7 Tips to Take the Fear Out of Job Search
By Laura Longero | October 20, 2020
Feeling spooked and afraid to start a job search amid a global pandemic? It’s OK to feel scared. The whole job-search process is a bit overwhelming – especially in the beginning. To make matters more challenging, the year 2020 has been filled with uncertainty. However, the good news is the national unemployment rate declined to 7.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on October 2.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In September, the unemployment rate declined by 0.5 percentage point to 7.9 percent, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 1.0 million to 12.6 million. Both measures have declined for 5 consecutive months but are higher than in February, by 4.4 percentage points and 6.8 million, respectively.”
So, if you’ve been laid off or you’re just looking for a job that fulfills you in a different way, now’s the time to take on a job search.
Here are seven tips for taking the fear out of your job search.
Develop a plan
First, you’ll want to figure out what job titles you’re targeting. Are you looking for a step up in your same general field, or are you looking to make a pivot? Understand your non-negotiables, such as compensation, benefits, equity, etc. And keep company culture in mind when you’re targeting companies or specific employers. For a step-by-step guide to figuring out your job search plan, check out The Complete Guide to Understanding Your Job Search: Section One: Assessment.
Set pragmatic goals, such as applying to 20 jobs per week and give yourself small rewards when you accomplish said goals. Take a quantitative approach instead of a qualitative approach when it comes to job applications, applying to as many jobs as possible. The conversion rate for online applications is around 5%, so it’s better to apply to any job that’s a fit rather than creating the perfect cover letter for each application.
Save the jobs you’ve applied for in your LinkedIn job tracker or keep a list of them so you can reference the job postings if you’re chosen for a phone screen and interview. Hold yourself accountable for your progress by checking in with an accountability partner, such as a family member or friend, someone who can keep you motivated to continue applying for jobs even when you’re not getting much traction.
The likelihood that you’ll secure the first job you apply for is slim to none.
Keep it positive
The average job seeker takes five months to find a new job, and conversion rates for online applications are around 5%, which is a pretty bleak outlook. This is why it’s imperative to understand your motivation for finding a new job and to keep things in perspective. You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time, so the adage goes, so keep in mind that this is a “one day at a time” type of process, as are many difficult stages and processes in life.
Remember that rejection is just part of the process for any job search. Try not to take it to heart. The modern job search is highly impersonal with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) weeding out candidates from the get-go. This is why it’s important to focus on setting and attaining small goals, and trying to let go of the fact that you have very little control over this part of the process.
Get your content in order
Before you start submitting your resume, make sure it’s in a good spot. The top sections of the resume should highlight your expertise as it relates to the jobs you’re targeting by highlighting the keywords and key phrases that appear in job descriptions. In the experience section, each job should list accomplishments and projects that have concrete data points attached to them to highlight your impact at each role. Finally, make sure the resume holds to one or two full pages.
Check out your LinkedIn profile as it compares to others who have the job titles you’re targeting. Look especially at the profiles of those who likely would be your competition by reviewing their skills sections to see if you’re missing out on any important skills there — you can have up to 50 skills listed in this section, so maximize that list. Tweak your headline so it’s positioning you for the roles you want, and double-check your job titles, industry, and “open to new opportunities” section to make sure your content is up to date.
When it comes to cover letters, the important thing to know is that they’re mostly about the process and are intentionally used to weed out less-interested candidates. If an application requires a cover letter, make sure you’re applying your experience and accomplishments to each role, which you can determine by reading the job description.
Whatever you do, do not send a canned cover letter. They’re the worst.
Network like crazy
You never know where your next job opportunity will come from, so make sure to build your online presence on LinkedIn. Connecting even with casual acquaintances on LinkedIn is perfectly appropriate and is, in fact, encouraged. The strength of your profile is related to the strength of your network, so you want to constantly be building it. Start connecting with people who work in your business unit and HR/recruiting at your target companies, which increases the likelihood of your profile showing up in a recruiter’s search.
Connect with anyone you admire. Don’t forget to turn on the “open to work” option at the top of your LinkedIn profile and add up to five job titles you’re targeting, as well as the location and type of work you’re seeking. Finally, toggle to the “recruiters only” setting if you’re still employed at your current company and have concerns that your boss would read that if it were set to public.
During non-pandemic times, in-person networking through business and industry organizations and connections is a great strategy and is, in most cases, the easiest way to get a job.
Do all the interview prep
All that time you saved from not writing cover letters for each job you apply for will be better spent on interview preparation. For each interview, you want to understand who the audience is and what problem the company is likely trying to solve with a hire.
Craft a few stories (three to five) around past experiences from your career that answer common interview questions such as “tell me about yourself?” or “tell me about a time you failed?” Other good story themes are leadership/mentorship, conflict resolution, successes, and weaknesses.
Do your company/role research and preparation in the days leading up to the interview, so on the day of, you should just get ready for the day, eat breakfast, and embrace a positive mindset. Trial runs for a drive to an interview or video conference set-up should be done the day before so you don’t have to stress about it during or immediately before the interview.
Remember: Employees tend to leave companies and roles because they dislike their current supervisor, so you’ll want to make sure you can work with the hiring manager at any company you’re seriously considering.
Negotiate like a boss
The job offer and negotiation stage is the most exciting part of a job search. This also is the first stage where you discuss any sort of salary and total compensation — discussions prior to this stage can put you at a disadvantage during the negotiation process. Any of your priorities and non-negotiables — such as work flexibility, title, the scope of the role, equity, benefits, stock options, and most importantly, salary — can be negotiated.
Failing to negotiate results in leaving money on the table, especially for women, 34% of whom typically negotiate during the job-offer stage vs. 46% of men, according to Forbes. Have an objective third party review your offer to make sure it’s appropriate. And if you feel like you need additional support, consider hiring a career coach. Once you’ve carefully considered the offer, respond graciously and promptly.
Is there anything we left out? Do you have any more tips to take the fear out of job search? We’d love to hear from you. Simply comment below and we’ll be sure to respond.
Laura Longero is an award-winning writer and editor and leads the content team as Head of Content & Editorial at Discover Podium. Her favorite writers are Jane Austen, Ruth Reichl, Louisa May Alcott, and M.F.K. Fisher.