leads in a Christmas card, but taking the time to share a heartfelt note about how you value them can breed more goodwill.

  1. Start researching potential employers in the hidden job market

Believe it or not, jobs posted online on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn only make up a fraction of the available positions. Many are only listed on the company’s website. Not only that, some aren’t listed at all, at least not until the company already has a candidate in mind. Collectively, this is known as the hidden job market.

The secret to landing a hidden job is first and foremost paying attention to what is going on in your industry and local market. Start by picking out some companies that have caught your interest, whether they have a job opening or not. Then conduct systematic research to identify their needs, challenges, key decision makers, and standings in the market. Track them with Google Alerts to see the latest news – often times, a relevant news article can be turned into an excuse to reach out to managers and offer your services as a potential employee.

  1. Implement structured networking

Chances are that you have heard the rumor: up to 80% of jobs are found by networking. This is true to some extent, as networking includes everything from contacting a hiring manager for a posted job to Aunt Martha saw a job on Indeed and forwarded it to you.

Structured networking is similar to researching potential employers in the hidden job market, but instead of hunting companies, you want to identify people. Don’t look at just the key managers. Look for potential co-workers or contractors that can tell you more about the company and their culture. Thanks to such tools as LinkedIn, conducting structured networking is easier than ever before, once you learn the tricks.

  1. Spread some joy

Most of all, take some time for yourself this holiday season. Enjoy time with your family and friends. Eat that cookie and drink some egg nog. Along the way, reflect on all the positive things that happened this year and be grateful, no matter how small. After all, a light heart is very attractive – especially to employers.

And have a cool Yule!

Donna Shannon

 

Got a question for Donna? Just email your question to april@personaltouchcareerservices.com

Want a see how your resume and LinkedIn profile stacks up to the competition? Visit my website to schedule a free resume review: https://personaltouchcareerservices.com/contact

 

Is your resume a monster?

Does your resume look like a zombie, using old, outdated tactics that died 10 years ago? Or is it like a mummy: dry, lifeless, and stale? Or is a hulking beast, weighed down with too much information? Is it a weird conglomeration of different styles, making it look like Frankenstein’s monster?

Check out these horrifying errors and learn what you can do to breathe new life into your resume:

1. The Zombie Resume
Like old corpses digging their way out of the grave, a zombie resume tries to resurrect old, ineffective strategies that may have been great 20 years ago but don’t really work that well in the modern world. These errors are usually in format, including the visual appearance and the key sections.
The biggest format offender is the “classic” two-column approach, where the section headings are listed on the left and the content is on the right. While it can still be appealing when used correctly, the problem is the WAY that this document is formatted. If you use the template straight out of Microsoft Word, many are built with tables or text boxes. However, computers don’t read these like humans. They process the first column DOWN, then move on to the next column and read that down. The final effect is that the headings are completely divorced from the content.
Have you ever heard that your resume should be “one page only?” That’s another classic zombie resume. Unless you are seeking an entry level job, this tactic died years ago. There is simply no way for an experienced job seeker to layer in enough key words to survive the screening and capture key achievements to impress hiring managers within one page.

Ways to improve:
First of all, understand how different computers and systems will interpret your resume. It is possible to create a visually-appealing resume that still uploads smoothly into an online application. Another option is to save your documents as PDFs, especially when emailing your resume. That way, you know what you sent will appear the same way on the other side.

2. The Mummy Resume
For a mummy, the writing itself is dry, boring, and lifeless. Whether this is a lack of clear achievements or simply repeating such deadly phrases as “responsible for,” these are the things that both recruiters and hiring managers hate to read.
A classic mummy strategy is the Objective Statement. Ever feel like these are boring, generalized statements that could apply to almost any job? That’s because they are. HR hates objective statements because they are vague. Who wouldn’t want “a stable job with a dynamic company that has plenty of opportunity for growth?” On the flip side, sometimes Objective Statements are extremely specific, such as “To become the Production Manager at ABC Company.” In that case, if you miss out on the targeted job, you won’t be considered for anything else.

Ways to improve:
While sometimes we need to use antiquated phrases such as “excellent communication skills” to increase our key word count, your entire resume should not read like the job description. Make it a balance of key words, top responsibilities, and achievements. Plus, let your personality come through in the summary.
Struggling with achievements? Think in terms of top metrics. It’s one thing to say, “led a development team,” but it is much more impressive and informative to write “led a team of 12 developers that produced 3 new CPG products within 3 years.”
Kill the Objective Statement. Instead, write a solid, engaging summary that tells the employers why you are the best candidate for the job.
Bonus points: modernize your contact information. Include your LinkedIn profile and only list your city and state for your location.

3. The Hulking Beast Resume
Has your resume grown to unbelievable proportions, with every new job adding what feels like miles of content? While this can happen to anyone with a long career, some industries such as IT are more susceptible to adding massive bulk.
While spreading out onto three pages is an obvious sign of a beastly resume, the writing itself can be the problem. It is tempting to write in run-on sentences or highly detailed bullets.
Ways to improve:

GET TO THE POINT. Resumes are not the formal, stuffy documents that they were 15 years ago. Read it out loud. If you must take a breath before coming to the end of a sentence, it is too long. You need to either break it into multiple sentences or trim it back significantly.
Not sure what to keep? Read the job description. If your skills, duties, achievements, education, and anything else on your resume doesn’t relate to the job, it is hurting your chances.

4. Frankenstein’s Monster Resume
WAAAAY back in the day, we did things like different fonts, different styles, and other formatting tricks to help guide the eyes. However, modern resumes should be more consistent in their look and feel.
This goes double for the writing style itself. Nothing reflects more poorly on a resume than two distinct writing styles within one document. It can be switching the tenses from first person to third, or being inconsistent with present and past tense. Similarly, if someone else wrote your original resume, you need to either match the writing style yourself or pay a professional to make sure that the tone is the same throughout the document.
Ways to improve:
Pick one font and stick with it. Make sure your voice is consistent throughout the document, especially when drafting your achievements. A pop of color can be effective, but make sure that the colors complement each other and don’t distract from your overall message.

Want a see how your resume stacks up to the competition? Visit my website to schedule a free resume review: http://personaltouchcareerservices.com/contact