It happens to the best of us: earlier this week I was laid off from my job of nearly three years. While my role was out of the main office in the online sales department, the company was still primarily brick and mortar and suffered the slings and arrows of the current state of the retail industry. I can’t say this really came out of nowhere; I was casually preparing myself to get back out there and see what’s available. I have been aspiring to badassery in product management and management consulting for a few years, and that hasn’t changed. I just grossly misjudged how much time I would actually have to move to the next step.
In the last few days, I have maintained a level of calm confidence that’s been surprising even to myself. The only way I could explain it is part survival and part being prepared to tackle a new challenge. Job searching is now my full-time job and I plan to own it like a boss. And part of being a good leader is passing on your insight to others where you would feel it would be most helpful. For anyone out there feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of making moves and finding your next role, I hope you can glean something out of my job search strategy.
Research, Categorize, and Tailor
Start with the skills you have, the jobs you would want, the jobs you qualify for, and then make yourself a list. Ask yourself questions about what you’re good at, what you know, and what you’d like to do. Then take those free form ideas and hit the job boards to see what companies are looking for. You don’t necessarily need to start applying right away, but if you do see something that piques your interest, go ahead and bookmark it. Or at least note what company that position is with. The point of this exercise is to know what kind of positions you’ll be applying to so you can find something great! Don’t typecast yourself into one role; you might be missing some great opportunities! And if you happen to be qualified for more than one type of work, you should have a starting point to tackle your resume.
Now that you have an idea of what kind of roles you’re looking for, categorize them into how likely you are to be hired given your experience and how much you would want to do that job. Consider yourself lucky if the title you’re most likely to land is the same as the one you would want the most. My advice would be to still keep your options open. And if these two don’t align, that’s okay, too. You’ll at least know where to channel your effort and recognize where you’d be happiest.
Organize Yourself and Structure Your Search
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’m an early-ish adopter of the project management tool, Trello. I don’t remember how I found it, but the first project I used it for was keeping track of my job search in 2013. It was how I fell in love with the platform. I have kept the same job search board this entire time with some minor tweaks. You can pick up a public template of the board I created here with some guidance on how to get started: Manage Your Career Like A Bawse.
Now that you’re all set up to track your application process, write down at least three things each day, I mean every single day, that will move you closer to getting hired. Then do your best to accomplish at least those three things. On my list for today I have: apply to at least three jobs, upload my updated primary resume to job boards, and post one website design to Behance. If you’re currently unemployed, do not underestimate the value of establishing a daily schedule and plan of action. I also use, and love, a Volt planner. I personally prefer the format, but you can accomplish the same thing with a notebook or some post-its. If your brain needs a break from hunting, bullet journaling is a nice and quick side project to start getting the hang my planning style. It will serve you well. The key is getting up in the morning, get in a little exercise (even if it’s a walk around the block), shower, get dressed and plan your day like it’s your job.
Let’s go back to your resume for a moment. Remember all of that research you did for what kind of positions you’re looking for? Take the one you are most likely to land and write your resume tailored specifically for that job. If you’re not sure where to start, Google will help you find plenty of examples and templates for your specific field. This will be your baseline. You will want to have a version of your resume for the top level of every type of position you’re looking for. They don’t have to be too different; the point is that for whatever job you’re applying to, it should be obvious that your skills are perfect for that position. I have one for sales and customer support, operations, and web development.
I would also recommend writing a cover letter template. No, this isn’t going to be a copypasta job to rapid fire apply to everything. The purpose of the template is to work out the language and format you want to use and leave a lot of breathing room to tailor the letter to your audience. You’ll still want your audience to know you’ve put thought into your expressed interest. You just won’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you write a new letter.
Having worked in online customer service for several years, I really feel canned responses get a bad rap. Having a templated response doesn’t mean those responses won’t be tailored to your specific problem. However, there’s a solid chance that your problem is identical to at least one of three to four scenarios that make up 80% of all the tickets the support team sees. Giving them a template to work with assures that each and every client that has that question, or a similar question, gets the best version of the solution that team has to offer. It also frees up time to give edge cases and quality control issues the attention they need. Customer support templates (much like a cover letter template) should be both flexible and iterable. I highly recommend embracing them.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
You are the leader of the sales team for yourself. Hype your contacts and everyone you recruit to help you on your product and state your goals clearly. Polish your strategy and online presence. And don’t be afraid to use marketing and sales tactics in your search. Do you have a website where your portfolio lives? Integrate Google Analytics and lead generation into your site. My point is, don’t be afraid to use any of the resources at your disposal, whether that be an elevator pitch, a good network of friends, or online tools to help get yourself out there and stay on track.
A service I discovered recently, although they’ve been around for a while, is HubSpot. They have a lot of great sales tools that are absolutely free to use. One of my favorites, and the reason I started using them, is a Google Chrome extension that integrates your e-mail with their CRM. With the extension, you can track within your HubSpot sales dashboard if your email has been opened and whether or not they clicked through any links within the email. They also offer free tutorials and certifications for topics such as inbound sales and email marketing. HubSpot has definitely carved out a safe new spot in my personal tool kit. I would highly recommend checking out the platform.
If there is one tip I would say is indispensable in sales, is that you need to know your audience. Put yourself in the hiring manager, human resources, or recruiter’s shoes. What are their goals and what are they looking for? Do some research on the company and reach out to people you may know who’ve worked for them. The more you know about the audience, the better prepared you are to empathize with them and address their needs.
I was in the middle of working out my fitness plan and subsequent blog post when this week’s events went down. If you’re looking for more Beastie style guidance, my fitness post is queued up for when I have time to give it the love it deserves.
Best of luck to your endeavors! And keep me in mind if you’re hiring. *winky face*