When I was a college senior, the focus was to get a job. While my first job out of school did align with my values, it didn’t align closely enough. Growing evermore disappointed and frustrated with the work I was doing, I felt resigned, so I resigned. Chances are, your first job is more of a learning experience about what you don’t want to do than what you want to do. Unfortunately, that means looking for a new job, but there are some helpful things you can do that your college career counselor might not have told you.
1. Your career counselor told you to address your cover letter to a specific person, but they didn’t tell you how.
You can find the names of people in human resources and recruiting at specific companies by searching LinkedIn for “human resources [name of company].” If there’s more than one person listed, choose someone who has been with the company for at least a year, but isn’t so senior they don’t have the time for your resume. Address the cover letter to this person. If LinkedIn will not show you the recruiter’s last name, Google search “[recruiter’s first name and last initial] [company name] [recruiter’s title on LinkedIn] LinkedIn.” This search will typically bring you to the recruiter’s full LinkedIn profile, including their full last name.
2. Your career counselor told you to network. But, this isn’t just contacting alumni and going to professional networking events.
Don’t be afraid to check out the the LinkedIn profiles of company recruiters. Sometimes, in their descriptions they will invite you to directly email them your resume. This is better than sending your resume through some career site and letting it sit on some computer. I have had 100% success rate in directly contacting company recruiters and landing an in-person interview. ProTip: of all applications sent through a traditional route like a resume drop or a career website, many are “read” by computer and deleted for lack of relevant key words before an actual person even reads any of them. Your goal is to get your stellar resume and tailored cover letter in front of a live person as often as possible.
3. Your career counselor, and your common sense, told you that you can look for jobs on LinkedIn, but didn’t tell you to check out the competition.
Not only can you apply, but for jobs with more than 10 applicants, you can see a data analysis of other applicants and how competitive of an applicant you would be. This is nice to look at to know if you really should be spending your time applying to every job with a similar title. If you aren’t a great fit though, don’t be discouraged. Networking can help you learn even more and help to really determine if this analysis is wrong, or if there is a different job that is even better suited for you.
4. Your career counselor told you not to accept two jobs at the same time, but didn’t tell you to think about other ethical issues.
You should further reflect and evaluate your ethical standards for applying, know what they are, and stick to them. Don’t be afraid to kindly tell a pushy headhunter to back off, and that you really don’t think it’s ethical to sit for an interview for a job that you aren’t sure if you’d even want to take (this actually happens). Just like you have to prove yourself to others in a job hunt, others have to prove themselves to you. If you find ethical faults with someone in an interview, consider that a warning before accepting a job to work for or with that person.
5. Your career counselor told you to keep your public social media private or professional, but didn’t tell you that recruiters are on Twitter.
Don’t go into hiding on social media–use it! Overhaul your twitter page, or create a new one to network with recruiters. You can also search “[location] recruiter jobs” to see who to network with and follow. Tweet to companies that you would be excited to work for. Any professional and respectful contact that strengthens your ties and networking with a recruiter or a company is good. While tweeting all day might not land you your dream job, it’s a good place to find recruiters who, after a few tweets, may ask to see your resume. Google “twitter hashtags for job seekers” to help you get started.
6. Your career counselor told you to know what your skills are. But you probably didn’t think to use this knowledge to be flexible with where you apply.
Your skills are more than your field. Think you have to stay in research because you wrote a lot of research papers as an undergrad? In government jobs because you were in ROTC? With the right skills focused cover letter, you can take your skills to any field that needs them. Don’t feel like you must be loyal to one industry. Try looking up lists like “Crain’s Best Places to Work” or “Forbes 500” for your city, then go individually to company websites that sound interesting to you, and look at their career listings. Who knows? Maybe you’ll also get to roll into work in a t-shirt every day to a catered breakfast, and other awesome perks too.
7. Your career counselor told you to use resources to prepare, but didn’t tell you that your friends are a resource.
That awesome old roommate who just landed a job at a tech startup? Ask her how she did it and how she prepared for the interview. Your bestie’s older brother with an MBA and an impressive employment history? Ask him to take a look at your resume and give you some tips. Just make sure to balance all this work with some play, or you’ll end up losing some friends.
8. Your career counselor might not have even mentioned having a system to keep track of where you have applied.
Use a spreadsheet like Excel to keep track of the number of applications you send daily, with columns for how you found the job posting (search terms and search engine), the job title, the company, and the link to the job description. This is also a great place to store notes about interviews, as well as who you have spoken with from each company.