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Job-Searching 101

Job-Searching 101

Hi, everyone! Happy Spring, and Happy Sunday! I know it's been a long time since we've chatted... 5 MONTHS, to be exact. My. goodness. I'm cringing. The primary reason for my inadvertent hiatus has been that I was adjusting to a new job. Then, I quit that job, and very recently obtained another! (Super long story - will be writing about that another time, not to worry.) 

This leads me into today's topic that I wanted to discuss: the job search. Given that 1) it's very fresh for me given my recent occurrences and 2) it's almost graduation time for many of you, I figured what better time to discuss this than now! 

The first thing I want to say about the job search (that I wish I was warned about, in excess, prior) is that it is extremely emotionally draining. You're in a constant state of shaping, molding, and defining yourself - all the while having absolutely zero certainty about what the future holds. It's discouraging, tiring, and truly self-deprecating, at times. You face more rejection than you've ever been used to, and you also question everything about yourself and your capabilities.

While I'm being quite blunt here (cue the lack of sugar-coating), obtaining a job truly is possible. I secured two different jobs in a span of 4 months, and I'm going to tell you how:

1. WORK. ON. THAT. RESUME. 
This is the most essential component of the job search, in my opinion. It's the first impression you have with a prospective employer, and you have to be sure it represents you and your abilities, as best as possible. This isn't something you can be lazy about.

This was hard for me, at first. It's tough to decide how you want to fit in to the standard protocol yet stand out as an individual - without being too bold in the process. Do you want to make it short and to the point? Or do you want to really make the most of that 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper? 

I personally go with "all or nothing" approach. Some may not agree with this (arguing that "less is more"), but I feel that anything that could qualify me as a fit for the position should be in the hands of my interviewers. I have everything on my resume - from my education experience (GPA, academic accomplishments, honors) to my professional experience (all relevant jobs and internship experiences) to my volunteer and leadership experience (positions held in clubs and significant events I have been a part of) to my skills (communication, technology, and social media). 

The tricky thing with having a lengthy resume is you have to make it so that the words aren't lost in one another. I use headers and section mine throughout, so that it is more reader-friendly and easy on the eyes. Not to say that the less-is-more technique isn't effective - I just feel that you never know what will stand out to an employer that you didn't expect, so you shouldn't sell yourself short. 

One very helpful thing that I am going to suggest is to create a "master" resume. For those of you who have a hard time keeping your resume to one page - this is where you would list every single job, every internship, every volunteer event, etc. that you have been a part of. It can be 2, 3 - however many pages you need in order to list everything you have accomplished. From here, take the relevant experience for the particular position you are going for and compile that and condense it so that it can fit onto a one-page resume, separate from this one. I was making the mistake of just deleting job experience off of my currently and only resume to make room, but then I was looking for that same information later for other jobs and unable to find it! This helps you keep all your experience in one place to refer back to later. 

Be sure to have many different people look over your resume, as well. I've had friends, professors, family, and coworkers review my own. Ask them what stands out to you, and be aware that the way you see you resume may not be exactly how others do. If your school has a career services department, use it! Mine was incredibly helpful for me both during my undergrad and post-grad experiences. 

2. Practice interviewing.
This was, hands down, the scariest part of the job search for me. I was legitimately paralyzed by the fear and intimidation of being scrutinized by strangers - and I let that hinder me from chasing after big opportunities when I first started the process. Don't be me in this situation. Interviewing is 100% a "practice makes perfect" thing. The more you do it, you become way more comfortable with being in the spotlight. You also become very used to answering the same questions over and over, and they end up becoming second nature to answer. It's also much easier to improvise on the spot if you already have a solid idea of what you're going to say about yourself to begin with. 

My best advice is to apply for any job you are remotely interested in, because even if it's not a fit for you, the interview is practice for a potential future interview that could land you the job of your dreams. 

3. Be kind to yourself throughout the entire process.
I want to emphasize this, about, 5 more times. You will face rejection, you will feel disappointment, and you will question your abilities. This (thought I don't agree should be the case, at all) is natural - given how our society has the job-search set up. The fact of the matter is, even if you are the most well-rounded and qualified candidate, there is always someone out there who has more experience. And this is okay!!! It doesn't mean you're incompetent, it doesn't mean you're not ready for the real world, and it certainly doesn't mean you won't get a job. There are people who have connections that you may not have even known about, and some things are just impossible to compete with. Every day that you participate in the job-searching process, (be it applying, interviewing, preparing, etc.) remind yourself what you have accomplished, how hard you have worked, and don't forget to praise yourself for putting yourself out there! 

4. Study potential interview questions. 
I'm a pen-and-paper type of person, without a doubt. I have to write down everything in order to feel organized and get my thoughts together properly. Research has shown that writing something down helps us to better encode it, which then helps us to remember it better in the long-run. This explains why flashcards/notecards have always worked so well for me. Throughout college and high school, I was always using this method to study, and the same went for interview questions. I would write the question on one side and then jot down my best points on the reverse side and quiz myself - changing up the order each time. While I'm not saying you should memorize your answers, this helps you to remember strong points you don't want to forget out of nervousness in the interview. I like to keep these in my bag and quiz myself along the way to an interview or right before I go in, just to be sure I am keeping track of my major points. 

Google is great for providing examples of typical interview questions. Look for any and all that you can find, because you never really know what will be thrown at you. (For example, I was once asked, "When was the last time you cried?" [?!?!?!]) If the company you're looking at is large enough, there may even be questions from past interviews listed on Glassdoor. Use your resources.

5. Interview your interviewers just as much as they interview you.
When you're fresh and starting out, you generally don't care about the specifics of a job - as long as it's a job!!! This is a mistake I want to urge you not to make. (Take it from someone who learned the hard way that taking a job just because it's a job can hurt you in the long run, if you're not aware of the type of management or work environment you are getting yourself into). An interview is a chance for your employer to get to know you, but also your chance to get to know the employer and the company. I'm not saying to interview your employer Stepbrothers-style (please tell me you got this reference!), but don't deny yourself the chance to obtain information for yourself in-person. Ask about the work culture, and ask how your employer handles conflict. Ask how you are able to grow and advance within the company. Seriously, ask everything. It will only benefit you in the long run, and it also shows your potential employer that you are genuinely interested and serious about the position. 

6. Let everyone know you're job-searching.
While I'm not saying to go outside and scream it to strangers, you would be really surprised how much people truly want to help you out once they realize you're looking for work. Because I was embarrassed that I didn't get a job straight out of school, I kept to myself a lot about the fact that I was looking, and this is something I wish I didn't do. I can't even count how many times someone found out I was job-searching and then asked for my resume or tried to connect me with someone. A little goes a long way when it comes to networking with other people, even if it's the people you know in your life personally. You never know who knows someone that could hire you. I can speak on this personally, because both jobs I've gotten were from personal referrals. 

7. Be realistic about money. 
This is not going to be something you want to read, but if you're seeking an entry-level position, you need to be ready for an entry-level salary or per-hour rate. Not to say it's impossible to make a lot of money fresh out of college, but if you are only looking for jobs with huge salaries, you're going to have a much harder time actually finding one you are qualified for. People want very different things in their jobs, and sometimes money is the primary motivating factor. While this is not mine, there is nothing wrong with that - everyone is different. But, be aware that making a lot of money at a job can come with a lot of sacrifices. I have found that money is not as important as I thought it would be, when it comes to my happiness on a day-to-day basis. 

8. Know who you are, but be willing to step outside of your comfort zone.
I went to school for psychology and truly never thought I would see myself working in marketing or account managing, yet here I am! The problem with college versus the real world, is you're never going to truly know what you want to do (or don't want to!) until you are truly living out the position on a day-to-day basis. A job that looks amazing on paper may be the complete opposite in real-life, and a job that could seem dry in the description could turn out to have the best coworkers and work culture you could have imagined! (I have been in both positions!) Be aware of what you want, but also know what your skills are. Sometimes a job you may be extremely qualified for may not be exactly what you were aiming for - but you never know what that opportunity could bring you. Be open to anything!

9. Know that you are not stuck at one job for the rest of your life.
This is something I think everyone needs a reminder of. With our parents being the generation who stays at their jobs for 20+ years, it could seem really daunting accepting a position you aren't entirely thrilled about. Fear not! Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to stay anywhere you don't like, and you can always find a new company if you feel your current one is a fit for you. A HUGE misconception is that you must stay at a job for at least a year to be considered for a future job. This is not the case at all. While experience is helpful, a (good) employer isn't going to let the fact that a position wasn't a fit for you define who you are as an employee. I worked at my first job for only 3 months and was completely fine when it came to searching for another. Be realistic, but don't ever let fear keep you in a box (or a detrimental environment for you).

10. Enjoy yourself along the way.
I know, you probably read that twice and looked at me like I had six eyes. Believe it or not, once you get comfortable interviewing, it can actually be fun. My last interview was four hours, and I can truthfully say I enjoyed it - because I got to know the company, what my employer stood for, and what type of environment I was getting myself into. You also develop a newfound confidence once you're in the job-searching game for a while, and that's something that will help you through your entire life. Don't let anyone make you think you're less than you are, because this is YOUR future, and YOUR chance to own it.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck with your search, and please don't ever hesitate to contact me if you need some advice or assistance throughout. 

Truly,
Taylor

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