Steps to find a job
July 11, 2019 9:19 AM   Subscribe

It's been a while since my last job hunt, and I'd like to be as productive as I can with the next 30 days before I'm officially let go. I've got some theories about next steps below, but would love to have some advice from others who have navigated this recently.

Currently working in HR Compliance, generating EEO reports etc., and also helping host diversity trainings and conferences.

I've got a master's degree and 6 years experience in Organizational Psychology, but no HR credentials and no burning desire to stay in Human Resources. So, I don't have a job title I'm looking for, or a field, or a career path.

I'm also one of those types of people who are really good at learning just about anything - but paradoxically really bad at selling my own value proposition.

I'm fascinated by so many interesting problems - with a definite bend towards the issues of getting people to do things right. Sustainable behaviors, civic engagement, exercise, etc. Or how to run a business right, or how to maximize employee performance. This is all very cross-discipline and vague as can be.

Here are some strategy tidbits that I've got bouncing around. I'd love feedback on any of these:
  • Spend as little time as possible fiddling around with a resume and focus all your time on scheduling networking meetings
  • There are hundreds of applicants for every job these days, so it's important to apply early and often
  • There may be value in working with a staffing agency or reverse headhunter, and paying money for linkedin / monstor / other services.
  • Large organizations hire experts based on specific criteria and credentials - no one is hiring scrappy generalists who keep things together.
  • No one doing interesting work that's good for the community will pay a new employee $60k, so I either need to prepare for a massive budget change or ignore groups doing good work and sell out to corporations.
  • Until my unemployment benefits expire, do not take any offers of employment that will not meet my income / insurance needs, because this will negatively impact my unemployment benefits. This includes any dreams of combining multiple scrappy gigs into something that would be delightful or fascinating to do.
  • Every good job I've gotten in the past was because a friend dropped it in my lap. Maximize time spent on that. I won't get a job by applying for it online.
Therefore, here is my current strategy:
  1. polish up a quick resume that I can tweak based on job descriptions
  2. flip through my virtual rolodex and schedule lunches, coffees, etc. with everyone who might listen
    1. Meet those folks, engage them in a talk about what pain points they have in their org, and how I could help fill those.
    2. If it's not a clear match, ask them for suggestions of other people I could talk to
  3. Research my region and make a list of all the most interesting businesses
    1. use my networks to find people in those businesses to network with
    2. Search the job boards for new jobs at those companies, and apply for them all
  4. sign up for whatever linkedin,, or other job seeker websites are trying to sell me on. Apply for all jobs they suggest
  5. Keep connected with my therapist and consider going back on Anti-Anxiety meds until this all blows over

posted by rebent to Work & Money (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Keep track of everything somehow. For me when I was laid off last year, I started a big spreadsheet on day one that let me track:

* Where I applied
* Who I spoke with
* Current status
* Updated dates
* Notes and stuff

It was incredibly helpful for me, and helped me focus on what opportunities were new/old/not happening/etc.

On point 1, do the same for a cover letter. You (should) write one for every position, but you're gonna need to tweak that too.

Agreed though on your general approach; I did a "cold apply" for the job I ultimately was offered and accepted, but had multiple separate friends point me to it – which was great. By far, my network on LinkedIn and offline was the most critical part of my search.
posted by hijinx at 9:51 AM on July 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

+1 for a job applications tracker spreadsheet. I have found this to be critical.

I think you're on the right track. The only other thing that stood out to me as you'll need a quick elevator speech ready to go when you reach out to folks or when you sit down with them in person. So even though you don't know where you want to go or what you want to do next, you still need to be able to quickly summarize the following: past experience > key skills > areas of interest > ideal job goal so they have something to leverage and can make helpful suggestions or referrals.

Also, on networking strategies, I have heard really good things about this book. I bought it the last time I was job hunting but ended up getting an offer before I could read it, haha.
posted by anderjen at 10:17 AM on July 11, 2019

Personal networking has been my go to for the last 15 years. Cold applying doesnt seem to work well for me. Any way you can get a referral or recommendation from a friend or colleague will be super helpful.

If I really needed a position that I couldnt network into, honestly I would check local company websites for job postings and then call HR and find someone in that department and have a conversation with them about the company in general, and see if you can set up an informal meeting with them and take them out to lunch. Even if you dont end up applying, it's a good way to build a network. I've met a lot of interesting folks this way when I was just looking to learn more about my industry. People can be surprisingly receptive when free lunch is offered :)
posted by ananci at 12:39 PM on July 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Over-applying at a single company sometimes lands you on the 'ignore' list. So, best to find a good fit, then find someone at that company you know that can provide a 'referred' application link.

I've actually submitted people I know for a job, then HR didn't reply and when I followed up, they said they had applied to 5 other jobs over the past year, so they just tossed any new applications from them for anything.

So, targeted, versus shotgun, at least within a single firm.
posted by rich at 12:55 PM on July 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Check in your state but in mine, if you take a temp job your benefits stop but if you become unemployed again with x time, you can restart based on your original claim.
posted by metahawk at 1:17 PM on July 11, 2019

you probably have a ton of information in your work email that you should extract.
posted by evilmonk at 1:19 PM on July 11, 2019

One thing I've found very handy when job-searching is to create a mega-master resume with everything I could possibly ever want to put on a resume. Then when I find a job I want to apply for, I don't have to write *new* stuff, I just have to delete the irrelevant stuff from the resume. You still might end up writing new copy while you're customizing your resume for a specific job (highlighting a specific accomplishment or something), and if you do, add that to the master resume too.

It's a bit of effort up front but it really pays off (and it's a nice way to remind yourself of all your previous accomplishments).
posted by mskyle at 1:35 PM on July 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

There are hundreds of applicants for every job these days, so it's important to apply early and often

I'm sorry, but depending on where you live, you could be off by an order of magnitude here. At any good company that people want to work at in your area, any desirable job could potentially see thousands of applicants, not just hundreds.

Some social platforms like LinkedIn will even tell you what number candidate you would be in the queue - but even that number is only the number of people that applied for the posting via that specific social platform. It doesn't count applicants through the job sites (Indeed, et. al.), let alone all the smart applicants that found the role on the company's page and applied there directly (read: this is what you should do).

But even if you have google notifying you via email whenever a job with your preferred keywords gets posted (read: do this too - just do a google search for a given job and it will walk you through the steps to set this up), you will almost never be the very first person to apply to a job. In the 15-30 minutes it should take you to tailor your resume (read: you should do this every time), a number of qualified candidates will have already beat you to the application.

Application Tracking Software solutions are now the first set of digital eyes that scan through the hundreds or thousands of applications. ATS systems wipe out ~90%+ of the applicants before a human even gets involved in the process. For competitive jobs with lots of applicants, it could be more like 99%. Your goal is to make it into that 1-10% that will actually be recommended to the recruiter to scan. If you can make it into that 10%, you need to stand out in a field that could still easily be dozens.

ATS recommends its results in a prioritized order based on keyword matchup between the job posting and your resume. The more keyword matches it finds, the higher you will be prioritized on the list that the recruiter receives (this is using a form of AI called Natural Language Processing). Some ATS's provide the recruiter with the ability to prioritize certain keywords that should be valued higher than others when screening the applicant CV's. You can usually guess which ones these are from the gist of the job posting and tailor accordingly.

The good thing about this, for you, the applicant, is that most ATS technology can be reverse engineered, either by brute force (you going through the JD and manually updating your CV to contain matching terms, or ideally by licensing a software that allows you to upload your CV and a copy of the JD, and allow that software to spit out a % match for your CV based on keyword matchup (I use FirstSourceTeam for this, but providers of these are legion). Then you can more quickly tailor your CV and re-upload it against the JD to see how much closer you got to an 80% match for the role. You shouldn't really waste your time on an application where your CV isn't at least 80%, the ideal is more like 90-95%. Similarly, you shouldn't waste your time applying for postings that are more than 2-3 days old. At that point, most likely, the recruiter has already taken the list from ATS that they will use to select candidates for actual screening calls.

Sorry it's not easier than that these days, and that it's become such a brute machine, but job applications have completely changed in our lifetime. Thanks technology!

Good luck. Looking for work is the hardest work there is. I think getting preemptive with your therapist is a smart move, you need to be taking good care of yourself so you can show up well when you need to in interviews.

You sound based on your interests like management consulting might be an interesting line of work for you. If you'd like to learn more about it, feel free to me-mail me.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:19 PM on July 11, 2019 [9 favorites]

Seconding evilmonk. Save your contacts.
posted by brainwane at 5:47 AM on July 12, 2019

One thing I learned the hard way is to save the job description in a doc after you apply. If they take the job posting down before your interview, you won't remember the details of the job!
posted by radioamy at 12:07 PM on July 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would consider making a website that showcases not only your professional skills and qualifications but also your personal strengths and interests and a good bio. As someone who's met you in person, I can say that you are awesome and well-rounded, and your leadership and service to the community are exceptional and impressive. In fact, even making a little guide of coffee shops in your city featuring a sketch or two you created in each would be cool!

I think that, once people get to know you -- in person or online first, they will be keen to have you work for their organization even if your qualifications and experience are slightly different than what they're asking for.

A digital calling card is really useful these days, and it doesn't need to be complicated! (Now it's time for me to follow my own advice and create that personal website instead of just brainstorming it!) I'd be glad to give you feedback if you decide to go this route and need help getting started.
posted by smorgasbord at 1:47 PM on July 19, 2019

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