Some parting thoughts from a fellow job seeker who's decided it's time to move on after seven years.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I posted my first column for The Seattle Times, under what was then a NWjobs.com blog called “Hire Ground.” A few weeks before, I had been laid off from a beloved magazine job at a time when the economy was still in free fall and the nation had lost 700,000 jobs in a single month. “Scared” and “bewildered” didn’t begin to describe the emotions I felt at the time.
Since that day in 2009, I’ve held four allegedly “permanent” positions, endured three more unexpected layoffs, taken on a handful of part-time jobs, completed countless freelance assignments and even managed to buy a house. Through it all, the one constant was this column. The name has changed several times, but the focus of my posts was always to provide advice for those looking for their dream jobs. In many cases, I wrote about my own triumphs, disappointments and lessons learned along the way, and tried to pass along inspiring anecdotes about those who succeeded.
But all things must come to an end. This will be my last weekly column here, as I have decided to focus more on my full-time magazine work. I’m happy to say that, since those dark days of 2009, the local hiring situation has taken a long, slow arc toward growth. It feels like a good time to hand over the reins. So, as I look back on this column, I’ve collected some of my favorite pieces of advice from the past seven years. I hope they can still be of use to today’s job seeker.
Stop worrying about resumes. Which font should I use? How many pages? Which SEO terms should I include? People spend too much time worrying about minutiae. As long as your skills, accomplishments and dates of service are there (and spelled correctly), clever formatting won’t make you any more or less desirable.
Write cover letters. When I receive two job applications, and one has a cover letter and the other doesn’t, I’m always more drawn to the one who at least tried to explain why he or she wanted to work with me. This is your first chance to make a personal connection with the hiring manager. Don’t ignore it.
Don’t worship technology. Far too many job seekers create a LinkedIn profile, post some items on Facebook or point hiring managers to their personal websites to show off their work. Sorry, millennials, that’s not enough. You have to engage with actual people. And that means you have to put down your smartphones and …
Attend networking events. Shy people, myself included, may hate to hear this, but these events held by industry associations are often the best way to make lasting connections. Get out at least once a week to meet some new contacts.
Join in on the conversation. Post comments on web discussions, send tweets about issues related to your line of work, start a blog and write about your opinions on relevant subjects — just get your name out there. You’d be surprised how well this attracts potential hiring managers when they’re about to hire again.
Don’t get too comfortable. Most of us, at some point, must take dreary jobs just to pay the bills. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I caution readers to remember that there are other options available. Don’t give up on your dreams just because you’ve become accustomed to an unchallenging situation.
Focus on results, not details. After my first big job interview, I confided to my father — a Harvard-educated lawyer — that I was worried my answers were too awkward and that I might have blown it with the hiring manager. He told me that, “If these are the kinds of petty things he uses to judge others, you probably don’t want to have him for a boss anyway. He’d make you miserable.” My dad was right, of course. I ended up getting that job that lasted many years and led to several enduring friendships.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I wish you all good luck — and good hunting.