Practical Steps for Finding a Job in a Tough Economy

Finding a job today, especially for a young person, is tough.  The world is changing and even though the millennial generation is well versed in the digital world, many lack an understanding of how to use this to their advantage. Today, resumes are scanned digitally and so paper is passé.  The days of nice stock, fancy fonts and embossed letterhead are gone forever.  The key today is to stand out from the crowd, highlight your true strengths and network, network, network.

There are four specific assets you need to land a job.  Each has their own unique benefits and each must be complimented with a sprinkling of throw back common sense and values.  Here are the assets and how I suggest they should be best utilized:

1)  Your brand – A brand is who you are as perceived by others. 

Website:  The best vehicle to do this is a personal domain name pointed to your website.  There are lots of free or inexpensive websites to choose from.  My daughter chose Wix.com and I use Squarespace, both are very good and easy to use. 

The purpose of your website is so that employers can get to know who you are.  Start with a picture of yourself.  Don’t make it formal but something possibly relating to your field.  For example my daughter is in medicine and her picture has her in a lab coat.  Add a few pictures of yourself doing activities you enjoy or serving in the community.  Employers are looking for more than applicants.  What you do outside the classroom or work environment is important.as well.

Describe yourself as you would to a new friend.  Talk about interests, hobbies, travels and life.  If you have quotes from former employers or references add those as well.  Don’t make your website about your education or work experience. Make it about you.

Domain name:  I recognize not everyone can be blessed (or cursed!) to have an uncommon name such as Tom Cuthbert.  Find a domain name that is you or close to your name.  Any hosting company can help with this and point it to your website.  I use www.GKG.net.  It is inexpensive and the phone support is very good.

Email:  Ideally get yourname@yourdomainname.com.  If you don’t associate your email with your domain then be sure your email address is not cheesy, suggestive or embarrassing..  Get your name @ gmail.com or yahoo .com.  Your brand assets need to align as best you can. 

Phone number:  Most people don’t think about this.  You will want to put your phone number on your website, your resume and your LinkedIn profile.  All of these will, of course, be all over the Internet.  Not a good idea!  The answer is Google Voice.  Get a free Google Voice number and simply forward it to your cell phone.  Be sure you use the custom greeting to sound professional.  Your voice, is the first “human” interaction that recruiters and HR people will have with you, make it count.  My daughter is moving to another city so her Google Voice number has a local area code, a nice touch.

Note:  DO NOT put your home address or your parents home address on public sites.  Mail or email them to recruiters and HR professionals but you do not want to put yourself or your family at risk.

2) Your information:  A good resume is a must and girth does not equal worth.  The Twitter generation needs to learn to communicate succinctly, highlighting the positives and value of you as a person.  The most common mistake people make is they fill in a bunch of information about what they did or facts about education and work history.  This is the wrong approach.

   The two resumes above include a heat map of recruiters' eye movements. The one on the right was looked at more thoroughly than the one of the left because of its clear and concise format.

The two resumes above include a heat map of recruiters' eye movements. The one on the right was looked at more thoroughly than the one of the left because of its clear and concise format.

Put your name, phone number, email address and website address across the top.  Add a professional picture of yourself to the resume, different than the one on your website.

Spend time on your objective.  Don’t say what everyone else says.  Be specific, creative and speak with passion.  I read one recently that said, "I am seeking a position to teach children where I can use my creativity and education to enhance their lives.”  Uh, no!  

Instead try, “I have had a desire to teach children since I was a child myself.  My heart and mind easily focus on their needs and the heroes in my life are those who have committed themselves to education.  I am looking for an opportunity as an elementary teacher at a school that shares my passion, can equip me to teach and allow me to grow to become a role model for others.”

Tailor your objective to match yourself and for the specific type of job you are looking for.  A good objective should communicate three things:

1) Specifically what you are looking for

2) A trait or two you have that matches the job (meaning I will be good at this because I have a passion/ education/experience...)

3) A "commitment" or "hook" such as, "I have dedicated myself to both enhancing my own skill set while improving the effectiveness of my employers communication"

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Read this carefully… you must communicate what what you did, did for your company.  Think about how successful companies sell their products.  The value is not in what the product is or does, the value is in what the product or service does for their customers.  Writing a resume is no different than writing an ad to sell a product or service.  Focus on the outcome of the work you did.  How did it change lives, move the needle, grow a business or solve a problem.

A good resume should be one page, unless you have a great deal of relevant education or are in the medical field.  Be succinct and start with the aspect of your experience or education that is the most impressive.  In each experience, connect what you di to what it did for others.  Use a simple font size 12 or 13 and don’t get fancy.  End with “References available upon request”.  Save it as a PDF and have printed copies available as well.

Try this exercise.  Hold up your right hand and spread out all five fingers.  Now hold up your left hand with all five fingers.  Have your hands face each other.  Imagine that each finger on your right hand is an asset YOU possess.  Now imagine that each finger on your left hand is a NEED that your future employer has.  NOW... slowly touch each finger together... pinkie to pinkie, pointer to pointer and so on.

This is exactly the way employers read resumes... how does this person match the needs we have.   You can sell yourself once you get in front of them and your resume is the tool to get you in front of a potential employer.  

3)  Your networkLinkedIn is here to stay.  It is changing they way business is done and smart people understand how to leverage LinkedIn to connect.  Unlike your resume, you want your LinkedIn profile to be full and rich.

Start with your picture.  It should walk the line between the personal photo and the business photo.  Work on your headline and be engaging.  Again, your headline should not be simply what you do.  Let it represent where you are in life, something about what you do and most importantly, where you are going.

List all relevant work experience, education, service, organizations and service.  Include details, dates and description.  Fill it up and repeat words that relate to your job search.  The summary is critical.  Spend time describing you as a person, your interests, education and experience.  Think of it as an expanded version of your resume objective.  Add in specialties and areas of expertise.

LinkedIn now allows videos, which are a great way to display who you are and your ability to communicate.  Take advantage of this if possible; just be sure it is relevant and well produced.

LinkedIn has become the place to be and be seen in the business community. Start to build your network with people you know well.  Find friends and connect.  Networking is all about giving so find ways to add value to members of your network.  Leverage your friend’s relationships to request connections with those in the industries you are interested in.  Don’t overplay this, beg or sound desperate.  Have a business reason for the connection and offer to help them as well.  Get involved in groups relevant to your industry, post and comment on articles.

Be sure your news feed is active with interesting and relevant articles.  I use Buffer to keep a steady stream of information flowing to my LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages.  You can set frequency and time of day.  Don’t overwhelm people but you do want an active news feed. It shows you are a professional in your field.

Complete your profile with endorsements.  You need at least 10 from credible friends, references and those who know you best.  Use these references to create a reference list.  You will need this to send as a follow up or attachment with your resume.

4) Your Persona:  The goal of all of the assets described above is to get you in front of the right person to hire you.  I am amazed at the number of people I meet who “look good on paper” but fall short in person.  Don’t let this happen to you.  I recently had a young man in my office.  His father had requested my help in teaching his son how to interview.  This young man was bright, had a great background and wonderful education.  After five minutes I asked him to stand up and walk out of my office.  “Try again”, I said.  This time I coached him on proper greeting.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Start with a firm handshake.  Three shakes and you’re done.  Don’t break fingers or grip it loosely.  Stand tall.  Don’t slump or lean.  Get your hands out of your pocket (or at least one of them!).  Make eye contact often.  At this point you’ve come a long way and worked very hard to get your shot.  PRACTICE this before your meeting.  Do not overlook this step. 

Finally how people follow up (or not) says a lot about who they truly are.  Order inexpensive stationary.  I suggest VistaPrint or Overnight Prints.  Make it look clean but nice and include your name, address and website on the outside.  Take the time to send a hand written (I mean HAND written) note to the person who has taken time for you.  Send these to referral sources, references, HR mangers, executives and anyone who has taken time to help you get your shot at the right job. 

This approach is only the beginning.  You are the one that can find yourself the job you really want and can have success.  Don't skip any steps and rely on all your resources.  These resources include family, friends, your network and associates.  Don't hesitate to ask for help and always, always say thank you!

Tom Cuthbert