I wonder if you have had this experience - [it’s a bit rhetoric of course - I challenge anyone to say no] – knocking a nail in with a rock / shoe heel, screwing a screw in with a butter knife, or my favourite, pulling out a wine bottle cork with any combination of screwdrivers, knives, screws, pliers…you gotta get that cork out, right?
I think I have made my point, there is usually more than one way of getting a job one, and sometimes invention is the mother of necessity.
However! If you have ever struggled to get a job done using an improvised implement, how much easier was it when you have the right tools? In fact, I invested in an electric screwdriver a couple of years ago, and it just eats the jobs that used to leave blisters on my hands [such a wimp…I know! Hey, I have other skills!]
While this is all true of manual tasks, it is the same when it comes to your Job Hunt, you need the right tools if you are going to save yourself a lot of hard work, make your life easier and get that job done, so here are at least 5 Tools that you should have in your Job Search Tool Kit.
I am not much of a handy-man, in fact, if it doesn’t involve an electric screwdriver, I am pretty lost [I have a power saw too, but that is just for firewood, the only skill needed is leaving all my fingers intact], but, just for the occasional task that needs something stronger than my teeth to accomplish, I have a swiss-army-knife-esque tool, you know, corkscrew, miniature saw/file, bottle opener, pliers, that type of thing. Very useful!
What does this have to do with your CV?
Contrary to popular belief, your CV is going to need to perform more tasks than merely applying for a job, although you will probably find that this will be the key purpose of your CV. The thing is, you will need more than one version of your CV…it does have to be multi-purpose.
Let’s just illustrate that. You have been doing one role or another for the last six years, and your CV is heavily slanted to highlight the skills, experience and achievements gained over that time because, ideally, you would like to stay within a similar sphere of activity.
Prior to that, you were an doing something else, quite different from what you are doing now, but it was a great stepping stone into your current role, although you have had to undertake quite some considerable professional development since then.
If you are at a career crossroads and perhaps wondering what to do next, whether that is carry on in your current trajectory, revisit an earlier aspect of your career, or something completely different, you might find that, although you have cocked your hat in the direction of a previous role within your CV, it by no means highlights that particular skill-set enough to make it effective in a search for that type of work.
This could mean that you send out a large number of CVs without getting shortlisted because either it doesn’t contain enough content to light up the keyword system lurking behind a job board, or a recruiter is left scratching his or her head as far as promoting you to his or her client.
Or you could have your CV posted on a job site, only to find that you are only getting calls and emails about potential opportunities that require skills and experience from one aspect of your career, thus limiting the effectiveness of your job search.
Does this mean that you are going to need several versions of your CV to match a series of potential aspirations that you would be willing to consider, this making quite a lot of work for yourself? ‘Fraid so, but not doing this would be tantamount to trying to prise a cork out with a screwdriver, shortly before checking into A&E with a need for a few stitches.
When I say ‘online profile’, more often than not I am talking about LinkedIn, but there is no reason why other social media channels may not be included in your toolkit, so you may have to transfer the principles of this section to other platforms.
If you want to know how to set up a great Linkedin profile, take a look here – but just to focus on the optimisation, and ensuring it does the job for which it is purposed, similar to your CV, the focus should match your career direction, but there is more scope here as you are not as restricted by word count as you are on your CV, you can include more content so that every facet of your career is represented adequately.
But it is impossible to represent everything in your history in your headline, which is perhaps one of the most important components of your profile [120-character limit], so choose wisely.
Some tools require maintenance or sharpening if they are to be fully useful, it is likewise with your LinkedIn profile – you need a sharp image [you see what I did there?] that places you in the most appropriate setting. If you are going to have a background image, and you should have a background image, rather than going for just a pretty picture that you happen to like, it should reflect your work or industry, or be designed in should a way that any visitor to your profile understands why you have used that particular image.
Get the dimensions right too..it is OK to shrink images, enlarging them [unless you really know what you are doing of course] may stretch or pixelate the image to the extent that the reader may think they forgot to put their lenses in.
If you are using the old UI, the dimensions are 1400 x 425 pixels and the new UI, 1536 x 768 pixels.
Ideally, you want further engagement from your visitors, rather than a LinkedIn browser, so include a call to action, I included a call to action on my background image where it is hard to miss, but you may want to be a little more subtle if you prefer not to give your job hunting status away to your current boss.
Maintain this tool by regularly updating the content, add achievements, skills, courses, publications, patents as they happen. You can post your own blogs as part of the maintenance of your profile, get involved in conversations, be helpful to your network.
Contrary to the belief of some, a covering letter is not a note that says ‘To whom it may concern, please find attached a copy of my current CV, please keep me on file…’
It is a bespoke communication to a specific person about a specific matter, whether that is a vacancy you have seen [where did you see it?], a speculative approach [why that company?] or a message to populate a field on a job portal, it should give the impression of ‘as personal and specific as possible’ rather than giving clear evidence that you have merely copied and pasted a standard response.
Similarly, if you decide to send a thank you note following an interview, make it specific to the interview that you have attended. This is your opportunity to mention a highlight from the interview or to say that you are still really interested in pursuing this role.
It is OK to have a template to work from, but just make sure you change enough of it so that you don’t trigger a ‘CTRL C – CTRL V’ proximity alert.
There is an exception to this. Some employers prefer the letter itself to form the basis of an application. A customer approached me recently asking for some coaching on a vacancy that was asking for a CV and an expression of interest not exceeding four pages, you are going to need more than a template in this scenario.
This is not an absolute essential, but it does help keep track of your progress. Having a ‘to-do’ list will help you to schedule follow-ups, keep a list of applications you have made, and their closing dates and will help you approach your job hunt in an organised way and acts as a set of metrics for analysis, to see how effective your efforts are so far.
One of the difficulties I sometimes encounter is a contact from a customer that begins ‘I know this is short notice, but....’, and the gist of it is that a person has seen a job that they really would like to be considered for, but the closing date is ‘tomorrow!’
Obviously, I am as accommodating as possible, but the essence of the problem is that the quality of the application will be much higher if there is a sufficient amount of time to put an application together.
The problem is that you can’t be scouring the web for opportunities if you only have a limited resource for this activity, so get some help.
Google Alerts are amazing for identifying vacancies as soon as they hit the web, this is a tool that will work for you while you are offline or unavailable – talk about a power tool!! Setting up these alerts does take a little time and effort I grant you, but it is a superb investment as most of the search work goes on while you sleep, or work, or eat.
I hope that this was helpful, but if there is some aspect of your job search that you are struggling with, feel free to get in touch either via Twitter, Linkedin or just drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange for a chat!
If you would like a free ‘to-do’ list, just drop me a message and I will send you one over!Back to Candidate blogs