Early Careerists: Don’t Burn Yourself Out

Post written by: Vera Swain

Did I format my résumé correctly? Should I have included a cover letter? When I follow-up on the application who do I follow up with?! Such are the questions I and thousands of other job-seekers have asked ourselves during our job search, and for some of us, myself included, at times, we’re still not sure of the answers. Such are the trials of the dreaded job search. But these are trials we must all go through at one point, so how do we cope? How do we stay positive when it looks like no one wants us; why do we continue to apply when we believe no one’s reading the multitude of applications we’ve already put forth?

I’ve been applying for jobs since I was 15 years old. I guess you could say I was an über-early careerist. At that age, though, landing a job was a lot simpler. I went down to the local Taco Bell because it was within walking distance, I filled out an application, and I was hired on the spot. Then I went through hell for six months until I was 16 and could apply for a more lucrative position in the bakery of Atlanta Bread Company. Today, the job search could still be done this way. Taco Bell is still open and doing better than ever. But now that I’ve been out of college for a few years and am officially an adult, this isn’t the kind of job search I’m embarking on lately. It seems that once you walk across the stage, diploma in hand, you’re no longer allowed to fill out paper applications for jobs. The job you want involves an online application to which you must attach a résumé and a cover letter and maybe even references. No longer do you complete your application, walk up to the cash register and say, “Is your manager here?” And just like much of your adult life, this new job search is a lot more stressful than it was as a teen.

So, how do we make the process less stressful? How do we see the light when it seems like the end of the tunnel is barricaded by a brick wall, ten feet high? Follow these simple steps and you may be able to survive the job search with your sanity intact:

1. Slow down. I know your instincts might be telling you that you need to apply to as many jobs as possible because with more worms, you’re bound to catch at least one fish. I think, at the height of my job search madness, I once applied for at least 50 jobs in one day. This was when I moved to Las Vegas after graduating college and I was determined to find a job in hospitality. I don’t know about you, but filling out one application is stressful enough; imagine 50! Slow down. Take a break. Do two to three applications a day. You can’t devote the proper attention and time needed for an application if you’re doing this many at a time. Write cover letters. Customize your resume. Breathe.

2. Network, network, network. I’ve found that networking has helped me alleviate some of the strain of the job search because it makes me feel like I’ve got a team on my side. Through networking, I’ve been able to gain access to recruiters and hiring managers I never would’ve found if I didn’t know who I know. Talk to your friends; if they’ve got a job you admire or work for a company you’d like to work for, see if they can connect you to a recruiter at their workplace. Use LinkedIn. I’ve been introduced to several recruiters and hiring managers by a friend who is a very avid LinkedIn user. When your friends and previous coworkers can help you in your job search, it takes a large weight off your shoulders.

3. Read. Do your research on performing an effective job search. There are countless books on the market on how to go about finding a job. These books can help you find new methods when it seems like you’re not doing anything right. In addition to these books, read articles on the Internet. I’ve learned so much about constructing a cover letter, strengthening my resume, and contacting recruiters through articles I’ve read on the Web and books I’ve borrowed from the library.

4. Have a drink and RELAX. Sometimes the easiest way to de-stress is the most obvious. Take a break when your eyes start to blur. Ride your bike. Watch a movie. Go out with friends. Clearing your head will better prepare you to tackle your next round of applications and will give you a new lease on the process.

I know the job search can be stressful. I’m actively searching. But it doesn’t have to be maddening. Use your resources, relax, and breathe. You’ll find the job you’re looking for because you’re experienced and suited to it, not because you drove yourself crazy looking. And when you do, let me know; I’ll treat you to the drink I mentioned above.


About the writer:

 Vera Swain is a young professional who is active in the job market. Currently, she is seeking a position in Marketing in the Los Angeles area as she is in the midst of relocating from one coast to the other. When not writing and job searching, Vera can be found with her nose in a book on her feet on the dance floor. Always seeking adventure, she is an avid traveler who loves to see and experience new things, especially food. To hear more from Vera, follow her on Twitter at @swverausc214 or check out her LinkedIn profile here.

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Finding a Company Fit through the Interview Process

For those who have read some of my previous blogs, I’m sure you can see that I enjoy writing about finding a fit between candidate and company. I strongly believe that job seekers can find what will make them happiest if they spend time determining their values and what they truly want out of an employer. If they have the luxury of time, I typically urge people to hold out for a company that can offer them the closest to their ideal. If not, then I suggest for those who need to take a job for financial reasons to still continue to search for their perfect situation. Although this information is all fine and dandy, it does not give suggestions or tips for what happens once you land an interview.

So, let’s fast forward a bit. Let’s say you took the time to dig deeper into your inner self and were able to determine what you really wanted out of a company and job. After a little soul searching you were able to find a few companies that seemed to be aligned with your requirements and decided to apply to an open position there. Well, it was all smooth sailing up to that point but what happens when someone actually calls you in for an interview? How do you prepare for the interview to ensure that the company is how you perceived it?

My best suggestion is to have well-thought out, structured questions. Unfortunately, candidates in this economy have shied away from asking questions for fear of turning off the interviewer. Contrary to popular belief, most interviewers actually enjoy speaking to candidates that ask solid questions. This shows that the candidate did their homework, was genuinely interested in learning more about the company, and actually took the time to think of ways to contribute to the interview rather than it just is one-sided. Good questions can not only impress the interviewer but also help you get a better feel for the company before deciding to accept a job offer that might come your way. The interviewer may also get a better feel for you, too.

To prep for your interview, re-research the company by doing a deep dive. Get down to the nitty gritty and find all the legitimate details you can in regard to the company. Once you’ve compiled all the important information, compare those notes against the things you want out of a company. Connect the link between the two and take the time to formulate some intelligent questions. If aren’t sure where to start when it comes to creating these questions, feel free to look at the link at the bottom of this article written by Jacquelyn Smith from Forbes.com. She had some great questions to ask, as well as questions to avoid.

I’m sure you’ve done your research before committing to anything big, pricy, or long-term: buying houses, moving, purchasing a car, deciding on a college, and so on. Why should a job be any different? You spend a good portion of your life at a job and typically, most people try to find a company they can commit to long-term. Try to get the most information you can before making that commitment. That includes asking questions and getting informative answers from someone on the inside. It pays to take this extra step.

Take control of your employment choices and continue on the path of finding that perfect fit for you. Don’t let it all fall apart once you get to the interview stage. After all, you’ve made it this far in your career goals- don’t give up on what you want now. Best of luck!

Ideas for interview questions:

All Candidates Should Receive the Same Customer Service

Recruiters and hiring managers- I get it. I know you are completely swamped with resumes and applications. I understand that your inbox is full and your phone is ringing off the hook. Dead-lines to fill positions are adding to the pressure. I wouldn’t be surprised if you left the office at the end of the day mentally fried. I’ve been there before, so I know that recruiting isn’t easy most days. However, you have to remember that these candidates are considered your “customers” and your customer service could make or break the company.

At one point in your life, I’m sure you’ve worked in some sort of job that involved customer service (after-school jobs in high school ring any bells?). You are trained in those positions to be customer centric, to promptly answer customers, and to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that their experience at the business was a good one. This type of service should be transferred over to your job role as a recruiter because these candidates probably applied to your company because they knew about it before. Maybe they’ve done business with you in the past perhaps? I’m pretty sure the manager of your old high school job would have had a fit if he knew you didn’t respond to a customer’s needs. So, why would you do it to your candidates?

After speaking to individuals who are painstakingly looking for employment and also being in the job market myself, there is one thing we all seem to be frustrated with across the board- the service we receive during the application process (or lack of service). Like I said earlier, I know that all of you are drowning in applications but even the simplest of gestures will go a long way. For example, have a template e-mail set up to reject candidates you aren’t going to move forward with. Not only will candidates get some closure on the status of their application, but you could reduce the amount of phone calls and e-mails you receive from candidates to get a status update. Win-win?

Most candidates who are actively seeking a job are looking for any little snippet of advice to help them better their chances at gaining employment. I would love to see more recruiters and hiring managers take the time to actually give a simple reason to their rejected candidates. Obviously, I know we have to be careful on what we say due to all those fun legal issues but provide something that won’t have people screaming from their soapbox about unfair hiring practices. One example that comes to mind is maybe letting a candidate know they don’t have the computer experience that the job requires and suggesting a place to go to get it. If a job rejected me because I didn’t have Excel experience and they told me how to get that knowledge, you bet I’ll take advantage of that. Not to mention, I’d respect the company for giving me some guidance through the grueling process of finding a job. We just want to be treated like people, not like the discarded resume in your wastebasket.

Recruiting should be more than just sorting through a pile of resumes and picking a few good people. It should be about relationship building and company branding. If a candidate (even a rejected one) has a good experience through the application process, then they will have an overall good feeling about the company. I’m sure you’ve all heard that referrals are one of the most effective marketing tools. Well, with all the technology and social media giving instant and accessible information, consider referrals in this day-and-age to be on steroids. Websites could let candidates and customers know about the positives and negatives of doing business with a company; either as a consumer, partner, or candidate. Recruiters: don’t be the one that ruins the company’s reputation!

I mentioned earlier that the reason why someone may have applied to your company is because they’ve already known something about your company. This candidate could have been a loyal customer or have done B2B with you in the past. Do you want to ruin that relationship because of poor communication and customer service? Even if they aren’t currently doing business with you, they could potentially be a customer or provide a referral to others in the future. Any type of contact a person has with your company is crucial when it comes to obtaining or retaining business. Just because you work in a “human resources” based role doesn’t mean providing good service is out of your “job description.” All employees of the company represent what the company is about, even you.

So remember, the application process is more than just sifting through resumes. It is also a representation of the employees of the company. Not many people would want to work for a company if it seems like the employees are trained to be rude, have a lack of empathy, or seem to be non-existent because they give no response. Eventually word will get out that being employed there probably isn’t that great based on a candidate’s experience and pretty soon you won’t have to worry about an abundance of resumes to look through…. Because no one will be applying.