HOW TO FIND A JOB IN 2020
THE ULTIMATE JOB SEARCH GUIDE
FOR THE MODERN WOMAN
Written by Emilie Aries and Kirby Verceles
Designed by Ellie Nonemacher
The modern job search requires
an entirely modern skillset.
Job-seekers today have to contend with AI resume screeners, video interviews, and getting lost in a sea of job applicants in a vast Applicant Tracking System.
That’s why now more than ever, job-seekers must go the extra mile to stand out from the crowd, leverage internal references and referrals, and advocate on their own behalf every step of the way.
In the report below, we offer step-by-step guidance to help you launch your most effective job search strategy possible.
LAID OFF DUE TO COVID-19?
This global pandemic has set off a chain of events leading to a historic spike in unemployment claims and mass disruption that’s impacting every business, non-profit, and government entity.
If you’re one of the millions of people newly out of work, start here first.
While launching your job search is important, you’ll want to take these important steps first to protect yourself and ensure your basic needs are met, before returning to this guide.
Resilience for the road ahead
Welcome to the modern job search, boss. Buckle up, it can be one hell of a ride.
In today’s competitive market, searching for your next job can feel like a full-time job itself! And in the age of online applications, it’s easy to get lost in an ever-growing digital stack of resumes.
That’s why it’s so important to start by setting realistic expectations for yourself and establishing a mindset focused on resilience and grit.
How long will my job search take?
It depends. Let’s start by assessing your basic needs. Are you fleeing a toxic workplace? Were you suddenly laid off and find yourself unemployed? Did some outside factor in your personal life force you to step down from your job?
any source of employment that serves the sole purpose of maintaining an income, even though it may not further your career.
When you feel cornered financially, a bridge job may be your best first step in order to maintain an income – any income – that helps establish a baseline sense of financial safety. Without that, you’re prone to job-searching with a scarcity mindset, which can cause you to make short-sighted employment decisions out of desperation and fear.
In the pages ahead, I’ll outline how to make more mindful career moves, by engaging in a job search strategy that’s focused on maximizing the long-term benefits of your next position – from both a personal and professional standpoint.
Engaging in this kind of values-driven job search strategy can take time – often between five and six months, based on my past career coaching clients. But it’s designed to help you make the right next move.
Finding just any job may be faster,
but finding the job is worth the wait.
The strategy I outline in the pages ahead is less about how quickly you navigate your career transition and more focused on the quality of your next job. The best career moves are often made as a result of a mindful, deliberate job search that may take more than just a few months to see through.
FEELING OVERWHELMED BY YOUR JOB SEARCH?
Check out our interactive workshop,
How to Bring Structure to Your Job Search,
where you’ll learn how to:
+ Bring structure to your search as a full-time job-seeker
+ Sustain your motivation in the face of uncertainty
+ Design a morning and evening routine based on your personality
Time Management for the Job Search
Because your job search may take months of consistent effort to produce the best possible results, it’s important to start by setting clear expectations for how you’ll manage your time.
You’re likely feeling crunched for time because you’re putting in a full day’s work at your current position while trying to keep your momentum going with applications, relationship-building, and interviewing for your next job, too.
It can feel like pulling a double-shift every day, with no end in sight.
Make sure to embrace these three strategies to help you make the most of your time:
Set clear boundaries with your day job
Sometimes in order to find your next boss, you’ll need to set clear boundaries with your current one. If it’s your first instinct to go above and beyond what’s expected of you at work, you’ll need to reign that in. Give yourself permission to give 80% at work instead of your usual 100% or 110% for a change – you may be surprised by how few people even notice.
If you’re continuously asked to stay late, put in extra hours, or asked to deliver way more than what’s possible to deliver, you may need to have an assertive conversation with your supervisor about your workload to reset boundaries and take back your time.
Decide what you can let drop
Do you pride yourself on having a sparkling clean house? Do you always start the day with a workout? Are you one to never miss a new episode of The Bachelor?
When making your job search a priority, you’re going to be confronted with some tough trade-offs regarding how you spend your time. Remind yourself: this sacrifice is temporary. The job search process requires consistent, focused effort to arrive at a successful outcome.
It’s up to you to decide what aspects of your life will take a back seat to make room for this priority. As author Tiffany Dufu says, “you have to decide how to drop the ball.”
Make the most of your personal time
Look at your calendar for the week ahead: what pockets of time do you have control over? The 10 minutes you have right after your alarm goes off and before you need to wake up the kids? The 30 minutes after you arrive home from work? The hour you spend watching TV at night? How can you make the most of that time to pursue your job search?
A member of the Bossed Up community who I profile in my book, Jonelle, shared how she prioritizes her job search by getting up a little earlier each day to peruse job boards before leaving for work, spending a few nights a week out at networking events to grow her contacts in her industry, and spending time on the weekends writing and submitting applications.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am all about work-life balance, but when your time is limited and your job search is a top priority, this extra effort will pay off.
Remind yourself of your why – what’s on the other side of this period of persistent effort? Commit to re-investing in your personal sustainability once you make the leap into a new job you love.
How to Keep Your Job Search on the Down-low
As you begin the job search process, you’ll want to think carefully about how to keep your intentions on the down-low. Even the kindest bosses are prone to moving on mentally when they find out that you’ve got one foot out the door.
And because dream job offers may take months to come by, you don’t want to create any undue anxiety or uncertainty for your supervisor by disclosing your intentions too soon.
You are not lying by keeping your job search to yourself.
Consider communicating your job search on a need-to-know basis, depending on factors like which colleagues are making long-term plans that hinge on your involvement, who you trust to keep your intentions quiet, and whose support you might need when it comes to providing a recommendation.
You’ll want to cover your tracks online, too. When updating your profile on LinkedIn, be sure to go to Settings & Privacy > How others see your profile and network information > Edit your public profile > Change > Edit your profile’s public visibility to turn off your public visibility before you start making a whole bunch of updates on your LinkedIn profile, so your entire network isn’t notified when you start polishing things up. Just don’t forget to go back there and set your profile back to public when things are ready to go!
Handling Rejection and Isolation
Job searching can be a deeply isolating endeavor, and one that is rife with rejection along the way. This combination can cause crippling self-doubt in even the most confident people, so it’s important to reach out and seek support from a community of courage.
In my book, Bossed Up, I introduce a related concept, called Mirror Theory:
“It’s in those [doubtful] moments that we must turn to those we trust for identity reinforcement.
I call this Mirror Theory: you’re better able to cultivate a boss identity when surrounded by a community of people who mirror back to you the most courageous reflection of who you can be. You know how some mirrors make you look a little better than others? And some are just downright funhouse mirrors that completely warp the image you see of yourself? People are the same way.
It’s not that anyone’s necessarily trying to reflect back some messed up image of who you are and who you can become, it’s just that we humans often get caught up in our own heads and project our own baggage onto each other. It’s why so many folks find working with a coach or therapist helpful: they are especially trained to try and hold up a helpful, less biased reflection as a means for supporting your self-exploration.”
When you’re struggling with self-doubt and feel stuck in a spiral of shame as a result of rejection, seek out the mirrors you need in that moment: the people who will reflect back to you the best version of who you can be.
I promise, you’re not being a nuisance or a burden to those you ask for support. None of us get where we’re going by going at it alone.
If you don’t have people to turn to and get that support, know that you have us – the Bossed Up community – to lean on, too. Our Facebook group, the Bossed Up Courage Community, has been called the best place on Facebook by more than a few members now. Request to join us and feel free to ask for support – and give it, too! – with whatever job search struggles you face along the way.
JOB SEARCHING STRESSING YOU OUT?
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CLARIFY YOUR DIRECTION
“Help! What do I want to be when I grow up?!”
This is a question I find so many job-seekers struggling with. Before you’re off to the races and charging full-speed ahead, you need to have a sense of direction.
Feel totally lost? Get curious.
Follow your curiosity. What sparks your interest? Whose careers do you admire? What skills would you love to develop, if given the chance? What problems would you like to play a role in solving?
Sometimes when you’re feeling especially insecure about your job search prospects, we try to play it safe by not going for what we really want.
Actor Jim Carey tells a powerful story about his dad, a talented comedian, who never really attempted to build his career in show business, because he felt he needed to be a responsible provider instead. As such, he pursued a career in accounting, only to find himself laid off many years later, feeling like a failure as his family weathered some tough financial times. Young Jim learned a powerful lesson from this experience:
“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
There’s certainly an audacity to pursuing what you really want, even if you’re not 100% sure you can make it happen. But often, that clarity of purpose comes across as bold, inspiring, and authentic to the folks you’re interviewing with. Start your search by aiming for what you truly want, and keep in mind: you can always choose to compromise later.
Consider Your Career an Experiment
Do you feel like the next job you take has to be the one? Like you’re looking for a job that will meet your every need, light up your soul, and stack your bank account?
You might find it, sure. But you might not.
Take a little pressure off yourself by not fixating too much on finding the perfect job and instead, thinking about your career as one big experiment.
If you were to create a hypothesis for your next career experiment, what would it be?
- With more flexibility, I will be happier.
- With more pay, I’ll feel less anxious.
- With a better workplace culture, I’ll find more fulfillment.
What this exercise forces you to consider is: what variables do I want to change, and what do I want to hold constant?
Another way to think about this is, “What about my current job do I like enough that I’d like to preserve, if I could? And what about my current job definitely needs to change in my next position?”
Get clear on what you’d like to change and what you’d like to preserve – even if you have to force yourself to list out three things you actually like about the job you’re looking to leave.
By categorizing things this way – among variables you want to change and those you’d like to hold constant – you can get clear on what really matters most to you in your next job well in advance of weighing any actual offers.
Beware of the Pendulum Effect
I’ve known quite a few job-seekers who accidentally over-correct when making a career transition. The Wall Street banker who fled the finance industry to open a cupcake shop, for instance, only to realize she still loved helping people with money, but wanted to do so on her own terms, as an independent financial advisor. Career coach Kathy Caprino calls this common mistake The Pendulum Effect. Oftentimes, folks who flee a bad job for something totally different end up settling, eventually, somewhere in the middle.
THINKING ABOUT SWITCHING INDUSTRIES?
Check out our interactive workshop, How to Find a Job in a Different Industry, where you’ll learn to identify which skills matter most to your prospective employers and master the art of communicating your transferable skills.
Mind the Skills Gap
Sometimes when we’re feeling really lost, we want someone else to tell us what we’d be good at. One way to (kind of) experience this, is to take a skills assessment quiz.
While these can be helpful for restoring your self-confidence, beware of the risk of gripping too tightly to what you’re already good at at the cost of exploring what you’d love to learn to be good at.
In fact, it can be very helpful to identify your skills gap – the difference between what you’re already good at, and what the jobs you want require you to be good at – since this can help you determine where you need to devote yourself to learning and development.
While it’s not easy to do both concurrently, sometimes skill-building while job-searching is helpful to ensure you’re prepared for the opportunities that come your way.
Bottom line: know what you’re good at, but don’t let that limit your sense of what’s possible. You can learn and grow on the job, too.
Have confidence in your ability to figure it out.
Know Your Goals & Audience
All persuasive communication should be goal-oriented and audience-centric. And keep in mind, that’s really what a job search is: a persuasion campaign. You’re selling you.
To do that effectively, you need to communicate what kinds of opportunities you’re searching for while also keeping your audience in mind. What would your next employer be looking for?
Take a moment to consider it: who is going to be in need of someone with your particular skill set? What are their concerns and pain points? What are their hopes and dreams?
It might even be helpful to sketch out a few archetypes – imaginary characters who represent the different kinds of people who might be looking for talent like yours. Give them a name. Think about what kind of help they’d be looking for – and where.
For example, if I were a graphic designer on the job hunt, here are a few employer archetypes who might be in need of my skills:
James, the traditional ad agency project manager.
James is essentially a middle manager, who has to meet tons of intense deadlines for lots of different clients, while managing a team of creatives. Their clients are often big brands selling everything from insurance to burgers, but they’re always looking to be wow’d with ground-breaking branding. He’s probably extremely stressed out and holds himself and his team to very high standards. He’s probably looking for graphic designers by reaching out to his network, at college campuses, poaching them from other firms, and via traditional job boards.
Darla, the website-building creative consulting firm founder.
Darla spent the last 20 years building and growing her medium-size creative company, starting in the dot-com boom, and now helps small to medium-size companies who can’t afford the giant agencies build beautiful websites and market themselves with both digital and print advertising, and collateral marketing materials. She has a modest but mighty team of loyalists, who probably have worked for her for a long time. So when it comes to bringing on new talent, she’s probably wary of the big job boards and campus recruiting circuit, and instead relies heavily on her network and meeting creatives at conferences, meetups, and networking events.
Max, a small business owner with occasional graphic design needs.
Max is probably in need of graphic design help, but because the business they founded is so new, Max can’t afford to have a designer full-time on the payroll. Max’s design needs may also be quite sporadic, as they figure out where their business will actually focus. There are lots of folks like Max out there, and perhaps collectively they could pay a full-time salary, but alone they probably are only going to be able to hire by the hour. They are probably first looking for part-time support like that on Fiverr and other gig economy websites, but I bet they’re also out and about at local networking events for entrepreneurs, always growing their network to raise visibility on their new business.
By engaging in this thought exercise and exploring what kinds of employers might be in need of your talent, you can begin to really empathize with your audience. This will help you see your skills, talents, and experience from their point of view, and flip that feeling of “selling yourself” on its head. Now you can focus on what kinds of problems you can help your next boss solve.
State Your Objective
Now that you’ve clarified your goals and started to empathize with your audience, it’s time to zoom in on one key part of the strategic communications puzzle: your objective statement.
What is an objective statement?
Your objective statement is a concise one or two sentence explanation that sums up who you are and what you’re looking for in your next career move. That’s it!
Even if you don’t have space to include this in your resume, you’ll find this little one-two-punch phrasing comes in handy when writing cover letters, reaching out for prospective networking meetings, and describing yourself online or at happy hour when making new connections.
Think of it like a company tagline – but for your own personal brand.
In this exercise especially: brevity matters. In the thick of today’s information overload environment, the more concise you can be, the better.
How to Write Your Objective Statement
Let’s break your objective statement down into two parts.
The first part should briefly explain who you are, and highlight your most valuable traits as they relate to your career goals:
“Mid-level project manager with extensive interpersonal communications skills…”
“Entry-level marketing professional with passion for social media strategy…”
“Experienced real estate sales director with regional expertise in northeast metropolitan regions…”
The second part describes what kind of role you’re looking for now:
“…seeks a fast-paced environment with the opportunity to make creative contributions and lead national communications projects.”
“…seeks a mission-driven organization where my fast learning and drive can contribute to a seasoned team of advocates.”
“…pursuing a partnership with a national real estate brokerage company looking to break into northeast city markets.”
In just a sentence or two, a complete stranger should be able to understand the fundamentals of your skillset and what your must-haves are for the next opportunity you’ll take.
This exercise forces you to make some tough choices. You have to be clear on what you’re really looking for. It’s not about finding just any job (even when you’re feeling like that’s what you’ll take!). It’s about zero-ing in on the unique values you bring to the table and the conditions that your dream position entails.
Remember to think about this from the employer’s perspective. What problems are they trying to solve by hiring you? Read your objective statement out loud from their point of view to be sure your dream employer can see their organization fitting nicely into your objective statement.
DOES THE JOB SEARCH HAVE YOU FEELING FRUSTRATED? OVERWHELMED? STRESSED?
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ROCK YOUR RESUME
While the modern job search has shifted almost entirely online, writing a stellar resume is still a fundamental part of the process. Now, however, your resume has to be designed in such a way to appeal both to AI resume screeners and the human eye.
Your resume gives your first impression – and it has to get the message across quickly. According to a recent CareerArc report, the typical employer spends less than 15 minutes reviewing your application materials, so you have to get your point across directly.
Your resume should highlight your skills and accomplishments, differentiate you from the competition, and most importantly, make a compelling case that’s backed up with data.
Emphasize Transferable Skills
Not all skills are created equal in the resume world, and depending on whether you’re looking for a step up, a career change, or switching industries completely, take stock of the skills you’ve developed throughout your career and how they relate to where you’re heading next.
Employers want to see what you’ve mastered in the past that’s relevant to the future. So if there’s a set of skills you gained in your last job that isn’t applicable to the job you’re applying for, you may be better off leaving them out.
If it doesn’t add, it subtracts.
Focus on what matters most to your audience. Focus on what’s transferable to the job you’re applying for. Ask yourself “So what?” after every single bullet point you write. If you don’t have a good reason to add it, leave it out.
Re-read your resume from the perspective of your future employer. Make sure that the skills you highlight in your resume are skills that the employer is actually looking for and that will speak to the particular job you’re applying for. Prioritize and showcase the skills your future boss cares most about, the skills you bring to the table that will essentially make their life easier.
You might even opt to write a skills-based resume, especially if your last job isn’t totally relevant to where you want to head next.
Any modern resume must include keywords. Without them, AI screeners that take a first pass at sorting resumes might put you in the rejection pile because it looks to them like you’re missing key skills. In fact, studies now show 70% of resumes never even reach human eyes!
So how do you prevent that from happening to you? Career counselor Kyle Inselman recently shared an excellent strategy for incorporating keywords into your resume on our online job search panel discussion.
Here’s the step-by-step process to follow:
First, print out the job description. Take a good look at the words they’re using to describe what kind of candidate they’re looking for. What are the key skills mentioned? What software or products must you be familiar with? What unique qualifications must be present. What are the adjectives they use again and again to describe their ideal candidate? Analytical? Customer-centric? Data-driven?
Highlight keywords. Take out a highlighter and highlight the keywords you notice in the job description. For whatever reason, it’s often easier to make this kind of assessment by putting pen to paper – not doing so digitally.
Cross-reference your resume. Now compare the highlighted job description to your resume. Are those exact keywords present? Or are they “hidden” behind other words? For example, if the job description requires “Proficiency in Spanish” and your resume says you’re “Fluent in all romance languages,” you’re essentially saying that you’re qualified but not in a way that an AI screener will understand.
Moral of the story: don’t bury your keywords. Use them early and often in your resume.
The CAR Method
There are many ways to share your achievements in your resume – but not all are equally effective. The CAR Method can be a very persuasive way to incorporate storytelling into every line of your resume
The CAR Method is an acronym that stands for…
By sharing a challenge you faced, the actions you took to overcome it, and the results you achieved through your process, you’ll make your whole point much more explicit. You’ll essentially answer the question, “so what?!” by really making your point clear.
Most resume writers list out their achievements by simply stating the action, for example:
- “Wrote 57 fundraising emails.”
What can we deduce from this line on a resume? Well, that she can write fundraising emails. We can’t draw much more of a conclusion than that.
Let’s explore how much stronger this point on a resume can be when you incorporate the full CAR Method:
- “Created our first small-dollar fundraising program and raised $34,089 over 6 months by writing 57 fundraising emails that grew our individual donor base by 237%.”
Now, the reader of this resume can draw all kinds of conclusions about this applicant: that she’s an innovator who isn’t afraid to institute something entirely new, that she’s data-driven and focused on the results of her efforts, and that she can write effective, donation-inducing emails that inspire new donors to get off the sidelines and give. This tells us so much more about this candidate, and it’s not just because she incorporated more numbers – it’s about the story those numbers tell.
In fact, let’s look at another example of applying the CAR Method to a resume line that doesn’t draw from any numerically-measurable experiences:
You might start by simply listing out the action you took:
- “Created and managed internship program”
Now let’s look at how much stronger this comes across when incorporating the full CAR Method:
- “Led the design and implementation of our first-ever internship program to help increase staff bandwidth during our busy season, resulting in a record increase in our firm-wide client capacity.”
Now, I would argue that almost everything is quantifiable if you’re willing to dig up the details and crunch the numbers (in this case, knowing how many interns you recruited and managed, as well as how many new clients the firm was able to take on could certainly help), but even without numbers telling the story, the CAR Method makes this point so much stronger.
Many times we assume that employers and hiring managers will connect the dots on their own, but it’s important to be explicit. Connect the dots for them using the CAR method.
Once you’ve established the career narrative you want to share with employers and effectively communicated your transferable skills, you’ll want to keep some resume formatting fundamentals in mind.
First, consider which overall resume structure will work best for you. Here’s a quick overview of three basic types of resumes that can help you align your resume with the career story you’re telling:
A chronological resume simply shares your professional journey in reverse chronological order with your most recent work experience listed at the top. The goal of this resume is to tell the narrative of how your current job relates to your next job and shows how you’ve grown throughout your career.
It typically follows the order of:
- Interest/Volunteer Experience
This format works best for those looking within their existing industry and whose resume shows a fairly linear progression of past experiences.
If you’re interested in changing careers or are jumping back into the job market after taking some time off, you may want to use the skills-based resume format, also referred to as a functional resume, since it starts with relevant and transferable skills that are applicable to the job you’re applying for.
This format typically includes:
- A career summary or objective statement at the top
- A summary of bullet points listed of your most transferable skills
- The most relevant professional experience you have
- Followed by other paid or unpaid experience and education
If opting for this structure, don’t feel constrained by chronological order! Free yourself to list what’s most relevant first, even if that means burying your more recent experience towards the bottom of your resume – or leaving it out altogether if you’d prefer.
A selective resume gives you the opportunity to highlight what’s most transferable and do away with the rest. This resume format is the most effective way to convey your skills and interests to the employer by highlighting your specific skills, work experience, and education that directly correlates to the job you’re applying for.
This format typically looks just like a traditional resume, but excludes experience that doesn’t relate to the direction you want to go in next.
This format is especially helpful if you’re applying to jobs while working at a bridge job that’s totally irrelevant to your overall career narrative. If it’s a complete career tangent, feel free to leave it out!
Embrace White Space
When it comes to the visual layout of your resume, research tells us that incorporating more white space between paragraphs and in the left and right margins can increase comprehension by almost 20%. Readers find it easier to focus on and process generously spaced content.
Here’s how to incorporate white space that’s pleasing to the human eye:
- Make sure margins are at least 1 inch on all sides
- Left-align your resume text, since the human eye processes information left to right
- Use bullet points where appropriate
- And stay consistent with margins and the spacing between paragraphs throughout your entire resume
If you find applying these best practices difficult, ask yourself, “Am I trying to cram in too much?” If so, the solution may be less about formatting and more about editing. A well-written resume is an exercise in restraint. Be sure you’re not trying to cram in so much information that the moment your resume lands on a hiring manager’s screen it feels too overwhelming to even start reading.
Formatting Your Resume for the Application Process
Always be sure to read the directions carefully before you submit your resume.
It’s very important that you follow the directions for your resume upload, especially when it comes to the acceptable document format. You just went through all that work to tailor your AI-friendly resume to that specific employer’s needs, so make sure it’s in a format that their system can actually read!
When sending your resume to another person via an email attachment, the best way to preserve your formatting and ensure that your recipient cannot make any edits is to send your resume in PDF format.
However, sometimes applicant tracking systems that rely on AI readers can’t work with your PDF format, and instead require that you stick to a word processing format (such as .docx) so that your resume can be “read” by AI software in a text format. You may want to preview how your resume looks when opened in a text document format (by saving and opening it as a .txt file) on your own computer first to make sure everything translates properly. Sometimes you’ll notice that content put in the “header” or “footer” of your resume document do not translate well into text files this way, so be cautious about putting key information there.
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CONCISE COVER LETTERS
The most common question I get about cover letters boils down to this: “Do I have to?”
First, let me say this: I get it! In the age of email and ATS applications, the cover letter can feel like a job search dinosaur.
But here’s why writing a compelling, concise cover letter absolutely does matter.
- It can tell your story in a powerful way
- It can add important context to your resume
- It shows you’re not cutting corners
- It shows off your writing
- And it allows you to show a little personality.
So don’t skip out on this important step – even if it seems optional.
Use the cover letter as an opportunity to share more about yourself than what your resume can convey on its own.
Refer back to section 2 of this guide, where you already focused on clarifying your goals and audience, and writing a clear objective statement. You can absolutely incorporate all that progress in your cover letter writing process, too.
How to Format Your Cover Letter
A cover letter is a formal written letter, so as silly as this may be, try to stick to this straight-ahead business letter format:
Top tips for clear, well-formatted cover letters:
- Address an actual person – not some generic “Sir or Madam” – whenever possible.
- Include whatever personal contact information you’re comfortable with – not everyone needs your mailing address, i.e.
- Mirror the same look and feel of your resume with a custom header.
- Hook the reader’s attention with a creative opening: share a surprising fact or launch into an intriguing story.
- Keep paragraphs short, digestible, and to the point.
- Stick to one page and include a healthy amount of white space.
- Incorporate bullet points when possible.
At the end of the day, the goal is to format your cover letter in a way that’s easy to read to the human eye, just like your resume.
What to Say in Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter should focus on answering one key question: why are you the perfect fit for this job?
I know what you’re thinking: nobody’s perfect. But don’t let self-doubt get in the way, here. This is your opportunity to explain why everything you’ve done up until this point in your career has prepared you for this job.
Share the most relevant aspects of your background that make you a good fit – and don’t just limit yourself to your professional background, it’s ok to get personal here. You might share a story about:
- A challenge you faced in your upbringing that explains why you care
- The moment you first became interested in this cause / industry
- Why you’re excited about the future of this industry and want to be a part of shaping it
Speak from the heart and share why you really care. Then, be sure to have a friend or loved one give a solid once-over to make sure whatever story you’re choosing to share adds to what your resume says about you – and doesn’t detract. Ask for help with copy-editing for typos and confusing areas that might need clearing up, too.
Then, stop over-thinking it. This isn’t poetry. You’re not writing a novel. Make sure it’s good enough to add to your overall application’s impression, and then put your pencil down and send the damn thing.
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PREP YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
Preparing for the modern job search means minding your online footprint in a major way. You should expect to be google’d, stalked on social media, and at the very least, looked up on LinkedIn.
Does what you see online match what you get in real life? Take steps to make sure you like what employers may see when they look you up online.
A Fresh Headshot Can Help
Whether you choose to hire a pro or enlist a friend for help, you’ll first want to discuss the look you’re going for with your photographer.
Make sure to chat ahead of time to discuss the following questions:
- What kind of image are you looking to portray?
- What do you feel are your most flattering characteristics you’d like to capture?
- And importantly, what insecurities do you have that you want your photographer to be mindful about?
These are important to discuss ahead of time with whoever is taking your photo, so they can serve as a trusted ally and help capture you in your best
You’ll also want to consider the stylistic elements of your shoot, including:
Location & Lighting
Shooting outside with direct lighting can be great, especially if done during “magic hour” just after sunrise or just before sunset when the light tends to be most flattering.
If you hire a professional – they might recommend studio lighting, which can be helpful if you want to shoot inside or with a blank background. If you’re going the DIY route, facing a window with natural light is best.
Match your formality based on the kinds of positions you’re applying to, and keep your industry norms in mind. Simple, pattern-free clothing with a clean neckline is typically best. And you’ll want to be extra sure whatever you’re wearing is in good shape and pet-hair-free, as retouching can be expensive and difficult.
Makeup & Hair
Are you comfortable doing your own hair and makeup? Great! Go for it with your favorite natural look and let your best self shine. Not comfortable doing your hair and makeup on your own? This is a great time to bring in the pros to help you feel most confident. Affordable options are available with the help of GlamSquad and DryBar.
Take a few minutes to practice posing in front of a mirror in advance of your shoot. Whether you’re standing tall or sitting down, you’ll want to elongate your spine and keep your shoulders back. Crossing your arms gently in front of you or placing your hands on your hips can portray a powerful, confident look for many, but it all depends on how you like to move your body and how you feel best. Study poses online and in front of the mirror to see what works best for you.
When it comes time to smile for the camera, make sure to take a TON of photos and have some fun with it! It takes even the most photogenic people hundreds of shots to get “the one,” so don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a keeper within the first few snaps of the camera lens.
Keep at it until you get a shot you like well enough to use on LinkedIn and elsewhere online to appeal to prospective employers. A friendly face can be reassuring to an employer considering making you an offer.
Audit Your Social Media
What does your online footprint say about you? There’s only one way to find out: you have to retrace your (virtual) footsteps.
A big part of that is done by auditing your social media presence – even if you have such a common name you’re not worried about being easily identified. You never want something in your social media past to come back to haunt you, so it’s best to get ahead of any scandal by scouring your existing social media presence first.
Check Your Privacy Settings
Should you even have a public Twitter feed? How about Instagram? TikTok? Youtube?
The answer is: it depends.
Know your industry norms. If you’re an aspiring journalist, Twitter can be an excellent real-time tool for news-breaking. If you’re an entertainer, TikTok and Youtube are great platforms to get discovered by bigger brands and agents.
Know thyself. It’s not the platform that’s the only problem. Do you have a penchant for drunk tweeting? Posting photos to Instagram meant more for prospective partners than your boss?
Keep in mind: there is no need to go public.
Social media started off as a fun way to keep in touch with friends way before the rise of influencer culture. There’s no need to go public when you can happily curate your own social media feeds for a select few folks you already know.
That said, there are some benefits to going public, too. Maintaining a public, updated profile on LinkedIn, for example, increases your visibility among recruiters and prospective future employers. It can also help you manage your own search engine results when you need to push less-than-favorable findings to the second page on Google.
Pick Your Platforms & Post Like a Thought Leader
Whatever you decide to make public when it comes to social media, I recommend picking a handful of platforms and going deep as opposed to trying to be great on all of them.
Once you’ve done a preliminary audit to remove anything potentially embarrassing or offensive, start posting like a thought leader by regularly mixing up your content with this kind of activity:
- Share industry news
- Comment on industry news
- Converse with industry thought leaders
- Give shout-outs to industry thought leaders
- Share helpful resources
- Share your own resources
- Ask compelling questions
- And share results via online polling
Remember, the beauty of social media is in the name: it’s social. Don’t fall into the habit of simply shouting into the void. Ask questions, answer questions, and engage socially.
Set a daily reminder to check in on the platforms of your choice and share one valuable piece of content each day. Before you know it, you’ll have grown your reputation as a thoughtful member of your industry with a track record of being helpful, generous, and kind online.
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NETWORK LIKE A BOSS
Networking via informational interviews, one-on-one meetings, and referrals are essential to navigating the modern job market. In today’s hyper-networked world, it’s become increasingly clear that having a supportive squad of boss friends in high places can help you achieve all kinds of career goals – especially landing a job.
In fact, a 2015 survey from Recruiter Nation found that referred applicants are 15 TIMES more likely to be hired than applicants who apply via a job board.
It’s clear that connecting and swapping stories with key stakeholders is critical to getting your foot in the door. But how on earth do you even get on their radar in the first place?
How to Land Informational Interviews
Follow these tips to craft a winning outreach email to land informational interviews with professionals who can help open doors for your career:
Lead with a super snappy subject line, ideally with the name of whoever first brought them to your attention, like, “Eve Smith recommended we talk.”
Share a 1-2 line introduction of who you are, how you heard of them, and your current status as someone exploring career opportunities.
Add in a time-sensitive meeting ask, such as, “I’m in town next week and would love to connect over coffee, if your schedule allows,” or “I’ll also be at the conference you’re speaking at next week, and would love to connect,” or even, “I’d love to set up a phone next week, if possible.”
Providing a limited number of options for meeting times is key – even if you have all the time in the world. It makes it easier for them to scan their calendar and give you a thumbs up or down based on their availability.
When they inevitably don’t reply to your first email, “bump it up” in their inbox by simply replying to that initial message and adding a quick line like, “Hey there, I wanted to make sure you saw my note from last week – would love to catch you while I’m in town!”
Be sure to do this mid-morning on a weekday when they were most likely to be at their desk, with their email inbox open.
Don’t be afraid to bump up an email like this every week or so until you get a response. You’ll be blown away by the very high rate of response as a result.
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Make the Most of 1-on-1 Meetings
Once you land a meeting with a VIP, make the most of it by going in with a game plan.
Keep in mind: nobody wants you to “pick their brain” for an hour and feel like they just gave away their precious expertise for nothing and didn’t build a fruitful, meaningful relationship in the process. There’s a much better way to leave one-on-one meetings in which both parties feel like they built a solid new relationship and got something out of it.
Here’s a quick rundown of how you can make the most of your time once you land that one-on-one meeting.
Lead with story
Explain who you are and why what you’re doing matters to you.
This is a conversation, obviously, not a performance, so you’re going to want to keep it brief, but keep in mind that people aren’t moved by what you’re doing, they get on board when they understand why you’re doing it.
This is best conveyed by sharing a personal story.
Why do you care? Why should I care? What is the underlying motivation that drives you each day? What’s your history and why did it lead you here?
Through sharing your personal story, you demonstrate your values by explaining the choices you’ve made along the way. Why did you quit that job? Move to that city? Focus on that subject matter? What drew you to this meeting today?
This is what’s known as your “story of self,” as organizers call it. It’s a motivating way to share who you are and what you care about.
Find out what makes them tick
Once you’ve established yourself, get a sense of what motivates the person you’re speaking with in return.
Ask opened-ended ‘why’ questions to get a sense of where they’re coming from and what choices they made along the way to land where they are now. The goal here is to find what common values you share – it’s that foundation of shared values that serves as the jumping-off point for collaboration.
Aim for the Magic X
The Magic X is the intersection between your shared values and diverse resources.
Once you’ve both shared the why behind the “what you do,” the next step is to identify what unique resources you both bring to the table that can help further your shared values.
What resources does the person you’re meeting with have that you lack? Access? Connections? Wisdom? Influence?
Now consider what resources you have they might be lacking in. Time? Social media prowess? Connections to a college or university? Knowledge of the job market in your industry?
Make a clear ask
Once you’ve identified what resources you both bring to the table, ask for the specific help you need and want.
By this point in the conversation, you’ve already explained your motivations and hopefully bonded with the person about your shared values. So now is the time to offer up an opportunity to take action on those shared values.
Ask for the help you need, and explain the impact it would have on your situation.
“Would you give me feedback on my resume? I’d love feedback from someone so familiar with the industry.”
“Would you be willing to connect me to your contact in HR? An internal referral from you could greatly increase my chances of being interviewed for this position.”
“Would you kindly introduce me to your friend who runs that listserv? I’d love to see if I’m the right fit for any opportunities that might be shared there.”
Then – and this is key – offer up your own resources or assistance in helping them in return in furthering whatever goals or objectives you uncovered through your conversation. Can’t think of a single way to help them on the spot? Provide a standing offer by saying something like, “If I can ever be of service to you in return, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
No matter how flawless your one-on-one meeting game is, the real magic is in the follow-up.
Send a timely (read: within 24 hours) email thanking them again for their time and delivering on any of what you promised you’d send along. Set clear expectations of how you’d like to move forward and send them any materials needed to do so.
Remember, this is just the start of an ongoing relationship. Keep in touch with these contacts even after they’re done helping you along your way.
It’s all about forging meaningful connections through identifying shared values and then finding a way to take collective action.
Reach for Internal Referrals
Have you networked your way to a coffee meeting with someone who works at the organization of your dreams?
Connecting with people within organizations you’re applying to can be an incredibly effective strategy for job-seekers. Securing an internal referral is one the best ways to get hiring managers to give you an even closer look.
And yet, employee referrals are still surprisingly rare. According to a recent Jobvite survey, employee referrals only make up about 7% of potential candidates, but these referrals result in the most beneficial hires for employers, so companies actively prefer job candidates with internal referrals. If you’re looking for a way to stand out – this is it.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a lot of people to try and foster authentic relationships like this. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. Not everyone is going to get back to you, but you don’t need them to! You just need one great conversation to help give you a major leg up on the competition.
So, go ahead – don’t be shy! Reach out to connect with that person on LinkedIn to learn more about the position you’re vying for now.
JOB APPLICATION DO’S & DON’TS
Now that you’ve made it this far, it’s time to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward when submitting your application. Keep these Do’s and Don’ts in mind:
DO read instructions carefully
Before you submit any application, read the instructions carefully in terms of what the employer is asking of you – and how they want it submitted.
You’ve just done all this hard work, don’t trip at the finish line! Provide quality answers to their questions, submit your resume in the requested format, and be sure to go the extra mile when they give you the opportunity to do so.
If you fail to read through the directions properly, that can get your application trashed since you’re showing the hiring manager your lack of attention to detail.
DO go the extra mile
If an employer says a cover letter is optional, writing it anyway is a sign that you’re going above and beyond and that you really want the job. Not doing so can be seen as laziness.
The cover letter is your chance to pitch yourself to the company. Use that to your advantage and put your narrative in your cover letter. Connect your past work experiences and highlight your accomplishments for them to show why you’re the best person for the job.
DO alert your references & referrals
References are an often-overlooked, critical component in helping you make your case. According to a recent SHRM survey, 87% of employers do reference checks as part of the hiring process, so choose your references wisely. Typically employers ask you to provide three references in their application process in order to be considered for the position. If you haven’t yet figured out who you’d include as a reference, you can learn more about that process here.
Once you’ve selected your references, let those people know that you’ve listed them as a reference for a job. Give them background information about the job and some things you think would be great for them to highlight and mention.
If you know someone within the organization you’re applying, let them know right away. Ask them if they’d be willing to send the hiring manager a quick note about you to bring your resume to the top of the pile.
DON’T specify salary requirements
Many job applications ask you for your salary requirements, but avoid giving any specific number when asked this question! Write “negotiable” or “to be discussed” if you can.
If you are required to list a number to move your application forward, the best way to answer is by sharing your desired salary – regardless of what your past earnings are.
Your salary request should be a reasonable ballpark for that specific position, but let the employer know you’re flexible when it comes to salary levels. The employer just wants to know you’re going into the next steps with salary expectations reasonably close to theirs.
If you’re unsure what the current market rates are for the job, download our Salary Insights Guide to help you determine a reasonable range. Learn more about navigating the entire negotiation process here.
DON’T let typos and errors get past you
Hiring managers are picky when it comes to job applicants. They receive hundreds of applications for every job listing, and their job is to narrow down the pool to just a few quality candidates. So if you’re sending them your application with any errors in it, it’s easy for them to toss it out without a second thought.
Give yourself the best chance to be called in for an interview by double-checking everything.
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SLAY THE INTERVIEW
Congratulations, boss! You’ve made it to the job interview!
Now, when it comes to preparing for your job interview, there are a ton of ways to waste your time spinning your wheels gathering information that won’t actually help you knock your job interview out of the park.
Don’t waste your time in an endless research hole online. Sure, learning everything you can about the company and whoever’s interviewing you is important to an extent, but online research alone can give a false sense of preparedness.
Practice Sharing Your Story
Think back to the section above on crafting your personal story. Remember how you crafted a narrative arc that explains the story of who you are and who you want to be? Make sure you’re ready to share your story verbally, not just in the written format.
Practice answering the first opening question that almost every interview begins with: “Tell me about yourself!” with a story that explains your motivation.
Your personal story can be a brief, but compelling narrative that culminates with a perfectly compelling reason that you belong in their organization.
Remember: every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Our human brains are wired to pay attention to stories that are structured in this way – more so than a chronological rundown of your resume.
People especially empathize when your story involves facing a challenge, making a choice, and learning a lesson that led to where you are today. Are you a corporate lawyer applying for an internal counsel position at a global charity? There’s a story there! Tell me why you’re compelled to make that choice.
Different Types of Interviews
Interviews are nerve-wracking enough, and when you add in the complicating factor of being interviewed over the phone or video, or whether you’re subject to interview in a group setting or even by an entire panel of your potential colleagues, you could be in for all kinds of awkward.
Let’s take a moment to review the different types of job interview formats you may encounter, so you can prepare like a pro:
Typically a phone interview is the first interview option employers rely on to screen applicants. Being a faceless voice on the other line is just one of the limiting factors of a phone interview.
It’s much more difficult to create a connection when you can’t make eye contact with your interviewer. Being interviewed over the phone also presents you with a lack of ability to read other people’s body language to get a feel on how engaged they are in the conversation at hand. Without body language cues to help get your message across, take these simple steps to sound your most polished, prepared, and confident over the phone.
In the age of Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls, these are becoming more and more frequent as a regular part of the job hunt.
Given this virtual face-to-face conversation, you’re able to get a better read on people versus a phone interview. We’ve put together a list of tips for you to look your best on your next video interview.
Group interviews are often confused with panel interviews, but they’re two completely separate styles of interviewing.
A group interview is when you are brought in for a very long interview – sometimes lasting the entire workday – with multiple other candidates who are all vying for the same job and you’re interviewed all at the same time.
A panel interview is when you’re brought in as the only jobseeker, but you are sitting before a collective group of people. This is often done when employers and organizations want to make decisions through consensus building or committee-based decision making because there’s multiple stakeholders involved who might be working with this candidate.
There’s a good reason behind why these are often done, but that doesn’t make it any easier if you are the one being interviewed. Here are some tips to help you prepare for panel style interviews.
Practice Out Loud
Remember to practice how you want your interview to play out. Just like for a written exam, you’d study in a written format. So for a spoken interview, you should practice out loud.
Record yourself and review the footage for areas for improvement. Practice in the mirror. Practice out loud in front of a loved one. When you practice this way, you’ll have a bit more muscle memory to help the words flow more smoothly.
Ask for feedback on everything from vocal tone, to body language, to the stories and examples you’re sharing. Are you coming across as earnest and invested? Or nervous? What exactly are you doing that reads as nervous or unprepared? Get specific about seeking out the direct feedback you need to improve.
Ask Compelling Questions
Job search strategist Jenny Foss recently shared a great tip for starting the interview process strong. She suggests that job seekers start the interview by asking what about their background or application caused the hiring committee or manager to bring them in for an interview.
You might ask something like, “Before we dive in, I’d love to ask: what about my application spoke to you?”
The answer you get can immediately tip you off to what you might want to emphasize throughout the rest of your conversation.
An interview, after all, is just that: a conversation! Don’t spend too much time monologuing on your personal story or rambling on giving your answers to their questions. Get into the habit of asking smart questions throughout the interview process. Hiring managers are people, too, and after all, everyone loves to talk about themselves. So make sure you go in ready to ask about them as well. You want the interview to feel like a reciprocal conversation, not a one way soliloquy.
Don’t be afraid of getting into the weeds a bit. Ask technical questions about the work at hand. Ask if they’ve considered different strategies that you might suggest. If things start to get a little too detailed, you can always say something like, “Well, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself here, but as you can tell, I really love this stuff.”
Asking smart questions shows you’re a smart candidate.
If all else fails and you truly have nothing else to ask about, you can always ask about their timeline for making a decision as a way to wrap things up with an eye towards the future.
Interview Follow-up Etiquette
After any interview, make sure to express your thanks in whatever way feels most appropriate to you. Thank them via email. Send a handwritten note. Or if you really want to show your gratitude, send a small gift!
If you didn’t get a chance to ask them for next steps in the hiring process during your interview, feel free to do so in your note.
Also remember that the person receiving your thank you email is just that – a person. Sure they may hold the keys to your future at the organization, but at the end of the day, they eat, sleep, and breathe just like you. A good rule of thumb is to keep your email conversational, but respectful, just as you did during your conversation. Refresh their memory with one personal detail – maybe referencing something they shared with you about their career experience – to show you were really listening to them when they spoke.
Once you’ve done all you can, take yourself on a walk. Call a friend to catch up. Bake a cake. Do something to take your mind off things that you cannot go back in time to change, and know that this feeling of vulnerability and uncertainty will pass.
If you did all you could to put your best self forward, show yourself some love. If you know you could have done things better, give yourself five minutes on the timer to reflect in writing what you’d do differently next time, and then give yourself permission to move on.
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DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO
NEGOTIATING AS A WOMAN
2020 Report: How Women Can Negotiate for More
If you’ve successfully landed a job offer and are ready to negotiate like a boss, you’ll want to head on over and grab our Negotiation Guide.