Winter is officially here. You just got Thanksgiving out of the way, including exchanging awkward pleasantries with those relatives who have different political views than you. Congrats, you have officially launched into the Holiday Season!
As you sit in your flannel pajamas pondering your professional goals and scrolling through job descriptions, hot cocoa in hand, you wonder if you should really just wait until the new year to get serious about landing a new job. You’ve been applying to jobs and had a few interviews, but it doesn’t seem like anything is moving much right now. Right?
It makes sense because you hear it all the time, from everywhere. “Slow down, you don’t have to rush.” Maybe it sounds more like, “Enjoy yourself now and you can get the ball rolling in the new year.” Or something like, “Companies are not hiring until Q1 of next year anyway.” Most people are thinking the same thing. Further, job seekers usually justify putting things off at this time of year, especially when it looks like nothing has or is going to happen.
Here is the bottom line – when it comes to landing your dream job, you do not want to take a break. There are many myths about whether or not companies do or do not hire towards the end of the year. It truly depends on the company, the department, and that department’s hiring budget at any given moment – end of the year or not. Furthermore, even if you do have the inside scoop that Google isn’t hiring any more HR professionals in a geographic location until 2020 at the earliest…wouldn’t you rather be ready to go when they give the green light vs. scrambling to get everything organized?
If you need any additional convincing at this point, let me offer you science. Newton’s Law of Physics, i.e. The Laws of Inertia to be precise. We all learned in school that it takes more energy for an object to go from a resting state to a state of motion vs the amount of energy required to increase the speed of an object that is already in motion. This law applies to losing weight, to project management, and pretty much everything else. And it most definitely applies to landing your dream job. It’s science. So again, don’t wait!
As other job seekers take their foot off the metaphorical gas pedal and turn their attention to Holiday cyber deals, the experts here at The Job Sauce highly recommend that you don’t. In fact, you might even surprise yourself and land your dream job before the ball drops in Time Square. That would indeed be worth celebrating!
We’ve constructed a list of actions you can take now to make sure you are ready to go when the time comes.
Lay Out Your Game Plan
Obviously, if you are going to be in action you should make sure those actions are effective. You’ll want to do that intellectual thinking to determine everything that is needed here. It is kind of like, you are about to bake a pie and you’ll want to make sure you have all the ingredients. You’ll want to work out the answers to important questions. What role(s) am I targeting? Who should I be talking to? Are my resume and LinkedIn profile ready if someone asked for those tomorrow? How have I actually been doing in interviews, on a scale from 1 to 10? Am I looking to increase my salary and prepared to negotiate? Are there any skill sets I can work on over this next month when I have more downtime?
Don’t just think about it. We recommend actually writing out a list and then creating your game plan. If you are really smart, you would declare by when you want to be hired and then work your way back to plan out measurable milestones. This will have you be much more effective and accountable during the process.
Also, instead of taking the “throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks” approach, talk your plan out with people. There is a reason why they say two heads are better than one. The more you talk to your community about what you are up to and planning, the more inertia you’ll create around your job search.
If you are traveling during the holidays or managing your current day job, you will also want to make sure that you schedule when you are going to take the actions laid out in your game plan. Lists are great but they mean nothing without organized actionable strategies.
Get Your Affairs In Order
Yes, we know you are not dying. We mean that you want your resume, your LinkedIn profile and any necessary documents or online portfolios ready to go as soon as possible. Life is unpredictable. You could be out for happy hour with your colleagues next week and pump into a prime contact. That contact could turn out to be a referral and ask you to forward your information to them. Remember, we are going for inertia here. If that person has to wait on you to update your resume, the enthusiasm they would have had at the beginning will begin to decrease as time goes on.
It isn’t personal, however, their attention isn’t going to be on you. Their attention will be on whatever else they have going on. You want anyone who passes along your resume to be recommending you while they are excited about you, not later on when it is more of a friendly gesture. Having your resume updated now (or completely revamped) such that it is optimized and targeted directly to the roles you are intending to pursue will make a difference on so many levels.
Firstly, updating your resume is like buying a new outfit. Just as your confidence increases while wearing those new threads, it also increases when you’ve done the work on your resume. That confidence will make an enormous difference when you go to interview and negotiate your salary.
Secondly, as you are reading through the roles that speak to you, you will begin to see common themes, skill sets, and interests of the employers. This will support you in tailoring your resume and LinkedIn profile such that it represents you as an ideal candidate. Keep in mind that your LinkedIn profile should align thematically with your resume. If you work with a professional to update your resume such that it is ATS optimized, that will support you in optimizing your LinkedIn profile as well.
Thirdly, the combination of noting those common threads and updating your resume will also support you in preparing for interviews. In seeing those commonalities, you can start to craft what you would want to say if asked about your experience in project management or how you’ve designed learning management platforms.
Sprinkle In Some Creativity
Ok, so you have your game plan. All the things are updated and ready to go. You think, “Awesome, let me start firing these puppies off!”
Slow your roll just a little bit. Remember we want you in action, but we want those to be effective actions. We are definitely not saying to not apply to jobs you find online.
However, we don’t want you to set yourself up for a depressing Holiday season. What we mean is that instead of purely relying on only one method to accelerate your career transition, you want to diversify. More specifically, you want to identify who you are connected to or want to get connected to who might be able to move things along from the inside. It is kind of like cross-training.
Again, we are not saying do not apply for jobs online because that obviously is not realistic. We would all be courted by our ideal company if we could write that story. What we are saying is that in tandem with applying for jobs through the traditional online method, you also want to establish and utilize relationships with people who can support you. The best place to start is by going online to LinkedIn to see if you have any internal connections to that company. If you do, great!
Message them asap and let them know you’ve just applied (or are intending to apply) to a position at their company. Invite them to meet you for coffee or a drink so you can ask them in person if they’d be able to put in a good word for you and if there is anything you should know about the company. This is also a great way to get a feel for the company culture, employee engagement, and career satisfaction.
If you don’t have any first or second connections at the company, search for who is in their HR Department. Specifically, look for who their recruiters are if they have them. Recruiters really appreciate applicants taking the first step to establishing that relationship. This is also a way to get on the company’s radar because you took that extra step.
Recruiters are going through hundreds of resumes, sometimes in a single day. Anything you can do to stand out from the rest will make a huge difference in the long run.
How Do You Interview?
Earlier we asked you to rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10, how good are you at interviewing? This is the time to be realistic. Do not answer this while wearing rose-colored glasses. However far along in the interview process, you’ve gone will help you determine an honest answer. In our research, preparing for interviews is something that people often resist. We get it! You are already a little anxious about the whole process to begin with and now you look at being critiqued before you are actually judged and evaluated by the hiring team?! Ughhhh….
Nobody is a fan of getting told what doesn’t work about themselves. We want to keep this an honest conversation, yes? If you are interviewing and have not received an offer, there is most likely something missing in how you interview that is having that employer determine you are not a fit for the role. If you haven’t interviewed at all (either because your resume wasn’t effective or because you are just getting started), it would be good to practice beforehand.
Often people do not know how to prepare for interviews, even after reading all the articles online. Your being prepared for the interview ahead of time goes well beyond studying the job description. Have you researched the company? Have you reviewed the LinkedIn profiles of the people who you’d be potentially working with? Have you outlined how you’d answer various questions regarding the hard and soft skills noted in the job description? Have you prepared your answers for questions that speak to your personality or thought strategy? Have you determined how you’d elaborate on the bullets in your resume if they asked for additional information? Have you practiced interviewing with anyone?
The more confident and at ease you are when you get to the real thing, the better you will answer the questions asked when the time comes. Even more, your being grounded and present will allow you to notice small details over there with the other person. For example, what do they have their attention on as they are asking the questions? You’d be amazed at how many cues people give off without realizing it.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
As you move forward with your research, conversations in your network, and interviews—you will learn a lot. Even with failures, there is something to be learned. Don’t beat yourself up, use it!
Refine, adjust, and amend the game plan along the entire way. Do not get stuck to having things be one way or another. Flexibility and enthusiasm are so important. But being rigid or attached will put you at risk for missing critical notes or opportunities to improve for next time.
Say Thank You!
You just had a killer interview. You are stoked and almost certain they are going to offer you the job. Do not think you are done just yet. A simple thank you note, preferably a hand-written note or a personalized email to each person you interviewed with goes a long way. We don’t just want people to like you, we want them left with a lasting impression.
Writing a thank you note gives you an opportunity to leave them with how thoughtful you are; that you are someone who takes that extra step. Note: We recommend that you write thank you notes to those you network with as well, and update any internal referring parties of the interview status afterward.
Time to Negotiate
Whenever the offer comes, you want to be ready to negotiate. You are not just being interviewed, you are also interviewing them. You want to work for a company that can pay you what you are worth.
Before you start talking numbers, do the work to research what standard salaries are for someone in this role. You also want to research where that company is financially. If it is a 4-persons startup, they might not have the funding or revenue yet to pay you a six-digit salary. But if you are interviewing with a well-established company, you want to have an idea of what they usually pay and how much you can push the needle.
Should you discover that you are asking for more than what they were planning to pay, this is now your time to negotiate. Just like preparing for your interviews, you also want to prepare what you’d say when negotiating. Complaining about your circumstances won’t work. That will only leave them with a bad taste in their mouth and imagining how awful working with you will be. You do, on the other hand, want to be able to graciously explain where you are coming from.
To bullet point this, don’t be a pain in the butt. Continue to create for them why they should take that extra step to bring you on board. You might even shoot high when you begin negotiating so once you start to lower your price, you are not selling out on your principles.
The underlying point for this article is that no matter what, do not stop. It takes concentrated effort to make things happen. Your continuing to be in action is critical to your success. Most likely you will be far more effective while you are focused and not under the press of your usual responsibilities.
Get a head start before everyone else awakens from their holiday hibernation. You will be happy that you did – ready to kick some yuletide butt.