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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

How My Job Search Forced Me to Catch Up With Technology

After working in the entertainment industry for 25 years and taking a Covid-forced break from searching for work, I recently started looking for steady employment. The job site Indeed reports that the average length of a job search is 20 weeks. I'm now about one-fourth of the way through those 5 months.

The first step I took in my new job search was to have coffee with a friend who had just completed his own successful job hunt. During the two hours we spent together, I jotted down several pages of notes. I learned (or was reminded) that a computer scan is the first step that happens once you submit a résumé during a job application. You may know that already, but here are some other tips I learned..

Make Sure Your Résumé Is Scan Worthy

First of all, when you apply for a job online, as most of us do now, a computer reads your résumé before any human eyes see it. An automated software program called an applicant-tracking system scans your résumé for keywords related to the position you're applying for. The system analyzes résumés to find the best match for a position. It's vital that your résumé includes appropriate buzzwords and is professionally written.

That can be some heavy lifting, especially if you’re trying to switch careers or fields. In my case, I followed my friend's advice and used a résumé writing and reviewing service. They redid my résumé to make it as technologically friendly as possible without sacrificing readability. Since my experience is in marketing, my résumé now includes keywords for that industry. My résumé is also formatted better. The service is paid, and the package I chose included a résumé revamp, a cover letter, and a LinkedIn profile update. There are plenty of options for additional companies that provide these services; even LinkedIn offers them.

The process of securing my updated résumé, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile took about a week. Once I had the documents, I availed myself of another service to post my résumé on multiple job boards, especially ones that I may have missed if I had to do it all myself. Again, I would have spent hours doing what this service is set up to do rapidly. By using it, my résumé was posted to 50 career sites. Of course, you don’t have to spend money to have this done, but it helped me broaden my search.

LinkedIn Is Your Friend

Many, if not most, hiring companies rely on LinkedIn to read up on candidates and connect with them. You really do need to have a profile. A free account is fine, but the premium level offers features like direct messaging to recruiters, interview preparation tools, and applicant insights so you can see how you compare to other candidates. Employers will probably look to see if you have a page. They'll want to read your employment story. Yes, it's a social media site, so, yes, engagement is essential. Participate by commenting on others' posts, posting your own stories, or writing an article pertinent to your industry, knowledge, or experience. Also, join and participate in professional groups related to your field. This social media networking is an important aspect of your job search. Use the platform's recommendation feature too. This allows others (prior employers or work associates) to recommend you. For good job karma, you should also recommend people you know. And while you’re on LinkedIn, don’t forget that there are other sites too. Monster, Indeed, Glassdoor, and FlexJob are a few. (The AARP also has a job search page available to its members.)

Social Media Can Help Too

While LinkedIn deserves its own mention, other social media platforms are helpful as well. Pay close attention to how you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media platforms where you have a presence. Are there friends or connections doing something you'd like to be doing? Could you ask them for pointers? Is there a favorite brand, company, or business you follow? Maybe they'll mention positions they have open. Watch for postings others make. There could be a potential job or worthy idea for employment that crops up. And join groups that may lead to your next job.

Reach Out to Your Past

Next, start reaching out to people you know. You want to get the word out that you're looking for employment. Like I did when I met my friend for coffee, approach family, friends, past employers, work friends, and associates. Talk to them where they live, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

June Smith, production human resources leader with Entertainment One, says this about networking: "Never underestimate the power of networking. Yes, use technology, because that's the way of the world now. But when you're considering a job at a company, go to your LinkedIn profile to see if you have connections employed at that business. If you do have mutual connections, reach out to those people and ask them to make an introduction for you."

Sign Up for Newsletters and Alerts

Another way to stay on top of the job search process is to avail yourself of newsletters and alerts. Is there a company you'd really like to work for? Many of them have newsletters or job alerts on their hiring portals where you can sign up. You'll receive an alert or periodic email with their current job openings. Additionally, you can sign up for Google alerts for specific job titles or companies, or alerts on LinkedIn for the industry you want to work in and for companies you'd like to work at. For example, my experience is in entertainment marketing, so I created a "marketing" job alert on LinkedIn. Maybe you'd like to work at Netflix? Set up a job alert for the company on your LinkedIn profile. You'll be notified of any new positions as they become available.

Retrain, If Necessary

Even though my job search involves marketing, I repeatedly noticed that many companies sought out applicants experienced with Salesforce (listed under desired skills). I was unfamiliar with the technology, so I used Google to read up on it, and then I signed up for a class to train in it. As you begin the application process, consider some simple retraining if it will increase your chances. Google or LinkedIn should be able to help find these courses. You may not want to go all-in for a certification or some other kind of degree-seeking program, but familiarity with an in-demand tool or platform in your field can set you apart from other applicants.

Online Interviews

If a company decides (based on your online application) that they want to interview you, it will more than likely be an online interview conducted from your home computer. (Especially now, considering the ongoing Covid closures.)

A few tips: Always be businesslike, dress professionally, check the background and the lighting that will show in a Zoom call, close the door to the room you'll be in, or find a way to keep pets and children from interrupting. Michael Bridges, who recently completed a successful job search and is now director of development at Parks California, offers a few interview tips: "Think of the job interview as if you've been hired for the actual job. Post-Covid, many companies will continue to use Zoom in their day-to-day work activities. The way you present yourself during a Zoom interview will be a good indicator of who you will be as an employee if they hire you. You need to show them who you are as a coworker from the first interview forward."

He also suggested to expect a technical failure and be prepared to handle it, to pivot smoothly. For instance, if your audio goes out or a software update interrupts the interview, don't freak out. Find a calm way to fix the situation. Your reaction to the unexpected snafu will again show the employer how you'll handle yourself on the job.

So much now goes into a successful job search. The suggestions here are a good starting point. Go beyond, be creative, be brave, think outside the box, and use the internet—it's full of unending amounts of job-related advice, classes, consultants, websites, and so much more.

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