It has been 8 months since the last economic stimulus passed in the US. As 2020 nears an end, there is a new wave of COVID related restrictions and closures that are sweeping the country. You don't need to wait for politicians to come up with another round of economic stimulus or for further cuts at your company. Instead, you can take control of your career and job search today.
This is the first part of the multi-part series with 21 tips to create your own stimulus plan for your job search and career forward. It is important to keep in mind that these are not theories or academic exercises. Instead, they are all things that you can (and probably should) do right now to advance your efforts. Some of these items may be reminders of what you already know, but that you may not be doing, haven't done in awhile, or not doing enough of it consistently.
As you start to read through the strategies below, keep in mind that your goal is to put at least 1 of the items to work for your job search today. The sooner you do the work, the sooner you can move your efforts forward. At the same time, no job search is done in a day. So, be patient with yourself and this process. Things do take longer and there are certainly things outside of your control. But, you can act now and those little things will add up (quickly).
So, here we go. Below is the first set of strategies with detailed instructions to start implementing and stop waiting around.
Strategy 1 - Update Your Resume
This seems obvious. But, it really is surprising how many people haven't done this yet. The pandemic has been going on in the US for over 8 months now. That's 8 months of people losing jobs, finding jobs, and losing jobs again. 2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year and most people have done more to keep their jobs this year than ever before. In times like this, everyone should update their resume quarterly. This is true even if you aren't actively looking for a new job because you can't be considered for an opportunity (internally or externally) if you don't have a resume. Thus, having that document ready to go at a moments notice is key.
So, what to focus on in updating your resume this often? Here are the 2 most important things to do to update your resume right now:
People are skimming resumes quickly. In fact, the average person spends about 6 seconds skimming the resume before they decide whether to pass or not on a candidate. So, one of the most effective ways to stand out is to add a highlights section to your resume and to keep it current with the most impactful things across your career.
Everyone should have something to add or change in their highlights section on their resume every quarter. If not, then it's seriously time to think about why not and what you can do to about that.
These are the bullets that contain the role specific results. Basically, the things that you accomplished in doing the job. For most hiring managers, the achievement bullets are what they really want to know about candidates. If you don't put these on your resume, then you will never get the interview to explain how you did it.
For someone that is currently working, you should be adding to these bullets at least quarterly. For someone that's been looking for awhile with little to no results, the chances are pretty good that you need to fix your achievements bullets.
The key to a good achievement? Numbers. If we can't count something, it is really hard as an outsider to understand what the person did. At the same time, those numbers can also make you look over or under qualified. Thus, the strategy to create the strongest achievement bullets is to use percentages whenever possible.
Want more help in updating your resume? Check out this post with recommendations on how how to build a resume that is optimized for the ATS.
Strategy 2 - Apply to Jobs
Again, seems obvious but it is soooo easy to get stuck in looking at countless job postings. Looking at job posts are an essential part of most job searches. However, you must take the next step in the process to move your job search forward. Here is what you need to know to take the anxiety out of taking that next step and to make it easier to hit that submit button:
75% are Rejected
75% is the average rejection rate of the applicant tracking system. That means that nearly 3/4th of the applications to a specific job are never seen by a person. Instead, the computer filters them out because the resume doesn't match the requirements for the position as set by the program and the individual recruiter.
So, the worst thing that can happen when you hit apply? You are rejected and probably never seen by someone at the company. But, you don't have a chance at the job if you don't apply. And, with the right resume strategy (see tip 1 above), you can be part of the 25% that make it through the ATS.
That's all you need. No one is perfect and no one needs to hit every single bullet on the requirements of the job posting. Instead, aim for about 70% of the bullets. If you hit that, then you should apply to the job.
There are some requirements that are hard and fast. Meaning that if you don't hit those then you probably will be rejected for being under-qualified. These bullets are typically hyper-specific requirements. For example:
If it's not super specific, then chances are pretty good that the requirement is not a hard requirement. Other keys to indicate that the requirement may be fuzzy? Phrases like "or equivalent" or "comparable" or "similar."
Application Volume is Up, Way Up
Unemployment has been at some all-time highs in 2020 because of the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy. This has translated to more people than ever applying to jobs. Some of those people have never applied to jobs online and have never used the talent acquisition technology. This has translated to a significant jump in applications through job boards and online sources.
How much? At times this year, we've seen as much as a 300% increase in applications. Although parts of the economy are more open now, the number of applications are still way up over pre-COVID numbers. Why? People are tired of the hiring freezes and salary freezes and ready to find somewhere new. Or, they were holding on their job for as long as they could stand and they are ready in 2021 to move on. So, when you apply, know that you are in a crowded field. But, the only way to get a chance at the opportunity is if you hit apply.
You Can Always Withdraw
Job postings are simply advertisements for the open position and company. The interviewing process is how both sides will decide whether or not it is truly a fit. Remember this when you are contemplating whether or not to apply. There are no guarantees that you will get an interview, but if you do and decide that you don't want it, you can always withdraw your application. This happens all the time and, if done properly, you won't burn any bridges.
To that end, don't apply to something if you can't see yourself doing the job as you are only wasting your time. But, if you apply and discover in the early interviews that it isn't a fit for compensation or substance, then you should take the proactive step to withdraw. Done well, you won't burn any bridges and you'll build out your candidate profile in their system so that the recruiter thinks of you when they have something that is a better fit. l
Strategy 3 - Expand Your Geography
Work from home and remote working are now a part of the normal fabric of many roles and companies. This means that there are more jobs than ever that can be done from new locations. It also means that many more jobs are being created with the intent of having them be remote forever. Thus, every aggressive job search should include a component of looking at and pursuing potential remote roles. However, a few things to keep in mind when considering remote jobs:
Not all jobs are posted as remote
For the right candidate, many companies will negotiate a partial or completely work from home or remote arrangement. This is even more true now. So, you can apply to jobs with the intention of only being remote or requiring that part of it become remote should you get the role. However, you need to know that at least part of that time will include in-office work. The point being - that everything is negotiable for the right job, right company, and right person.
As a job seeker, you should limit your time in pursuing jobs that you would only want on a remote basis. However, they should be a part of your strategy as everything is negotiable unless the nature of what you do requires you to be present. But, if you are someone with highly specialized knowledge or experience, then you should spend more time looking for roles that may have a remote option as you have a skill that is highly marketable - in any economy.
Some are temporarily remote
Many jobs have adapted to the COVID restrictions by requiring or allowing people to continue remotely. These jobs may have never been remote prior to COVID. And, those companies may not be clear on what that job will look like post-COVID. So, you can expect that some jobs will return to the office.
How do you know what jobs will be back in office and which ones will stay remote? The job posting should indicate whether something is temporarily remote. But, that's not always the case. The posting may also say that the job is temporarily remote, but it may be negotiated in the hiring process or after the candidate starts to stay remote. Thus, don't hold off on applying if the job is not clear about whether it is remote or if it will stay remote. Instead, apply and get ready to ask about that factor (if it is important to you) in the interview.
Some companies can't allow work from anywhere
This is true because of the countless variations of state and municipal employment laws that dictate different requirements for benefits, hiring processes, and certain disclosures. These laws are triggered based on where the work is performed - not where the company is located. The employer is held accountable for compliance with these laws - even if the employee fails to disclose that they are within a jurisdiction subject to such laws. Thus, the burden rests with the employer to comply.
As a result, there are an increasing number of companies that will not allow a work from anywhere approach to hiring. Instead, they are focused on finding talent in the cities and states where they already have people. This is because they already have the HR infrastructure in place to comply with the applicable employment laws in these jurisdictions. So, to best focus your efforts, make sure you are looking at roles that are remote or temporarily remote where they already have a physical presence in your area - or that they may want to create by hiring you.
So, bottom line? Make sure to incorporate remote and temporarily remote jobs in your job search. How do you find them? Most big job boards already have a filter to add to your searches to identify these jobs. The employer will indicate when posting the job whether it is remote or temporarily remote when they do so. You simply need to add that factor in to your existing searches to make sure that you are seeing these remote jobs when they come up. There are also some specialty job boards that focus on remote jobs. But, it typically is not necessary to pay for any of these as most companies have shifted to widely sharing this information in response to the general concerns about COVID.
Strategy 4 - Create Multiple Resumes
The reality is that most people will need more than 1 resume. You will do this for a couple of reasons, but the biggest motivation will be strategy #5. Some people will never need more than 1 resume because their career and job search is highly focused on a particular job title and industry. However, for most people, their job search will be relatively broad and they may easily fit in to a couple of different job titles or industries. So, here are the most important questions to ask yourself if the time has come to create multiple resumes:
Are you hoping to work in highly specialized or regulated industries?
If yes, then you should have a resume that is focused at that industry and one that is for broad use. This is particularly true because these industries have particular jargon or knowledge that they need to see from the candidates before they can proceed with an interview. That jargon or specialized knowledge is generally meaningless outside of the specialized industry. So, you don't want to include it if at all possible while still accurately capturing your highlights and achievements on your resume.
What are examples of highly specialized or regulated industries? Healthcare, banking, financial services, insurance, aerospace/defense contractors, global operations. All of these industries have their own lingo. They also look for specialized skills, personality traits, and industry knowledge on the applications of people to their open jobs. To get past those filters, you need to have it on the resume and be proud of it as it will help you to stand out. If you are trying to break in to these industries, then you should do your best to build a resume that focuses on the skills and experience that can translate if possible while maintaining an honest resume. The fastest way to burn any bridge is to oversell your experience on the resume only to disappoint in the interview. There will be other jobs in the industry or with that company, don't squander it by overselling or misrepresenting yourself or your experience on the resume.
Are you considering more than 1 job type or genre?
If yes, than you definitely need more than 1 resume so that you can quickly (and effectively) apply to each type of job with the appropriate focus and keywords. Your experience is your experience, but the details of that experience may relate differently to different audiences. So, you can create different versions of the resume to emphasize those details that are relevant to that type of role and the people trying to fill it. Plus, having these different versions ready will enable you to move as quickly as possible. This way you are not recreating the wheel each time you find something that is of interest.
Want to know more if you need multiple resumes? Check out this post to read more.
Strategy 5 - Speed Matters
The average time that a jobseeker spends on an application? About 1 hour. The average amount of time that an employer spends in handling that application? Less than 3 minutes. This disconnect in time means that a smart jobseeker should do everything that they can to spend less time on the applications while maintaining the quality of their job applications.
This is more important than ever with the record-breaking number of job applications right now. This is having the very real impact of jobs being posted and being closed quickly due to caps on the number of applicants. These applicant caps are set by the recruiter or company when they post the job and they are frequently an automated feature in the ATS. Early in the pandemic, it was common for jobs to close due to applicant caps in 48 - 72 hours. There are STILL jobs that are being posted and closing in 48 - 72 hours due to applicant cap. So, you cannot wait to apply. Instead, you should focus on getting that application out quickly, but correctly as you may only have one shot.
This also means that you should not waste your time looking at stale jobs. Most recruiters in the private sector will start moving forward with applications after the first week. Sometimes, that can be up to 2 weeks. But, rarely will a recruiter or talent acquisition person in the private sector wait longer than 2 weeks to start sorting and contacting candidates. Thus, you should not waste your time looking at jobs that are older than 14 days. Instead, focus your time and energy on looking at and applying to jobs that have been posted within the last 7 days. And, make sure that you get your application out in that same window to make the most of your chances.
Now, pick at least 1 of these items to put to work in your job search today. You can pick another 1 to put into action for yourself this week. That's already making big steps forward! Doing the work is the only way that you will see the results. The good news is that by doing the work now, your job search will be that much further along than it was when you started reading this blog.
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