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The stressful event of searching for your next job is a job in itself. Looking for your next career move takes time, dedication, and most importantly, patience. According to a recent study by Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation, a whopping 71 percent of 17,000 US employees are actively searching for new job opportunities. Jobvite, a recruiting software company, determined that the entire process from looking for new employment and being offered the job takes around two months or 43 to 71 days. What does this all mean? At least half of employees in this study are unhappy, for whichever reason, with their current position, and are taking on the second job of searching for another. So strap yourself in; this hunt is going to be a bumpy ride.
The Perfect Resume
The first step in the job hunt process is usually the same for all of us: updating the resume. Most of today’s employers require a minimum of a resume and cover letter to apply for open positions. A resume and cover letter are your first impression, your bragging rights as to why you deserve to be hired. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Every hiring manager or HR representative is looking for something different. Some are adamant about your training or certification in specific software or skills while others are more concerned with the previous industries you worked in and your production levels. So we’re stuck with the task of editing and rearranging our resume to highlight a different aspect for every position. We can talk ourselves up to our friends or a potential husband, describing in detail how great we are at winging eyeliner or the amazing collection of Carrie Bradshaw-like shoes we’ve accumulated. But when it comes to writing down professional qualities and relevant skills, we’re stumped. The internal conflict of determining which parts of our backgrounds would show us in the greatest light is just the beginning of what can be a daunting process. But hey, at least we have options like LinkedIn Resume Experts or resume-builder templates online. You can even go the old-fashioned route and have one of your seemingly qualified friends or family members give your resume a makeover.
After adjusting every line under ‘Previous Experience’ and finding ways to slip key attributes from the job posting into your ‘Skills and Accomplishments’, you’re undoubtedly pooped. But you’re not done yet; that list of references also needs some TLC. Our lists of references tend to change as we grow professionally. When we’re young and inexperienced, almost anyone is acceptable: a favorite teacher or coach, the neighbors you occasionally cat-sit for, or even the coworkers of your parents who have known you through years of stories and pictures on their officemate’s desk. Once you start looking for that more career-level position, especially anything beyond entry-level, your neighbor or best friend isn’t particularly sufficient. Now you’re stuck with figuring out which top three or four professionals can best portray you as the unicorn you truly are (or pretend to be).
Finding a previous or current coworker who will vouch for you is usually pretty easy. Finding a previous or current manager? Not as easy. If you’re beginning your job search while currently employed, you can likely scratch your current manager off the list. You can possibly add a previous manager or supervisor to your list if you left on good terms, gave at least a two-week notice, and were spoken highly of by that said person. But even if you think you left on good terms, you may not know be aware of the frustration and resentment that the previous employer holds against you for leaving…especially if you were their superstar. The goal is to build a list of people who are credible, have known you and your work ethic for a good amount of time, and can speak strongly to the abilities and skillset you could bring to a potential next employer. I know, easier said than done.
The Best Candidate
Already exhausted trying to make it through the search and application process? Prepare to hurry up and wait for the next step. You may have identified the top positions you believe you qualify for, spruced up that resume and CV with exactly what the job description is asking for, and possibly been one of the first applicants. There is still no guarantee that your application will be seen, let alone given a response.
Most job postings receive too many applicants for a hiring manager to possibly screen them all. So employers use techniques like keyword searching or applicant tracking systems. The catch is that these techniques sometimes still result in too many remaining applicants. When this occurs, employers may “get 'creative' and search their applicant database for other keywords—ones they didn't mention in their job ad,” writes Liz Ryan, CEO/founder of Human Workplace. Therefore, all the grueling time and effort you put into perfecting your resume, displaying every reason why you’d be the best person for this position, it may never be seen. Ryan also notes in her Forbes article, "How Can 100 Job Applications Get Zero Replies? Here’s How", it is not unlikely to never receive a response at all.
Years of Experience
For any given job posting, the first bullet under ‘Required/Preferred Qualifications is: (blank) years of experience in (blank) field. This can be the make-or-break in determining whether your resume might be glanced at. Now if you ask me, that qualification needs a little updating and a little less discriminating. A posting may state a requirement of 5+ years of experience in a field, but only have the description or salary of an entry-level employee. Usually, if you have five years of consistent experience in a field, you are seeking a higher-level opportunity. Likewise, if a posting is truly describing what an entry-level applicant of one or two years of experience can fully handle, why require the five? This one bullet only amplifies the struggle in finding a position in which your application will appear as a “qualifier”, and possibly be reviewed. It is hard to say that a professional who has worked in a position or field for five years will actually be a better fit than the freshly graduated go-getter with one year of experience and killer work ethic. A little short of fair, but what part of this process is?
Don't give up.
Overall, finding a position that you actually qualify for, pays an adequate salary, and is consistent with the career you’re trying to follow can be a tedious, demotivating experience. But find comfort in the fact that millions of job applicants are rowing the same boat. And in this day in age, you’re likely to be on that boat more than once or twice in your life. Utilize every resource you have access to like online assistance, counselors, friends, and free training. Starting your own business is always an option, too. Most importantly, believe in yourself, take a deep breath, and just keep swimming (even when it feels like you’re sinking)! Your dream job is out there waiting for you.