How to Find a Job You Love – and Enjoy the Job Search too

 In Job Application Tips

Unemployment, particularly when not related to your performance, can be destabilizing. A layoff is best weathered if you have a plan to mitigate its impact even before it happens. Let’s review the main steps to take after a layoff or if you feel that it is coming. The idea is to make job search an enriching experience and invest in yourself to remain employable for years to come.

Start with mental solidity and focus.

1.      Identify your feelings. You may be experiencing resentment, anger, disappointment, or fear. There can be a certain level of grief. Take time to articulate for yourself the significance of your past role and the elements of the work culture that you enjoyed – or not.

2.      Journal while focusing on the positive experiences you are taking with you into the new role. Write down the things you are thankful for, learning experiences you had in this job, new skills you learned, and great people you met. Write down several examples of interesting or challenging, successful projects you completed. Collect contact information of the people who supported you and with whom you enjoyed working. Contact them for recommendations.

Run a strategic analysis of your contributions and goals.

3.      Define what went wrong in the past role, if applicable. Clearly identify and articulate the attitudes, policies, and corporate culture aspects that you will not accept in your next workplace. In your discussions with the potential employers, you will keep these points in mind (so you could easily identify the red flags) while focusing on and articulating the positive details from #2 above to demonstrate your enthusiasm and value.

4.      Focus on your goals. Make a list of short-term and long-term goals. What is the middle ground between them? What is your lowest acceptable hourly rate/salary or the minimum necessary work conditions you need? What is your ideal compensation package? What are the key responsibilities of your ideal target role?

Navigating offers and job descriptions is easier when you know your must-haves. Having them on paper is a good way to give yourself reminders. Next, list the ideal conditions and company culture, as well as your ideal contributions. What is the maximum you are willing to do for the employer in your target role? These ideas will be useful when preparing for an interview where you will show your genuine readiness, enthusiasm, and vision.

Define your timeframes to avoid stress.

5.      Give yourself a realistic timeframe to get your next job, without the stress and rush. An ideal timeframe allows for:

☛growth (learning, networking, joining a professional association and reviewing its materials, improving a skill or two, and doing company research);
☛rest (personal health and peace of mind, family, hobbies, or simply being present);
☛financial comfort (plan how much you need for this transitional period, what subscriptions you may want to cut, and what bills you may need to prioritize);
☛regaining motivation (look forward to a new experience in your desired work environment).

Know and follow your budget.

6.      Create your budget. What is the optimal amount of money you need to make for your short-term goals? What is your ideal salary to accommodate your larger goals? What is the minimum salary you will accept, with room to negotiate benefits? Research your industry salaries. Create a list of your differentiators – skills, credentials, expertise, or commitments to quality that your target employer will be willing to pay more for.

Get some training on how to negotiate offers with a cooperative attitude, working together with your employer on finding a compensation package that works for both of you. Remember that negotiations are not just about the salary; you are discussing your “compensation package” and you can negotiate paid time off, insurance, stock options, pension plans, bonus amounts, remote work options, commuting costs, professional development/training/education, number of people on your team, internet/phone/equipment fees, and your title.

Creating a budget during a pandemic might also mean learning about the support programs and benefits, mortgage protection programs, insurances, retirement savings, or tax and credit payment deadlines. Speak with your financial advisor if you need to clarify anything.

Approach job application as a way to build relationships and expand your network.

7.      Search and apply for jobs as a business partner, not an unemployed job seeker. This allows you to build collaborative relationships with potential employers from early on, regardless of the hiring decision. Job search is less stressful and more engaging if your goals also include growing your professional network, learning more about the industry, and making new connections with potential colleagues.

The mindset you bring will make you stand out among the competition. Hiring decisions are subject to various factors, many of them not directly related to your specific skill set. These factors can involve timing, budgets, last-minute changes in strategy, or internal agreements. Approach each application as a way to meet colleagues in your field, share your expertise and enthusiasm, and learn about their current needs. Interviewers will remember a person who demonstrated confidence, poise, and a positive attitude.

In each cover letter, include a paragraph about why you chose this particular company.

Why Company XYZ? Over the past few weeks, I have followed Company XYZ’s news online via [indicate specific channels or media you have used]. I was excited to learn about the new developments in [indicate what they are doing that caught your attention]. Your mission to […] is in line with my commitment to [emphasize your common thinking about the problem they are solving]. [Add what attracts you about this particular position or how do you fit the company culture.]

8.      Gather important career documents: your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, bio, samples of work, diplomas and certifications, and recommendations.

Make great use of the positive feedback you received.

9.      Collect all the positive feedback you received via emails, LinkedIn, other social media, letters, performance reviews, publications, client testimonials, awards, and recognition gained as a team or as a company. You can use some of these quotes in your resume to stand out. They would typically be placed at the top near the career summary or next to the appropriate career entry in a text box.

Also, request fresh recommendations from recent colleagues and supportive leadership. Let them know that you are looking for a new role and what type of work you intend to do. Ask if they can introduce you to anyone in your network who may benefit from learning about your expertise. Use positive language that emphasizes your value and your offer, not so much your need for a new job:

Hello James,

It has been a great pleasure to work with you at XYZ. I cherish our collaboration on the latest project to optimize our sales associates’ performance with a new iPad tool. Thank you for all the support you offered while meeting tight deadlines and testing the platform with such efficiency! I will be looking for similar roles in retail in the next few weeks. Would you mind sharing some of your feedback about the platform’s success and my project management skills that I could use on my resume or LinkedIn?

Either a letter of recommendation or a LinkedIn recommendation is much appreciated. Here’s my link: [add /detail/recommendation/write/ to your LinkedIn URL. For example: www.linkedin.com/in/tmykhaylychenko/detail/recommendation/write/]

I am happy to stay in touch and assist in any way I may. If you can think of anyone in your network who may benefit from my expertise in project management and tech solutions for retail, could you please introduce us? I’ll take great care of their teams.

Learn something new about your industry.

10.   Make a list of professional associations in your field. Assess your existing memberships and choose 1-2 new organizations to join. Are there any industry forums you could use to gain exposure and meet new colleagues? Note that the best way to do this is throughout your career, not just when you need a job. Aim to contribute value to your industry and have authentic relationships with colleagues for future discussions.

11.   Network with colleagues via LinkedIn, associations, or dedicated professional Facebook groups. Make a list of relevant contacts in your industry: thankful clients, leaders you worked with, and people you would like to introduce yourself to. Draft short networking messages and reach out, online and offline. Your network also includes your service providers, community organizations, spiritual or cultural organizations, friends, extended families, leisure clubs, and former colleagues or professors. Let some of them know that you are looking for new roles.

Dear all,

I wanted to take a brief moment to let you know what I will be looking for a new role as a sales manager in retail. If you can think of anyone in my industry, I’m happy to network and appreciate introductions. In the past, I have built innovative, fully automated platforms for sales teams that make it possible to respond to customers quickly, engage them via various social channels, and check momentarily if the products they need are in stock. Associates at XYZ loved this program and reached their sales goals faster, simply by reviewing metrics on their iPads and following suggestions. I look forward to optimizing processes for my next employer! I appreciate your support along the way – any ideas or introductions are welcome.

12.   Create your messaging for networking. When writing cold emails or introducing yourself for the first time, consider your top 3 differentiators that may be relevant to the needs of your target employer or potential client. How can you help them solve a problem, save time, or lighten their project load?

13.   Review and clean up your social media presence, if applicable. Target employers will cross-check your resume with your profiles. What are the top 3-5 latest public posts that they will see?

Create a balance of collaborative attitude and leadership during your job application cycle – this includes following up and preparing to negotiate offers.

14.   The job application cycle includes more than just sending an application. Conduct company research, prepare and send an application, follow up 1-3 times within 5-day intervals, contact decision-makers, assess progress, prepare for a job interview, send a meaningful thank you note, and prepare to negotiate the offer. Use every application and every interview, no matter the outcome, as a networking opportunity to build relationships and stand out as someone the company may want to contact at a later point or recommend to someone else.

15.   Assess what you learned and keep the notes for the future. Thank people for their input and time. You may want to create a list of collaborative colleagues you have met to keep in touch with as well as the red flags you noticed in company practices.

Remember that you can control a stressful event like job loss, take the negative stress out of it, and gain value in the process by focusing on your positive goals, some of which may be to:

✔learn something new about the industry and discover new opportunities

✔meet fellow colleagues who are collaborative and supportive

✔define your goals and value better

✔hone your job application materials and messaging

✔aim to land a better job, with a better compensation package and a better work culture.

About the author:

Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a professional resume writer with a background in content writing, university teaching, and IT staffing. She is a member of ACES: The Society for Editing and Career Professionals of Canada. For more information, please contact her at tetyanam@gmail.com to schedule a free introductory consultation.

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