5 Tips for How to Job Search in Uncertain Times

In order to support our students during the coronavirus outbreak, Jill Gugino Pante and Sarah Baker Andrus from the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and EconomicsCareer Services Center shared expert advice for how to pursue a job search during this time.

Who could have imagined a few weeks ago that we would be facing so many questions about the economy and the job market? If you’re overwhelmed and unsure what to do, you are not alone! UD’s Lerner Career Services Center is here to help.

While there are still a lot of questions about the current and future job market, we are still seeing a large number of jobs and internships posted to our Handshake site daily

Regardless of what’s happening externally, you do have some control over how you present yourself and how you connect to others. Preparation is everything, no matter what the job market looks like. Here are five tips to make the most of your job search now:

1. Utilize your Networks

Our formula for success in your job search is based on the 80/20 rule: 80% of your time should be reaching out and talking to people—whether it be online or by phone. The other 20% of your time should be spent researching organizations and applying to jobs online. If you are sitting behind your computer not talking to anyone for days on end, you need to adjust your job search methods.

Not sure where to start? One strategy that can be effective is to create a list of “target employers.” Your target employers are companies and organizations that hire people to do what you want to do and match your needs (locations, values, culture). We recommend starting with a list—of about 50 employers—and prioritizing them in order of your interest.

It can be challenging for people to help if you are general about what you want to do (i.e. job in finance), however, when you are specific about where you want to apply, people can start making connections (i.e. I have a friend who works at that company). That’s where your target employer list comes in – tell them the companies you are interested in, and ask if they can help.

We build networks for a reason: to provide support, assistance and a sense of community. Besides friends and family, think about your networks and where you can expand. Alumni groups are a good first place to go. After that, look at industry-specific professional organizations or associations, followed by local community groups like Chambers of Commerce or Rotary Clubs. While many in-person networking events have been canceled or postponed, there are tons of virtual alternatives. Networking and expanding your network can be daunting, but it is essential in the job search.

2. Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter

Job descriptions can be boring to read and sometimes very lengthy, so it’s tempting to just skim them. But there’s a very good reason to read them carefully: They will tell you exactly what the employer is looking for, and that will tell you what to highlight in your resume and cover letter. If you keep sending out the same resume and you’re not getting any employer responses, that feedback could mean you need to review your resume to ensure it matches the job description.

Not sure if you’ve aligned your resume to the job description? UD’s Lerner Career Services has a great resource for you! Resume Worded is an online software tool that compares your resume to a job description or posting and makes suggestions to help it stand out. We recommend using the Targeted Resume module.

3. Identify and Highlight your Achievements

It can be difficult to talk about ourselves and our accomplishments. Some people think it’s bragging and others think it’s not important. Whether on a resume, cover letter or during an interview, you need to tell your professional story! Storytelling is a key skill to utilize when you’re trying to persuade someone—in this case, to persuade someone to hire you.

Writing and talking about your key skills and accomplishments, and providing data and details about them, can make a huge difference when hiring managers are making a decision. Bullet points that don’t include details are scanned over quickly. Interview answers that don’t paint a picture of you overcoming a difficult setback or taking initiative are going to fall flat. Hiring managers like to hear about the $10,000 you saved the company or the student organization that went from 20 to 100 members under your leadership. Relook at your resume bullet points and determine where you can add specific numbers. Before your interview, prepare four to five stories that show your leadership, initiative, etc. And, if you are concerned about bragging in an interview or networking conversation, think of how you can attribute what you want to highlight to others. Instead of “I’m very hard-working,” you can say, “My supervisor in my last role said I had one of the best work ethics he’d ever seen in a part-time employee. That meant a lot to me.”

Record your accomplishments, skills and things you’re proud of in a journal. Make a point to pause once a week or so to consider what you have achieved or what value you can bring to a prospective employer. That way, when you go to update your resume, prepare your stories or complete your annual appraisal, you’ll have your key achievements already in place. If just thinking about this helps you realize that perhaps you need to step up your leadership activities, then make some notes about causes you care about and activities you enjoy. Then decide what you could commit to doing in the near term to step up. What organization(s) could you join? Sometimes, you can find a way to lead from wherever you are if you just look around.

4. Follow Up on Current Applications

These last few weeks have upended our lives; however, we are very heartened to see all the people wanting to help. Recruiters tell us that it’s the students who follow up who get their attention. So, if you are in the beginning or middle of your job search, don’t sit and wait. Take the initiative and reach out.

If you’ve applied to 50 positions, divide that list into thirds or quarters. Start with the top tier and then work your way down the list with a direct outreach approach, which can include steps like these:

  • Find the HR recruiter and email them a brief message with your name, interest in specific position, quick background of qualifications (one to two sentences max), confirming you applied online and asking for consideration or an opportunity to speak directly.
  • Identify UD alumni who work at the company and send them a message to connect.
  • Follow the company on your social media accounts and post that you just applied to the job.
  • Utilize LinkedIn to connect with and message employees who work there.
  • Find out if any employees are in your direct network and message them to chat.
  • Research virtual networking events sponsored by your local Chamber of Commerce and other professional associations.

We recommend the following job and internship sites to find postings: Handshake, CareerShift (located under Resources in Handshake) and LinkedIn. The job search can be very frustrating, and it will get worse if you just sit there. Keep the momentum going every day.

5. Don’t Keep Your Job Search a Secret

By letting everyone know you are looking (remember your list of target companies as well), you are essentially creating a team of supporters that want to see you succeed. Of course, make sure your resume and LinkedIn are properly updated and professional before you do this.

While these times are unprecedented, the rules of the job search are much the same. Be sure to utilize all the resources you have available at UD and beyond. Lerner Career Services and the UD Career Center are open for business and ready to serve you virtually throughout the rest of the semester. Please schedule an appointment in Handshake for support! As always, UD and the Lerner College recommend staying up-to-date on UD’s response to the coronavirus.

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