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!