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My Job Search During COVID-19: Keep Dreaming

Hey, all. 2019 graduates. Recent 2020 graduates. Early-hires. Young professionals. Those who have been laid off. Those in furlough. Those on unemployment. I know it feels like everyone is looking for a full-time job (or any job right now). As a recent graduate from SUNY New Paltz, who majored in journalism and minored in Spanish — and experienced the job market during a pandemic, I’ve learned this: don’t let a virus dash your hopes for a dream job.  I’ll share some of my own takeaways to keep your dreams alive during this time. 

1. Start with introspection. 

Did I solely want to be a reporter/journalist, or was I open to ideas where I could potentially use my journalism skills in other fields? I encourage you to ask yourself what skills you want to keep building on. That will lead you to answering what other roles you’re open to exploring. And it led me to understand that writing, reading and researching have been in all the jobs I’ve ever loved and grew from. Those skills and passions needed to be integrated in the job I chose for the future too. Then I asked myself: Did I solely want a full-time job or was I interested in part-time or freelance work to get my foot in the door? Keeping the answers to these questions in mind helped me widen my search, and apply to jobs more focused on the quality of work than the quantity of jobs. That way I’d still be able to make a stable living even if the full-time jobs weren’t coming. 

2. Use all the job boards.

I looked for jobs in my field via Linkedin, Twitter, Indeed, Glassdoor, PND: Philanthropy News Digest, and Idealist because as aggregators, all the potential jobs were in one place. Generally, Linkedin and Twitter are great social media tools to follow the company for job posting updates and connect with potential employers. Indeed allows you to customize job alerts that land in your inbox and provides resources about all-things career-related. Glassdoor is useful for learning about company culture, salary, and benefits offered. PND and Idealist make reaching out to the employer and applying abundantly clear: who to email, who to address your cover letter to, and how/where to submit. 

3. Go long and go hard.

I applied for dozens of writing jobs in a total of 10 months since graduating. A Google Sheet titled, “Dynahlee Padilla Job Shopping,” was my BFF (thanks to an alumna and friend who tipped me). This sheet included the company name, title of the role, date I applied, compensation if stated, the name of the contact/hiring manager, and link to the original job posting. This structure helped me keep track of who I needed to follow up with, who I should be connecting with on social media, and the types of jobs I was looking for. It served as my timeline of progress.

4. Find a good fit.

Yes, we all need to be working for a company that’s a good fit. Can you see yourself enjoying the role based on the job posting and any interviews you’ve participated in? Can you see yourself doing the responsibilities asked of you well and with passion? Do you agree 110 % with every part of the company’s mission statement and values? Can you see yourself grow with the company now and later? I once went all the way to D.C.  to interview — for a Booking Producer role at a media company with an extremely conservative perspective, and I knew right away it wasn’t right for me. So, don’t compromise your values to fit in. You can choose to be a part of the company, the same way it can choose and consider you to join the company. 

5. Keep your resume, your professional and personal story on paper, crystal clear. 

Maintain a resume that’s up-to-par: education, succinct summary, publications/achievements, language skills, and relevant experiences that relay your skills in chronological order from the most-recent. Include keywords that target the roles you are looking for. When I worked at ABC’s “7 on Your Side” as an intern (post-grad), I learned that data journalists were trending in the media industry, so I tagged the word “data” and “producing” onto experiences that included those skills to stay on potential media companies and employers’ radar. Also, update your resume (and your LinkedIn) as soon as you begin a new role. Always proofread, and have editors in your trusted circle review for you. And for recent grads, add a “Professional Experience” headline — because now you are a professional — still learning but not a student.

6. Cover letter

A cover letter should never be optional. Job postings often say that, but as I’ve learned on TalentCulture, sometimes job postings are poorly written or generic or do not meet the needs of the company. Include a compelling signature with contact info. Use this piece of writing and ready-to-go clips/samples as your power tools to stand out! 

7. You’re not done yet.

Getting a callback or interview doesn’t mean the work is done. Continue to apply for other jobs, because in this particular economy and market, we never know where these opportunities might take us. 

8. You’re really never done.

Remember: job hunt is like dating. Brace yourself for rejection. Many times, we’ll get ghosted. Sometimes we’ll get led on — to nothing. So keep applying, and keep dreaming. And don’t stop. Ever. Check in with your own network and build on it — colleagues, friends, alumni, professors, family members. I reach out to my network often, especially during these times, because cultivating relationships are important to me — and not only when you need or want something. I usually ask: How are you doing? What are you working on? And then include, by the way — “I am working on this, and still looking for this. I’d love to get your thoughts. And keep in touch.” 

9. Have faith and focus. 

Make sure you check LinkedIn and job portals like you check Instagram, or any other platform you are obsessed with. Be obsessed. Your dreams will come true if you put in the time and energy to stay focused and follow through. 

10. Landed a remote job? Here’s how to shine. 

Let’s say you’ve got a job — but you’re not going anywhere but home. You can shine anyway. Be vocal with those you live with about the space, time, and tools you need in your home to work productively — not just busily. Natural lighting, a comfy chair, and privacy works for me.

Talk with your employer about your needs. I moved out-of-state amid the health crisis, which wasn’t easy. I spoke to my immediate supervisor and others I work with and got a few extra days off to get settled. 

It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. There are various crises happening while our lives are still happening. So, take actual breaks. Step away from the screen. Do breathing exercises, stretches, therapy coloring, a walk/run — whatever works for you. Take the time to process what you are feeling and become recharged. And keep dreaming! New goals await. 

Harsh Truths To Become A Better Recruiter

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies” – Larry Bossidy

The phrase you are what you eat translates nicely to recruitment. Companies are built on great employees – hiring is therefore the most important thing we do. There are so many recruitment channels in today’s digital society that it’s increasingly difficult to stop some stuff slipping through the cracks.

This is by no means an indictment on the state of recruitment, but there is always room for change, room for innovation — if a shark stops swimming it will die; constant improvement is the only way to become a better recruiter.

Your job adverts aren’t helping

Automation is great, right? With just one click your job ad can be in front of thousands of eager candidates. The problem? The rules are different now. There is no horde of active candidates waiting to find your jobs and apply. Adverts tend to be presented in employer-centric terms; there’s little focus on genuine engagement.

Do away with costly advertising and focus less on products that let you post your job to hundreds of boards with one click — less than half of recruiters think the current system works well anyway.

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There is a clear information assymetry here. Recruiters are struggling to connect with the best candidates — neither party is satisfied.

Better LinkedIn research means better results

We all know how useful LinkedIn is to approach talent, but how often do you research the end user before you send that in-mail message? Carelessness at this stage can easily put candidates off.

Taking just five minutes to check if a candidate is the right fit for your organisation is all it takes.

– Do they have similar past employment — if you’re looking for a enterprise sales rep, do they have experience in the role?

– Do they have the right skills?

– Where are they based? We often overestimate a candidate’s willingness to take on a horrific commute or relocate. This alone doesn’t necessary rule a candidate out, but it should play a role in our decision.

There can be exceptions here, but candidates for whom you tick all the boxes here will be far more receptive to your approaches.

Your applications are too long

Would you want to apply for your job? It’s easy to hide behind the rhetoric that “the more you know about a candidate, the better placed we are to judge them.” Do we really need to know how many A’s they got at GCSE, though?

This is driving the increase in gamification — recent research suggests that by the end of 2014 more than 70% of the world’s largest companies will have at least one gamified application. L’Oreal saw significant success with its “Reveal” campaign. Allowing candidates to participate in the launch of a mock product, the game attracted more than 15,000 players — many of whom would never have considered applying.

Communicate better

Great hiring is so much more than just matching candidates with job descriptions. The best recruiters take time to get to know their candidates — find out what makes them tick, learn what they’re actually looking for. The problem? Currently most companies lack the framework to roll out this kind of continuous engagement process. Candidates slip through the cracks and are abandoned if they don’t meet company requirements.

Instead, by redirecting these candidates to a talent community we can continue to evaluate them and provide them with carefully curated content. Maybe there’s a different role that they would be better suited for? Maybe in six months time you will have more openings? A pool of engaged talent lets you develop an internal referral system. You already know whom you can hire before roles become available.

Interview like a pro

Behavioural competency interviews are not the gold standard. Following a strict playbook of questions that are designed to determine candidate suitability often leads to a leaden, unflexible process.

It’s still essential to determine that a candidate has the core skills that will allow them to succeed in your company. When you’ve established this, you should consider the idea of “hiring for cultural fit.” How will the applicant fit in with your team? Do you want to sit next to him/her for eight hours every day? Will he/she be invested in the business, or are you just a stepping stone? Finding answers to these questions lets you work out what kind of colleague he/she will be. Is he/she worth it?

Start following up. Now.

The treatment of candidates you don’t hire has never been more important. Hard-won recruiting reputations can be quickly damaged by disgruntled applicants on social media and review websites like Glassdoor.

At this stage a shocking 73.8% of the feedback candidates receive is little more than a standard template — hardly conducive to a great candidate experience. Taking a little time to correct this will help stem negative reviews and may even lead to unsuccessful applicants referring their friends.

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