Looking for a job is a time-consuming pain, and can be especially discouraging if you’re unemployed. But if you make job searching part of your career-long routine — an hour or two a week of effort, say — you’ll discover profitable opportunities you’d otherwise miss and also reap the side benefits of a better understanding of your field of work.
You might also toss news of the occasional attractive opening to a friend or colleague, and thus earn their admiration and thanks; such gestures are often returned. That’s true networking.
Yes, even if you’re deliriously happy in your current position, you should be looking. Always. You’re one bad new boss or disruptive industry competitor from needing a job in today’s economy. The coronavirus pandemic underscores this point. And starting from a standing stop is a huge disadvantage. What’s more, there are likely many jobs out there you’d be even happier in, and better compensated by.
People who change employers typically enjoy higher wage growth year over year than those who stay, according to payroll company Automatic Data Processing. In the first quarter of 2020, people who switched jobs saw 5.2% wage growth versus 4.7% for those who stayed put.
The gap is wider for some industries. Information workers who switched saw a 10% increase vs. 5.4% for those who stayed.
Worried about making a change amid the pandemic? That’s probably wise. But it’s a great time to build the habits that will expose you to better opportunities for the rest of your career. Here are a few suggestions.
Search online job portals. Look to the largest websites — Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder and LinkedIn — for recent postings and to tweak searches by titles, location and keywords. It pays to have accounts, your resume posted and to have job alerts (mine: Bay Area of California, editor/writer/journalist) set up with multiple job portals; some listings show up in one but not the other. Glassdoor lists salary information and reviews of companies by employees. LinkUp draws in postings from company websites. Dice posts tech jobs. Idealist has jobs for the nonprofit sector, USAJobs for the federal government. And state workforce agencies and chambers of commerce may post jobs on their websites. Indeed scrapes openings from all over the web, often turning up jobs you’d only find on the employer’s site.
Monitor company websites. Have a dream employer? Don’t rely on Indeed or LinkedIn to catch openings. Nearly every company website has “jobs,” “careers” or “opportunities.”
Apply for jobs. Again, even if you’re happy in your current position, you should set a goal of applying for at least half a dozen jobs a year (more, of course, when you’re unhappy). This will tone your search muscles and likely prompt you to tweak your email alerts.
Don’t be afraid to email. If you can identify the hiring manager, and as long as the job listing doesn’t have a “no contact” disclaimer, reach out. This shows confidence and initiative in case you fail to stand out through a jobs portal. Even when a job isn’t posted, opportunities may exist with a company you’re keen on. Consider a short email to someone in management to get the conversation started.
Make sure your interview materials are in top form. You can never read over your resume, cover letters and, if applicable, work samples enough times. While some elements of the cover letter are repeatable job to job, think of ways to tailor the letter to the job. An employer would like to hear how you’d fit their job, not any job. Even if work samples are atypical in your field, think of tangibles or anecdotes to show your work. And practice: See if someone in your network can conduct a mock interview with you using teleconference tools and on the phone (and then reciprocate).
Network. Employers found 55% of hires through employee referrals, according to a report from onboarding software company SilkRoad. That dwarfs the nearly 15% hired through recruiters, less than 15% through Indeed, and about 5% through LinkedIn. You want someone to do you the favor of a referral, right? Do them a favor. Send them a link to an opening; introduce them to a potential employer or colleague; share credit generously on projects. These kind gestures plant the seed that you’re someone they’d want to work with and recommend.
Expand your education and training. Add to your relevant skills and show you’re a learner, a prized quality in today’s work environment. Coursera and edX offer free courses.
Establish yourself. Join a group on LinkedIn or Facebook where people may post insights into different careers and perhaps even job listings. Weigh in with answers to other’s questions. On Twitter, follow people in your industry whom you admire. Attempts at private conversations with people through these channels aren’t a negative; what started as friendly but professional banter can evolve into something more in the future.
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