Habits of Successful Job Seekers

Saturday Nov. 2nd, 2013

Jobs are about as permanent as a yellow leaf in Bozeman’s autumn. Sure, it’s there and you get to marvel at its glory, but if you blink a cold snap will come through and drop every leaf—yellow or green—straight to the ground. Even our ever-reliable government jobs suddenly don’t possess the same job security. What differentiates those that bounce to a new job quickly and those that seem to wallow in a pile of leaves? The following habits, of course.

1.   Always be job searching, even when you aren’t. Never stop paying attention to your career path. Even if you are happy in your job, it pays to keep the pulse of the industry and potential career opportunities. Surprises happen. Companies close abruptly. Layoffs happen without warning. Have a loose idea of “Plan B” at all times.

2.   Do a great job at your current job. Exceptional employees are noticed by people outside the company. I personally know of many people who have been “headhunted” by their own customers, clients, and even competition because their work was exceptional.

The remaining habits apply to those out of work too.

3.   Network, network, network. If your company attends networking events such as the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce After Hours, see if you can represent your company once and meet other professionals in the area. Join a Biz to Biz group (there are seven in Bozeman and one in Belgrade). Check out niche groups like Green Drinks Bozeman or the Young Professionals Group.

4.   Pay attention to your personal circles. Do you know what the other people in tango class and basket weaving do for a living? Where do they work? Take interest in the other parents shivering at the sidelines of your son’s football game. Be curious and kind.

5.   Stay connected with old colleagues, acquaintances, and friends. Nothing is tackier than emailing someone you worked with five years ago and asking them for a favor to land you a job. The professional network you’ve built is valuable to your future. Invest in the past daily by calling, emailing, or messaging an old colleague. Stay in touch so when you need a favor, it’s not out of the blue.

6.   Get a base resume together before you actively look for work. The worst feeling is finding the PERFECT job then discovering the job posting closes in 10 minutes and your resume needs at least 126 hours of work. Create a template resume with all your positions, education, and a draft summary so when you find Mr. RightJob you can quickly tweak and submit.

7.   Create a team of proofreaders. It happens to all of us. We mean “Public Relations” but we forget to type the “l” in “Public”…don’t cause yourself humiliation. Have a couple proofreaders ready to pick your resume apart before your potential future boss does.

8.   Treat your job search like a job. Really successful job seekers set the alarm for 6 a.m., get up, have breakfast, exercise, shower, and get dressed before settling at their computer for the day’s “work” at 8 a.m. Schedule your day between cruising new job postings, making personal connections, going to networking functions, and working on your job search documents (i.e. resume, cover letter). A strict, purposeful approach will leave you feeling more in control of your future and deliver quicker results than sleeping until 11 and spending the afternoon on the couch watching Ellen with a bag of Doritos.

9.   Volunteer. Volunteering serves a couple of functions. First, it’s an opportunity to network. Second, it keeps skills sharp (assuming your volunteering skills are relevant to your job interests) and gives you something to put on your resume for this “downtime.” Third, it keeps you from getting the full-blown I-can’t-find-a-job-to-save-my-soul blues. After all, how can you be too sad when you save puppies all day?

10.   Be more flexible with what you are willing to take as work. Part-time, temporary, and contract work can help you get by until something more permanent comes along. Like volunteering, it gives you something to put on your resume.

11.   Use LinkedIn. Don’t be so intimidated by LinkedIn. It’s an AWESOME tool. Build a killer profile. Learn how to use LinkedIn’s features. Get busy finding a job!

12.   Regularly practice interviewing. After all that work to land an interview, don’t find yourself unprepared to knock it out of the park. Start practicing for the interview the minute you start job searching. Search the internet for common interview questions for the type of position you are pursuing. Write out your answers then practice saying them out loud. I strongly suggest you practice interviewing with another person. Role play. Record your faux-interview and watch your body language. Notice your nervous habits and practice NOT clicking the pen over and over.

13.   Ummm, like, maybe try to, ummm, break the bad habits, like, before your interview. Have someone note how many “ummms” spill out of your lips during practice interviews. Practice until you break the habit. Please, try to stop saying “like” every other sentence. Remember, pausing is completely fine. No need to fill the moment with “ummm” and “like.” Silence is better.

14.   Balance patience and determination. Just like bow-hunting, patience and determination are the keys to hitting the job bulls-eye. The process can be painfully slow. Once you find a job and apply, the company may take another month or two to collect resumes before calling for interviews. By the time the interview is scheduled, there may be three more rounds ahead. A new job rarely happens overnight. Be patient, but be determined. Never stop looking or applying, even if you’ve applied for the perfect job and you are absolutely sure you’re hired. Keep working your “job” until you actually have one.

15.   Take care of yourself. Job search is draining emotionally and physically. Eat good food. Sip tea. Get exercise. Take a break and Google “Funniest Resume Mistakes.” Laugh. Have your mate rub your head or your tummy—whatever soothes you. At the end of a long day of job hunting, remind yourself that you rock, even if you haven’t convinced someone else of it yet. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world sees your superstardom too.

Liz Williams is a professional resume writer, LinkedIn profile writer, and career strategist helping job seekers and brand-building professionals move forward with confidence as they pursue career ambitions. Learn more at www.occupationinnovation.com and follow Liz at facebook.com/occupationinnovation.

From the 11/13 issue of Bozeman Magazine