Advice on Finding the Job You Didn’t Expect to Be Seeking
Raise your hand if you’re currently looking for a job.
I bet if we were in person, many people in the room would raise their hand. It’s clear that there has been a shift in the job market. After Covid hit, it appeared as though employees were in the driver’s seat. Employers were struggling with their approach to where employees would work—and working anywhere opened up formerly unattainable opportunities.
In the last year or so, a shift has occurred. Business economics have led to layoffs across industries, affecting talented humans who are now looking for their next opportunity.
I have the pleasure of working with a group of career coaches who help counsel alums from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Recently, we’ve all been inundated with requests for job search advice from alums who’ve been laid off or feel buried under too much work because so many other colleagues were cut. Either way, it all amounts to the same thing: Time to find a new gig.
Landing a job is all about timing and networking and tenacity and clarity. You may have the deepest, widest network and the most amazing resume there ever was, but if there is no job, there is no job. Patience often has to be your friend. With that caveat, here are some of my best tips:
- Don’t sweat over your resume. When a job seeker can’t even get an interview, they sometimes resort to over-critiquing their resume. Having reviewed many resumes during my HR days for a Fortune 500, I’m here to tell you: changing the word “create” to “develop” is not going to make a material difference to the person in charge. They don’t have time. They look for keywords that align with the job they’re filling; they want demonstrated experience and a strong educational background aligned with the work to be done. Sure, typos could be a deal-breaker, but 10 bullet points for every job you’ve had since high school is overkill.
- Network. Many people find out about jobs through relationships, so you have to get out there. Connect with your undergrad or grad school alums. Talk to neighbors and friends. Tell your barber or babysitter—you might be surprised who people know. And, when you do find a job, keep some of those networks fresh. You’re going to meet great people on your job search who may not be able to help you land a job today, but you never know what the future holds.
- Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Guess what? Many wonderful people have been, and will be, laid off. People I love and respect have been laid off recently, and quite frankly, it sucks. It feels personal. It can be a blow to the ego. Feel your feels, friends, but get yourself right before you start interviewing. Hiring managers know what’s happening out there in the business world, so don’t be afraid of your circumstances. Keep it simple: “The business demanded change and focus. My team was working in an area that was deprioritized and thus we were let go” or “My company was recently acquired, resulting in the elimination of duplicative roles.”
- Set realistic goals for your search. Have a plan, friends. The job search can be a long and arduous process, so set goals for yourself along the way. Define your process and plot it out. Which companies/industries are your focus? Who will you connect with and how will you reach out? Give yourself attainable goals so you can feel your progress. Which leads me to my final point …
- Know when you need a break. I remember connecting with a job seeker who was just frustrated. They had sent their resume out to hundreds of companies, and only two replied, and those didn’t result in interviews. This job seeker had no idea what they should do next, but they knew they needed a job soon. When you’re in this place, it may sound counterintuitive, but I would suggest stepping away—if only for one day, give your mind and your spirit a break. You may think you don’t have that luxury when money is running out. But—and I know it sounds cliché—sometimes a break, even a short one, brings clarity. As with so many things in life, we sometimes need to step back and give ourselves a minute to reset and reflect.