by Heather Isaacs
Often when I facilitate workshops at the St. Paul WorkForce Center, I’ll introduce myself as a “professional job seeker,” because I’ve changed jobs many times over the years between layoffs and planned moves. All of this practical experience keeps me current in sharing with job seekers what works in getting a job. In this post I want to discuss the two most important concepts I’ve learned: how to network and how to target a job search.
Networking and Meeting Employers
WorkForce Center staff will tell you to network, but what does that mean? How do you really connect with employed people?
- Join a professional organization (or two) for your industry. Then look at ways to get active within that organization. Consider activities that keep a skill current or allow you to pick up a new skill. These organizations run on volunteer energy. I picked up more budgeting experience by being the treasurer for one of my professional organizations. Sample opportunities you might enjoy include: website help, treasurer, secretary, newsletter design/editing work, conference planning, or membership coordination.
- Join industry groups on LinkedIn. Again, be active in those groups by posting content or commentary. Look for opportunities to connect with members offline at events.
- Take classes that would be of interest to people in your industry. Employed people need to keep up on their skills as well. Classes provide a natural way to connect.
- Volunteer opportunities also draw employed people. You can help others and make meaningful connections.
- Social events give you the chance to meet people on a personal level. Let the conversation be more about getting to know them than your job search. Your goal is to uncover some nugget that you can follow up on to build the relationship. For example, I might discover that a new contact, Paul, is passionate about animals. I happen to learn about a “yappy hour” for dogs that needs volunteers and I send the information to Paul, letting him know I thought of him for this event. This opens the door for future conversations and opportunities between us.
Target Your Job Search: Be More Effective and Efficient
- Know thyself! What are your areas of expertise within your industry? What kinds of environments stimulate you?
- Translate this information to a well-written resume that reflects your unique voice. Check out your occupation on O*NET for key terms and technology that are used in your target industry.
- Employers are doing some of their hiring via referrals. Focus your search on jobs where you already know people and may have referrals. This may limit the number of openings you apply for, but you may have more success getting interviews because you will have inside information on how to target your resume and how to sell yourself. Your referrals may come from LinkedIn connections and from the networking connections you’re making or enhancing. Ideally your references will know you well enough to write an email or letter detailing some of your qualifications.
- Build a portfolio of work samples, either online or in a binder. Web tools include efolioMN, Prezi, and Articulate. You can upload links and files to your LinkedIn profile as well.
- Target companies first and jobs second. Learn about the company culture and get to know people who work there, using your networking connections. Do informational interviews to discover what skills and training could be beneficial to the company as well as the industry overall.
I’ve used these strategies in my job searches, but they aren’t just for job search. Keeping connected with people while you’re employed is also a smart career decision. Look for ways to share opportunities with your network—whether it’s job postings, news articles of interest, or connections to their passions. That way, the next time you find yourself in a job transition, you’ll have an active network of people to help you, and a more effective method of finding new positions.
Best of luck in your job search!
Heather Isaacs is workforce development specialist at the St. Paul WorkForce Center.