I've searched for jobs. I've been hired. I've hired people. I've read more resumes and cover letters than I can remember. I've sat through interviews. I've seen people I love go through the job hunt.
Over and over again, I've noticed lots of people make these mistakes:
1. They focus too much on why a job is good for them, and not enough on how they will add extreme value to the organization.
Every time I read (yet another) cover letter that says "I think your company will be the perfect fit for me and will help me grow" I can't help but sigh a little.
Besides being a terribly generic sentence, it says nothing at all about how you will add extreme value to the organization that you are asking to hire you - which is really what they want to know.
Change it around to: "This is how I plan to add real value to your organization in my first 90 days: X, Y, and Z."
Then when you get the job and start executing, I promise you that one of the byproducts will be a hell of a lot of personal growth.
When we add value to something outside ourselves, we simultaneously add value to ourselves.
When we are in service to others, we create purpose in our own lives.
The surest path to personal growth is to stop focusing on yourself, and start focusing on others.
2. They are too picky about what specific job to apply for.
There are two reasons that you shouldn't be too picky about the jobs you apply for:
The first job you get at an organization won't be the last job you have at that organization if you don't want it to be. With that in mind, focus on finding a job - any job - at an organization you think is a good culture and people fit.
Then, once you're in the door, add extreme value, think like a boss, and be unusually helpful to the people around you. Decision makers will notice, and then when that new position you really wanted from the beginning opens up within the organization, you'll be in a prime position to make it yours.
Humans often think they know what will make them happy. And they are often wrong. Projecting how things with which we have little prior familiarity will make us feel is something we're just not that good at - it's one of our cognitive weaknesses. We learn much better by doing something, not thinking about it. So you might THINK that a certain job or vocation is not for you, but it's actually really hard to know unless you do it.
It's also really easy to not have any passion for something you have never done. But the more we work at something - anything - the more we develop passion. Passion is a byproduct of a doing a job, not a prerequisite.
3. They only use job postings to look for jobs.
Over 50% of jobs are never posted. I totally made that statistic up - but I actually wouldn't be surprised if it was even higher. So yes - go ahead and browse the job postings - but in addition:
If you have a network - activate it. Start with the people who work in the industry or at the org you want to work at. Then broaden out and tell everyone that you're on the hunt for a job in XX field or at YY companies. Email people with a 1 paragraph version of your cover letter/resume and tell them you're on the job hunt. Ask them if they know anyone working in your field who might be helpful, and ask them to forward along your blurb and a request to make an email intro. One thing leads to another.
Even if you don't have much a network - while it's admittedly multiple degrees more difficult - there are still some key steps you can take. Here's one: Identify organizations where you want to work, and email an unsolicited cover letter and resume to a couple key decision makers. In the body of the email, in 6 sentences or less, let them know you love the work their organization does, you would like to work together, and then based on your skill set, make them a proposal for a 3 month, part-time contract relationship where you solve some problems for them. This strategy will put you above 99% of most people reaching out the them about jobs.
Finally - the job hunt can feel a bit random sometimes. Whether or not you get a call back can literally hinge on whether the person reading your resume is well-fed or hungry at the time. So with that in mind, don't take rejection personally. Instead, continually update your strategy, and keep reaching out. Good things come to people who persist with positivity.
As always, if you have any questions, thoughts, or disagreements on this - I want to hear from you.
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