Top Ten Tips from My Job Search

Public service is my calling. I began my career working for two very distinguished and respected members of Congress. The time I spent on the Hill was exciting, meaningful work. After seven years, I ventured into the business world and worked in advocacy, the media, strategic communications, and technology. But I missed public service, so with the encouragement of my supportive wife I focused on attempting to return to where my career began on Capitol Hill.

I am not a young 20-something fresh out of college or coming off a campaign or internship. I don’t share a townhouse blocks from the Capitol with half a dozen other staffers. I have a wife, a child, a dog, a car, and a mortgage. I cannot burn the candle on both ends anymore. In order to achieve my goal, I had to be strategic and relentless like a honey badger about my search. I devoted my summer to this goal, and I am pleased to report that I have found my way back to congressional service!

I believe that givers get and that you should always be asking others, “How can I be helpful to you?” With that in mind, I want to share the ten tips that have helped my search for a new job:

  1. Track everything! Make a list of people you want to have a coffee with. Make a list of companies you’d like to work for. Track your meetings. Person, organization, date, how can they help, follow up? Track the jobs you’ve applied for. If applicable, track your unemployment.
  2. Stay organized! I use Google Keep to list my tasks but OneNote works too. Sunday night, list my tasks for the week. Each morning, I review and prioritize tasks for the day. I check off tasks as I accomplish them. If I don’t finish all tasks, I copy the document and rename for next week, archiving the prior list. At the end of each day, I list my accomplishments. Job searching is tough and sometimes you need to remind yourself of all that you have accomplished. I review my progress at the end of the day to remind myself that I was productive.
  3. Build your toolbox. Resume: With a few exceptions, go with one page! It is clean, neat, and easy to read. It tells a story quickly for the HR person sorting and the interviewer and hiring manager. Tailor your resume to the job – talk about how your path has lead you to that organization. Your resume has one tasks: to get you an interview. Exceptions: Federal jobs or industries where they expect detail or numbers (like sales). Have a different resume for each type of job and customize as applicable, particularly with keywords from job posting. Have an interesting stat (my 2:59 marathon time) as a conversation piece. Cover letter – Create a template that you can use. Customize it: take the job description, break it into bullet points, and select those that you can match to your experience. Keep it neat. There is no need for long cover letters. Express your interest and qualifications. Describe how you solve their problems and meet their needs. Find a way to stand out.
  4. Request “coffees.” It’s OK if they are informal meetings. Create an email template that you can reuse quickly. Goal: to tell your story to help the other person understand the action you want them to take.
  5. Talk to a hiring manager. Find out about their company. Ask them who else they can connect you to? At the end, always ask, “What can I do to be helpful to you?” My four job offers came from networking or connections. One came from a coffee, one came from a networking event, and two came directly from my network.
  6. Collaborate with other job seekers. Helping others helps you – it makes you look good. Create a support system. Check in with them from time to time.
  7. Be prepared. When applying, research the company. When interviewing, use LinkedIn and other tools to learn about the interviewer. Use LinkedIn to find out who you know at a company and who can introduce you to someone there. Study for an interview. Make a list of questions.
  8. Be bold. Reach out to people you do not know. One third to one quarter will reply yes – they will meet you.
  9. Focus. Target where you want to work. You catch more when you are focused. Where specifically do you want to work? What do you want to do? Set goals. How many jobs will you apply for each week/month? How many “transactions” (i.e. conversations or emails sent) can you handle each week/month? How many meetings can you set up each week?
  10. Follow up, constantly! If you don’t follow up, it is as if it didn’t happen. Many people you meet with will want you to keep them in the loop. You are not “bothering” them. You are activating your network and getting them to work for you. Send an email once a week to your network: jobs applied for, jobs interviewed. Use gmail to help set reminders and snooze an email to when you want to follow up.

Searching for a job is a full time job. You need to be disciplined, have a goal and a plan to get there, and constantly be selling yourself. Searching for a job is also something that can be more successful when helping others and relying on others. With the help of Brent Sullivan of Time on the Hill, I edited my resume to fit on one page, revised my LinkedIn profile, and practiced interviewing. With the support and advice of my friends and professional network, I conducted a thorough and organized job search that succeeded. I hope that others find my tips helpful in their search.

Posted in: KM