Step 1: Figure out who you are.
Write a list of keywords. Think about your day and write down what you do, and what you like to do. Brainstorm – don’t limit yourself, you’ll filter these later. Do you play on Facebook? Read product reviews? Drive? Go to the beach? Go shopping? Play sports? Write it all down.
Step 2: Figure out what that’s called in jobland.
For each “keyword” you’ve written down, go on monster.com and search for it. Monster.com may not be the best place for all your keywords, so go to industry-specific job sites if you know them. (i.e. if you wrote “program web scripts in Perl”, go to dice.com). Try googling your keyword phrase with “jobs” in front of it. i.e. “jobs surfing”. Really – you might be surprised.
You are NOT looking for a job yet. If you get excited about a position you see, great – write down what the position is called.
You’re looking for job descriptions that define you. Look in particular at the “qualifications” sections. Those describe the person that defines that job title. Is it you? If so, write down the job title (i.e. “Perl Software Developer”, “Video Game Tester”, etc). Hints: If you don’t know what they’re talking about, move on to the next ad – it’s not you. If you get excited and want to apply right now, that’s you, write down the job title. (don’t apply – you’re not ready and you’ll blow the opportunity)
Step 3: Update your resume
Your resume tells the employer who you are. You are NOT going to change this for each job you apply for, like some people recommend. Why? Because you’re not going to change who you are, you’re going to find the right job. It’s faster and you’ll be happier with the job you get.
So pick the job title that best described you from Step 2. There may be more than 1. You’ve seen job descriptions – pick the one that you like best and pays well enough. It doesn’t have to be the best paying job – you’re looking for what I call “easy money”. That is, stuff you enjoy doing makes work easy. If you go to work and have fun, AND get paid, that’s much easier than going to do something you don’t like and getting paid a bit more (hard money).
Your resume should have your name and address, job title (the one you picked from step 2), a brief description of that title (1-2 sentences), your skills in that area, your work experience in that area, and your education. Keep it very focused. Did you play in a band? Don’t include that on your surf instructor or CEO resume. You can mention it in the interview.
Step 4: Apply for jobs.
Now, figure out which web site is the best for the jobs you’re applying for. Upload your resume on it, and ONLY on it. For any industry there’s usually one place everyone looks and posts, and some other places they look and post too. It takes lots of time to create your profile, upload your resume, and look for jobs. Do it once, well, on the site everyone looks at, and look for jobs on that site. You don’t have time to waste – so focus your efforts here.
Search for jobs – search for the position title and limit your search to “job title only”. While having 10 pages of job offers might seem like you have lots of opportunities, it really just means you have lots of crap to go through. It’s better to weed out a few mis-titled positions than to wade through 10 pages of completely inappropriate ads. Remember: you’re not looking for 100 jobs, you’re looking for 1.
The site might let you save your search. Do it. Have it email you matching jobs. Make sure you set your location restrictions too. Do you really want to move 1000 miles away? No? Then set the search to within 10-20 miles from your house to get a short commute.
Don’t be discouraged if there are only 5-10 jobs that show up that match your description. Apply for them. You can change the job title on your resume to match their job title. i.e. if they say “Surf Trainer”, change “Surf Instructor” on your resume to “Surf Trainer”. “Software Developer” might be “Software Engineer”, “Salesman” might be “Account Manager”, etc. That’s all you should change. You might also get some ideas of things that’d be good to add – as long as they accurately describe your experience or skills and apply to the job title in general, not just to this company, add them (and update your profile!).
Your cover letter is where you’ll spell out things that apply specifically to each position.
Use a template like the one below. Read through the bullet points in the job posting and address each one in the “experience” paragraph and in the “skills” paragraph. If they say they want 5 years sales experience in the computer industry and you have that on your resume, add “over 5 years experience selling with clients including cisco, apple, and Sun Microsystrms” in the “experience” paragraph.
Dear [hiring manager name],
(or, if you don’t know it)
Dear Hiring Manager,
I saw your posting for [job title] and am interested in learning more about this opportunity.
I have extensive experience as a [job title], including [list experience you have that matches their bullet points in “qualifications” and “job description”].
I feel that my [skills you have that match their qualifications and job description] skills are a good match for this position.
I look forward to discussing this position with you further.
– I’ve simplified the steps, but there’s a lot to do. Break this into chunks. Do one step per day.
– Don’t apply to jobs you’re not thoroughly qualified for. You’re wasting your time and theirs. Plus, you’re spending energy and will be discouraged by being rejected. Better to apply for 5 jobs and get 1 than apply for 100 jobs and still get 1, and take longer doing it.
– Keep neutral. This is just a process. Schedule a few hours a day and do the work.
– Avoid getting excited about certain positions and adding things like “I really want this job”, or similar, to your cover letter or tweaking your resume to fit the job. It wastes time, and makes it *less* likely that you’ll get the job.
– No resume tweaking! Update the job title only. If you have to change your resume for a job, it either means you didn’t accurately describe your experience and skills, or you’re not really qualified for this job.