Now finally we are finally getting into the meat of things with finding your new career. And it calls for organization and effort.
Note that my advice is based on my experience of seeking a professional, managerial position. My previous position was just shy of C-level, so what I was looking for was a bit north of a lay position. A lot of what you’ll read is about aiming at middle to upper management. However, most of the suggestions can be leveraged for any position you’re interviewing for. And, as I’ve said, if you have specific questions you can always email me or post a question in the comments.
Let’s start by getting setup with the tools you’ll need to be successful:
- Make sure you have an electronic calendar where you can keep all of your appointments. In my case, I used Mac’s Calendar app. All my devices (all Apple products) use it and they sync using iCloud. It’s vitally important that you know who you’re meeting with and when. Missing appointments is a great way to lose a golden opportunity or send a negative message to your potential employer. A paper calendar can make do, but why not instead make an effort to move into the 21st century and leverage a digital calendar? Further, by using an integrated calendar app, the appointment contains the address where you’re heading to (and/or the phone number) and you can immediately link to Maps and get guidance and drive time, or you can click on the phone number and easily make a call if you’re running late. Try that with paper! (…during interview, slowly unfolds paper map to find location of next interview…gets paper cut…)
When choosing a calendar app, you can certainly also use the calendar that is part of Outlook. That works best when Outlook is also your mail client. Outlook, however, does not play well with Mac Calendar or Mac Contacts, not even Google contacts (at least for now).
You can also use Google Calendar, which works well if you have a Google email address. You can access it by logging into Google and going to calendar.google.com. The good news is that Mac Calendar can connect to the Google Calendar, but Outlook appears not to. The bad new is that, as with anything you share with Google, it will be scanned and stored for use by their AI marketing monster.
You can use a paper calendar organizer but imagine how “high-tech” you’ll look when you’re interviewing and have to crack open that journal and write your follow-up appointment down.
- Make sure you have an electronic Contacts list. If you’re like me, a few years ago my contacts were scattered everywhere. I had Outlook contacts, and Google contacts, separate contacts on my phone, iPad, Mac laptop contacts and a mishmash of every person I’d interacted with for 25 years.
I switched to using Google contacts. Again, this is best when you already have Google email address, and you can access it using http://contacts.google.com. See the pattern? http://[content type].google.com and you can get directly to the page with the info you want. I linked it to my Mac, and it works flawlessly with Mac mail. However, it doesn’t work well with Outlook. That’s another pattern you’ll find.
This is the perfect time to go through ALL of your contacts, merge duplicates and delete those that are no longer relevant. Export all of your contacts into a flat-file and import them tino Google, which has a nice “find duplicates” feature that lets you merge similar contacts.
Make sure you have a “me” contacts entry that allows you to quickly send yourself an email. This is great when you want to take down notes via your electronic device and send them to yourself for later.
- Make sure you have access to solid Word Processing software. You would be surprised how many resumes I’ve seen that were clearly written in Notepad (or vim). Nearly every platform comes with a decent word processor. Certainly Microsoft Word is the king, but Mac Pages is fine, along with a bevy of free writing tools you can download. Or just invest in the Microsoft Office 360 license, at least for now. All you really need is way to do bullet points, bold text, paragraphing and, for the love of God, spelling and grammar checks!
- Setup a Cloud or backup storage location. This is not directly related to your job search, but having a cloud drive that you can access from any device allows you to quickly get to your resume or other pertinent information. Imagine you arrive at a job interview and realize you didn’t bring any extra copies of your resume. With your resume being on a cloud drive, you can quickly print a few copies at Kinko’s, for example.
And I should not have to convince you to have a solid backup of all your systems. I use Apple TimeMachine. You can use an external drive, or the aforementioned cloud drive. This has saved me even when all I needed was the last version of my resume.
- Create a Job Search Log. On a shared/cloud drive, create a document that you will use to track every company that you contacted or sent a resume to, and every networking activity you participate in — and the result. Below is a snippet of my log:
It’s basically a three column table that includes the date, the activity and the current status. I used “orange” to indicate job applications, and white (or clear background) to indicate other activities and gray for those that had reached a conclusion (good or bad). These are all gray because they were from earlier this year.
Also, you may forget where you have applied and apply there again. Or perhaps you applied and never heard back – this is a great reminder tool to check the status of that application.
Keep this log close to you and update it nightly (or more frequently). As you’re looking for a job, networking, getting feedback and referrals, it’s easy to lose track of the last thing that happened. It also helps you remember names and assemble your notes.
Take any names of people or organizations and add them to your contact list. Make sure you include phone numbers and addresses. If you don’t know the address for a business, for goodness sake use Google to search for it.
- Get a decent email address. Oh my oh my, how many resumes have I seen where the person’s email address is something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com”. C’mon people!
First, do you really want an interviewer to judge you based on your email address before getting to know you? What if your email is “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com”? Is that the right message you want to send professionally? Hint: NO. Invest in getting a decent and professional email address (they’re free!) that uses your name or some derivative of it. Make sure it doesn’t send a message about your political, romantic, dietary or pop-culture preferences (“firstname.lastname@example.org”). You want to be a blank slate heading into that interview.
Also, having domains that seem old our outdated (@aol.com, @myspace.com, @netzero.com, @me.com) again just paints a picture of your technology hipness before you get a chance to say a word. AOL implies you use a dial-up connection (14.4K baby!) and the others are just old providers of email addresses. Go grab a free email address from Google, iCloud – or create your own domain (https://www.melyssagriffin.com/use-gmail-custom-domain/).
Here’s an article on the “mockability” of your email domain. (http://11points.com/11-email-providers-ranked-mock-ability/)
As you progress through interviews and the ranks of interviewers at an organization, your email address will be seen by more and more people. Make sure it reflects your professionalism.
- Find a tool to provide background information on an organization. This is not absolutely required, but you really should know the details about the company you will be interviewing with. If you were laid off, you may have been provided access to an outplacement service. If so, they often provide access to Hoovers or Bloomberg or others to be able to research the financial viability of organizations. If you don’t have that, Google can suffice.
Really this is more advice than a tool: make sure you research an organization before you apply for a job there. What’s happened recently? Did they just get acquired? What’s their financial position? What earnings (losses) did they report the last quarter? If nothing else, it gives you discussion material during an interview to show you’ve done your homework (more on that in a subsequent article).
- Pay for LinkedIn Premium. If you’re already on LinkedIn, you probably have received countless offers to upgrade to Premium. I eventually did and found it helpful. You will get one month free, and then I paid for a subsequent month. Premium Career (currently $29.99 a month) is sufficient. In my opinion, it’s perhaps barely worth the cost, but worth it.
Using premium you can see who looked at your profile and often see a specific name or organization that showed interest. You get statistics on how ofter your name came up on searches. To me that was an important and interesting part. It allowed me to follow-up with people who seemed to revisit my profile. You have to be careful and not do this in a creepy way. I’d recommend referencing the organization they work with and not “hey, I saw you skulking around my profile…”
Also, you can turn on the “I’m looking for a job” switch on LinkedIn, which makes your profile show up on candidate searches.
A future article will provide direction on cleaning up your online presence, including on LinkedIn.
- Pay for a Resume Writing Service. Oh yes, this is important. We’ll get into your resume in more detail in a subsequent article, but this is so important.
Resume structures and accepted formats change often. What looked cool and hip a few years ago (your headshot on a resume!) is embarrassing now. Multi-columns versus single column, using color, a “career goals” section, how you list employment, how far you go back and other key elements of a resume keep changing. Having a professional service create the resume for you is useful and vital. You’ll stand out from the others who still use outdated techniques, and you’ll be seen as investing in your job search.
Also, the way companies scan resumes and look for key words can be severely impaired if you create a cutesy resume with all sorts of “cool” fonts (papyrus, anyone?).
- Wardrobe Makeover. This is absolutely a tool. The way you look is also seriously important to how you fare in an interview. It’s unfortunate but true that employers will judge you on how well your clothes fit, how contemporarily professional you appear and the color combination you choose. There are suit colors that are more appropriate for interviews than others not just the obvious (stay away from all white unless you’re applying for job of host of Fantasy Island).
If you were previously employed at a casual or business casual organization, you may find that you don’t even own a well-fitting suit, or that your polo shirts are ratty, bally and worn.
If you’re serious about getting a decent job, you’ll have to spend some money on a few good interviewing outfits, new shoes, and even a new carrying case. We’ll cover a section on the interview process, but please do NOT show up at an interview with a back pack, or any hat, or way colorful socks.
Also, get a haircut, get your teeth whitened, treat that acne, invest in cologne (don’t slather it on!), practice smiling naturally, practice your handshake. When you step into the interviewer’s office, you need to strike them as a great “first impression” person. This is often a key, but unwritten part of the interview process.
Finally, have your interview clothes dry cleaned. Don’t just iron them or worse yet show up with wrinkled clothes. After every two or three interviews, have them dry cleaned again.
Being prepared for your job search means having all the tools in place to react to opportunities, do research on organizations, and have that snappy outfit ready when you’re called in for an unexpected interview.