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September 24, 2014

Confessions of a Former Job Seeker

Confessions of a Former Job Seeker

Yours truly, former job seeker.

I had forgotten how much I’ve learned in my 10+ years of studying job interviewing, resume writing and job search strategy.

Then I decided to get rid of some old files from the days when I was a job seeker, myself.

My conclusion: Job search skills are not inborn. They are definitely learned!

I found dusty old manila folders full of resumes dating back to the late ’80s, when I got my BA in Journalism (Public Relations emphasis) and worked as an assistant editor at a book company, and from the ’90s and ’00s when I landed various positions as a publicist, writer, employment counselor and trainer of employment specialists.

Was I a smart job seeker? Yes and no.

Here are a few things I did right:

  • I maintained a “kudos file” containing letters of recommendation, positive feedback from performance evaluations and kudo emails I had received. Rereading these “rave reviews” helped me understand my strengths and skills. It was also a huge confidence-builder that I reviewed before interviews and whenever I felt discouraged.
  • I obtained lists of interview questions and practiced answering them.
  • I made a list of success stories to talk about in interviews.
  • I conducted informational interviews in which I gained valuable career guidance.
  • I kept my notes, master application and old resumes for years, so I was always able to fill out job applications completely and never had to guess about dates and other facts. (My file purge was not total! I still have everything I need to update my resume.)

And some things I did wrong:

  • I didn’t “get it” about networking as a way of proactively marketing myself to a list of target companies. I thought networking was about meeting people and asking them to “keep me in mind” for any openings they might hear of. That didn’t work and it was no fun.
  • I failed to follow up properly with people who had given me informational interviews. I sent a thank-you note and that was generally about it. I didn’t let them know how their leads turned out. So I missed opportunities for ongoing relationship and for additional tips and leads.
  • While I kept my notes, they were a little disorganized, which I’m sure detracted from my effectiveness and added to my stress. A contact management system like Jibberjobber would have been helpful.
  • I insisted on going it alone. I did pretty well at writing resumes and cover letters, but a good pro could have done better, despite my editorial experience. And I didn’t realize how badly I needed interview coaching.

I’ve learned a lot since those days! Whew!

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