Whether you are laid off, fired, or choose to leave your job immediately due to unexpected circumstances, being unemployed isn’t fun. We aren’t children any more; most of use have rent or a mortgage due every month, not to mention essential utilities and vehicle expenses. What seemed like reasonable expenses while you were employed now seem like extraordinary expenditures; everyone seems to be grabbing for the small pile of money while you’re trying to make it last for as long as possible. Beyond just financial strain unemployment causes, it’s also going to throw you onto the emotional roller coaster call “job hunting”.
I have yet to meet someone that isn’t stressed out by searching for a new job. Wading through the many online ads, jumping through hoops for employment consultants, and the never-ending indigestion from waiting for a call after an interview is enough to make anyone crazy. It can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you haven’t had to look for a job in a few years.
Don’t underestimate a LinkedIn profile. We all know that Social Media is a great way to network and connect with people, so naturally it is a fantastic tool for job seekers. LinkedIn doesn’t have to be quite as concise as your resume, so don’t limit yourself to just your previous three positions– add the jobs that gave you the experience that you’ll need in the job you’re looking for. I choose not to list every job I’ve ever had, because most employers wouldn’t care to know that I worked at Build-a-Bear Workshop during the Christmas season while I was in grade eleven, but they will want to know that I have worked for several years in customer service. Highlight the skills that you possess that are in demand, so that when a potential employer scours your profile they can tell immediately if you have what they are looking for. LinkedIn also has a great job board that isn’t filled with postings to “make $100,000 a year at home!” or “insert pyramid scheme here” nonsense; in my previous job searches, this has been where I’ve received the most responses.
Pro tip: Include the link for your profile on your actual resume, along with your contact information. An executive that I’ve spoken with generally won’t consider someone without one–this is becoming a common theme, especially if the job includes web-based components.
Tailor your cover letter. Cover letters kind of suck to write, I’ll admit it. Even if you can come up with a great template that works for 90% of the positions that you are applying for, nothing will beat a tailored letter that is specific to the position and company that you are applying for. Not only will it impress the potential employer that you actually wrote a custom cover letter, it also gives you a chance to show off those excellent communication skills that you boast about in your resume.
Pro tip: Grab key words from the job posting and use them. If they mention that they are looking for a candidate with time-management skills, weave it into your letter. If they are looking for someone that knows social media, briefly highlight an experience that you had with utilising social media effectively in a business environment.
Be honest. It should go without saying, but I’m going to throw it out there anyways: just be honest. Taking one French course in University does not make you bilingual, just as sitting at a desk next to the marketing department does not give you marketing experience. The interviewer will see through it and most likely call you on it; industries tend to be small, so burning bridges before you even get your foot in the door is a very bad idea. Be yourself–most companies are looking for the right candidate, someone that fits their company well, and will train to suit if necessary.
Pro tip: Instead of inflating your resume to fit the job posting, highlight important qualities that you do have; problem-solving and customer service skills are important in pretty much every job.
Find a short-term solution. Now, I’m not saying take a random job until something you actually want pops up; that just isn’t fair to any company. Most larger cities have employment agencies that hire staff on a short term basis for companies–yup, I’m talking about temping. There are quite a few pros to working with a temp agency: they generally have an abundance of work, they can usually place you immediately, most pay weekly, and even if you don’t make enough to replace your previous salary, some money coming in is better than none. As a bonus, a lot of temp agency placements can lead to full-time employment, if you find a position that fits where you see your career going.
Pro tip: Call the temp agency directly before sending your resume; most receptionists can direct you to (or at the very least, provide the email for) one of their consultants. This is usually faster than submitting a resume online, and if you can get the consultant on the phone then you have a chance to start building a relationship with them right away.
Update your resume. Maybe this should have been the first step, however it is still very important. Personally, I update my resume even when I’m happily employed. That way I can track the experience that I’ve gained while I’m actually in the role, rather than scrambling to remember what the heck I did there a few weeks after leaving. Make sure your contact information is up-to-date, and that your email is spelled correctly–that’s a really embarrassing one. Not that I’ve done it. Awkward. A really important component of a resume is ‘learning and development’–don’t list just the degree that you hold, also list any further educational and work-related training that you have done. Employers love to see that you’re willing to learn new skills and take the time to complete the training.
Pro tip: Save a copy of your resume as a PDF, and send that to potential employers. It gives a clean, professional look to it, and the format is compatible with any computer post-1998. It doesn’t matter how great a candidate is, if Human Resources can’t open your resume then they can’t call you!