The great thing about the internet is that we can search for a new job on a job site with a few clicks of our mouse or taps on our tablets and phones. The downside is that this seeming convenience has actually, in my experience, made jobs much harder to find. Jobs are listed and then never removed; scammers post jobs with ease (and do a better job than many HR departments); jobs are listed without tags and keywords and are thus unsearchable, etc. And though the internet has been a recruitment tool for over a decade, there’s still some hesitation about hiring people who come with no personal recommendations. LinkedIn has made a difference, as employers can see which soft ties (and hard ties, though endorsements and written recommendations) an applicant has in their industry, but in my experience, a personal recommendation is best…if the option is available, and often, it is not.
In this post, I want to introduce you to a number of different avenues to jobs. These are avenues that I’ve used, or have heard of others using successfully. However, I’m just one woman, and my experience here will vary widely to yours. If you have a way to find jobs that I have not covered, please let me know! I’ll update this post.
So, where to start? The following methods have yielded leads for me in the past, though your mileage may vary depending on age, industry, physical location, etc. I will go more in-depth on some of these items, so treat these as jumping-off points for now:
Job aggregate sites
Okay, so I spent my intro to this post maligning these, but they are a great tool to get your search started. Websites like Indeed, Monster, and even Craigslist can give you an idea of what kinds of roles employers are looking to fill in your area (or the location you’re hoping to work in). It doesn’t hurt to apply to these jobs if you see one that catches your eye, but be aware of jobs that seem sketchy or stale, and especially of jobs posted more than 30 days ago. Also, it’s worth looking up all companies on Glassdoor to see a little bit more about their work culture and typical benefits, and to screen for any major red flags. Glassdoor and LinkedIn also have job listings, though as jobs aren’t their primary function, I’ve found them to be less reliable. Again, your mileage may vary.
When you do a search on these sites, many of them will offer to save your search, and send you update emails when new jobs come online. This is a great way to make these sites work for you in the background, and can be set up with just a few clicks. The more specific your search is, the better your leads will be—but try not to make it too specific, or you may not end up with any results, and may miss out on some adjacent opportunities. You may have to play around with the mix, but I encourage you to have at least a few saved searches on these aggregate sites.
One strategy to find jobs you’re interested in is to go directly to the company page and look at their Jobs/Careers section. If there are a few companies you’re extremely invested in, follow their main accounts on social media (especially their HR account, if one exists!), and make sure you check back on their jobs page every few weeks to see if there are new positions. That being said, do not harass anyone working at the company. Apply for the jobs you’re interested in and qualified for (or could be qualified for), and if none exist but the company allows you to drop a cold resume, do so (but still write a cover letter!). Then, wait. The old wisdom of calling and following up in-person or on the phone is mostly out. If you have a contact and it has been a few weeks, a polite follow-up email is fine, but do not ask for updates on any current employee’s private social media, and definitely don’t call random people at the company hoping one of them will give you work (yes, this has happened to me!). Too much interest can be just as damaging as too little. Respecting the process outlined by the company will show your prospective employer you can follow and respect their process—critical and basic skills for any potential employee. However, if you do have a personal contact at the company, it’s worth it to politely and succinctly let them know you’ve applied. They may be able to get your resume into the right hands.
Career fairs can be useful, awful, or both. I’ve been to booths at fairs that process you like an assembly line, and I’ve been to booths where I’ve had wonderful conversations with the company representatives which, while they didn’t lead to a job, did lead to an industry connection. It’s worth going to fairs that are at least tangential to your ideal career (the more focused the better, of course, but often career fairs can be very general) and speaking with the representatives there. Come up with an elevator pitch for yourself: I’m [YOUR NAME], I’m looking for a career in [INDUSTRY] doing [JOB FUNCTION], preferably in a company that [PREFERRED MISSION STATEMENT/BENEFITS/OTHER SPECIFICS]. Ask about the company—this is your low-stakes chance to see if you and the company (or any specific position) are a good fit. Don’t take up too much time, especially if there’s a line, but do remember that these representatives are paid to be there to talk do you. Don’t be shy in approaching them! After your conversation, drop your resume and business card (which you will absolutely have printed and brought with you, right? Good.) with the representative, and remind them of your interest in their company, and the position you’re looking for. Make sure to get a card from the recruiter, and to follow up on LinkedIn with a nice, quick message: Hi, I’m [YOUR NAME], we spoke at today’s career fair about [SPECIFIC DETAIL]- I’m looking for [ROLE].
Many industries have professional associations or publications, and they are a great way to get information about what is going on in your industry. You can find information on cutting-edge research and best practices, as well as listings for conferences and other professional events (more on these below). Often, they will also have a section for job listings. Find the important associations and publications in your field, and sign up for memberships, or at least to their e-newsletter. Some will have a fee, but you may be able to make this tax-deductible as part of a job search, and you can think about it as an investment in your future. And read whatever publications you subscribe to! Nothing impresses prospective employers like someone who keeps up-to-date of their own volition!
Agencies can be hit or miss, but I’ve found (at least in my experience) that they can be useful when an applicant has specialized skills, such as language ability. If a company is looking for a candidate with Japanese proficiency, they may reach out to one of these agencies, which will have a number of resumes on-hand to send as potential matches. Before you send your information to an agency, make sure you know how they charge (they should charge the hiring company, so this is a way to screen out any who want you to pay to list with them) and which companies they’ve hired for before. And let them know once you’ve found a job, so they’ll take you out of the pool.
Personal referrals come from networking, and networking takes many forms. I’ll break them down below:
Your uncle has a job at his workshop. Your best buddy from college has a friend who is looking for a copy editor. These referrals come from your life, from people who you met without any intention of ever getting a job lead from them. These referrals are luck-based, and can stray into nepotism if you aren’t careful, but they can be a source of tips (just don’t blame me if your mom’s friend knows of an animator job that’s perfect for you when your background is in watercolor illustration…).
Alumni networks can be great—they tend to be stronger/more useful if you attended a school that has a specific focus, and are even more useful for graduate programs. Career centers and alumni relations groups tend to keep lists of industry-specific alums, and many provide that information so others can reach out for informational interviews (a great way of building your network!). You can also look up alumni on LinkedIn, and see if any work in the companies you’re interested in.
LinkedIn and other social media can be great tools for networking, but I find their best use comes from connecting with people you already know, or have met in person. I’ve only very rarely accepted people I haven’t actually met into my LinkedIn network, and most of the times I have, I’ve regretted it, or have seen no benefit. However, LinkedIn can be a great tool for keeping in touch with industry peers or friends and colleagues from schools or past jobs, who may know of opening positions, or of unlisted opportunities. When looking for a job, it’s certainly worth posting on LinkedIn that you’re looking, and what you’re looking for (as long as this isn’t a flag to your current employer that you’re about to jump ship…post with caution). Let your social networks work for you.
People love getting together. People love free beer. People love making connections, because connections mean new projects, new sales, new exchanges of information. Do a search for industry-related events in your area, including happy hours, MeetUps, conferences…even sales pitches disguised as networking events, if that’s somewhere you might be able to learn about your industry and meet others involved within. Again, bring your business cards and a few copies of your resume. Don’t be shy about giving your cards to those you meet, and if someone asks for your resume, give them one, too (I wouldn’t just go handing resumes out).
Also, this is actually not the chance for your elevator pitch. Spend networking events getting to know those there, and do a lot of listening. You can give your elevator pitch if asked why you’re there, but otherwise, use your time to ask a lot of questions. This is your opportunity to get the lay of the land, and people love talking about themselves. If you ask questions and listen intently to their answers (and ask follow-up questions!), people will remember you as being invested and inquisitive. Again, follow up the next day with any cards you get, in a similar format to the career fair: Hi, I’m [YOUR NAME], we met at [INDUSTRY EVENT] and had a great talk about [SPECIFIC DETAIL]. After that, you can follow up with a request for an informational interview, a note that you’d like to keep in touch, or an ask to let you know if they hear of any roles that might be right for you, depending on if you feel comfortable asking your new acquaintance about this. I would hesitate on the last one, only because you don’t want this new link in your network to feel used for a job search.
Recruiters often reach out on LinkedIn (remember to set your profile to “actively looking” if you’re job hunting!), and may or may not have qualified leads. Remember to do your due diligence on the recruiter, and ask them plenty of questions to determine if the leads they have are real so you aren’t wasting your time. Some industries rely on recruiters; in others, they’re totally useless/don’t have a place in the job search. Try to figure out early on if recruiters will help you in your industry. And it may not hurt to reach out to some yourself (politely!) if your skill set seems to match jobs they say they’re looking for—but only reach out if they say they are interested in that kind of contact.
I hope this gives you a number of jumping-off points on your job search. I’d like to dive a bit deeper into a few of these, and we’ll be covering more elements of the job search in this series, like creating and curating your personal brand. Until then, give these a try, and see what you come across! And let me know if I’ve left something off!