Seldom do we adhere strongly to our New Year’s Resolutions. Typically, we set too many goals that are too hard to reach and end up caving by February, but if you are resolving to find a new or better career in 2014, that goal is entirely attainable with a few tips to take you through the process.
First impressions are everything, and for many of us on the job hunt, that first impression is our resume, or curriculum vitae (CV). Typically, employers first see the resume or CV and then the person, so these one or two pieces of paper are gold, and should be treated as such. When crafting the perfect resume or CV, the internet can be both a blessing and curse. If you search for “resume format” for example, templates upon templates come up, all organized by the career you are trying to pursue or the position you are seeking. The problem here is that while you want your resume or CV to be correct and accurately written, you also want it to stand out among the other applicants who may have also found a neat template online too.
If you are truly serious about a career change, you may need to put a little money into your search, but consider it an investment. One of those initial investments might include considering a resume or CV writing service. There are multiple companies offering these services so if you need help choosing the best and most effective for your money, consider their credentials, read reviews, and ask specific questions regarding your own personal resume or CV up front to know if it’s a good match.
After making your first impression with your glowing resume or CV, now it’s time to make your first impression as a potential candidate, in the interview. Let’s face it: Interviews are hard for most of us. How can we stay calm and collected when we are sitting in front of a person in a suit asking us questions that we may or may not be prepared to answer? It is a stressful situation but practicing your interview skills, predicting the questions you will be asked, and knowing the right questions to ask the employer can mean the difference between a smooth interview and a disastrous one.
Now, for this step you could take a class on interviewing skills, but what’s even better is to save that money and take advantage of free career services or resources online. Career services are offered by colleges and universities or career placement organizations who are devoted to helping people find work, but you can also find a good deal of information online through job hunting sites. Practicing with an actual human being is ideal as you can find your weak spots and correct them before your first real interview, so if you do not have career services near you, read up online and grab a friend to help you.
Now that your resume is in order and your interview skills up to par, it’s time to apply for jobs (if that was not step one for you of course). Applying for jobs is now seemingly so easy with sites like Career Builder and Monster, but if that were the case, wouldn’t we all be hired? The problem with these sites is that applicants tend to get lost in a crowd. Don’t get me wrong, they are excellent tools and many people have found careers using them, but make the effort to find ways to contact companies directly if you really want to work for them. Being proactive and trying to stand out (in a good way) is rarely frowned upon by most companies. A great suggestion when applying for positions is to apply through their actual website and then, if you can, contact an assistant or receptionist directly and ask them for additional information about the position, or when they are scheduling interviews so they know you’re interested. Yes, this can annoy the person up front answering phones, but as long as you use tact with your persistence, perhaps your name will come across the recruiter’s desk more than other applicants.
Personally, I like to do this next step before I even apply for positions, but you can also wait until you’ve scored an interview. So let’s say you got the call for an interview; it is now time to focus on educating yourself about the company. There is nothing worse than walking into an interview and having little to no idea what the company does, how long it has been in business, etc. Obviously the best place to find information is from the company’s website but you may also want to do an internet search for the company name and see what comes up. Maybe the CEO won a national award, or maybe they donate a certain amount of their profits every year to an organization. Knowing the little things as well as the major ones will show the employer you are serious about a position with the company.
This also goes back to step one where your goal is to stand out. If you are the only one out of five applicants who talks about the company’s goals or mission statement, then maybe that sets you that much more apart. A word of caution here: Do not talk too much about the company as if it’s an oral exam. Employers smell desperation, so keep it conversational.
Finally, it’s time to play the waiting game. If you get called in for a second interview, repeat the steps and focus that much more on the specific position for which you are being considered. If they tell you they will contact you and give you a time frame, try to wait out that window. The only contact you should really make with the employer is a thank-you email, letter, or phone call to thank the recruiter for his or her time and state you look forward to speaking again. After you have said your thank-yous, just wait. This is obviously easier said than done, but you showed your persistence earlier.
If you have not heard from them within the time frame you were given, it is appropriate to call after a few more days. Emails tend to get lost in the shuffle so I always encourage a phone call as it is more direct, though an email can also work.