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How to land your dream job

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find a job you loveAs our economy continues to settle down from the stresses of the Great Recession, job seekers are finding the luxury of searching for their dream jobs once again. The need to take anything just to survive is going away as more opportunities are opening up across the country.

But how does one capture these elusive jobs, especially as competition remains fierce?

Remember your magic keys: Strategy, Tools and Connections

Strategy

First of all, any job worth catching requires a solid strategy. While this may include some of the obvious steps, such as checking out the Careers page at your target companies or searching for jobs on www.Indeed.com, others are more hidden.

Start with an honest evaluation of your current skills and experience. Do you have the basic abilities to perform the work? If not, this doesn’t knock you out of the running immediately. Take practical steps to either add to your education or seek volunteer opportunities to gain experience in the industry.

Another option is taking a lower position within your dream company. Yes, the classic path of starting in the mail room and working your way up is still a valid option – but it must be done strategically. Consider what is the next step that leads to the dream job. Keep adding to your skills while you gain the industry experience in your junior roll. Like a chess master, think 3 to moves ahead to build a career.

One of my first jobs was literally in the mail room for a radio conglomerate. I really wanted to be a morning show producer; however, while I had the degree, I lacked the experience. For three years, I accepted progressive roles in the business office while keeping my eyes open for the job I really wanted. At one point, I started running the board for the overnight weekend shift for the AM stations. When the morning show job opened nine months later, I had built up the industry knowledge equity and technical skills necessary to perform the job. Sounds simple, right? But there’s one more twist to this story – I was a single mom of three elementary school kids at the same time. I had help from family along the way, but because I never gave up on my ultimate goal AND employed a unique, realistic strategy, I managed to land that dream job.

Tools

In terms of the job search, your tools are the resume, cover letter, references, LinkedIn profile, samples of your work, and any other personal branding documents that prove your strength as a candidate.

Resumes and LinkedIn profiles must be key word optimized to both pass the HR screening procedures and to demonstrate your industry knowledge to the hiring managers. A well-developed skills section is a great way to layer in key words that relate to the position. Plus, you can include your newly-acquired skills, even if you haven’t had a lot of on-the-job experience with them yet. For example, you may have recently taken classes in Microsoft Office, but your current survival job doesn’t allow you to practice on a daily basis.

Cover letters are a crucial magic key for the dream job. In these, we can explain how we can help the company achieve their goals while also expressing our passion for the industry. Research the company and incorporate their own mission statement into the cover letter. Show them why you want to work specifically with this company.

Connections

Networking is still one of the best ways to land a dream job. Fortunately, with such tools as LinkedIn, it is easier than ever to execute a targeted and strategic networking effort to build connections in your target industry or company.

Start with the Company’s LinkedIn page. On their front page, there is a listing of all the employees that are on LinkedIn. From this list, you can further refine your search with the Advanced Search to determine managers and different department heads. Search for people who currently hold the types of job you are seeking. Contact them to set up informational interviews to learn more about the job or company. Most people enjoy speaking about themselves, so just show genuine interest in them and their work. Don’t pitch your job search at this point; you are building connects for the future end game, not the short term score.

References are important as networking tools. When you reach out to potential references, mention your job search and ask if they know of any openings, or other individuals that you should contact. Most people aren’t comfortable being asked flat-out for a job, but they are willing to share contacts or suggestions if you have a good relationship.

Don’t forget to actually get out of your house and meet with people face-to-face. This can be association meetings, job searching groups, coffee with friends, or fun things to do. www.MeetUp.com is a great site to learn about literally thousands of different meetings and events in your area, for just about any interest.

One of my students told me the best job leads she got came from her quilting circle. Sound strange? Not really. People like to help others that they know, like and trust. That gets built over time. Don’t forget your close friends, family, and connections outside of the business world. You never know where that dream job lead can come from – unless you look with an open mind.

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