The application black hole, where resumes go to die. If you are one of over 1.6 million of college seniors looking for their first “real job”, you know it all too well by now. You’ve applied on line and sent in your resume to so many companies that you’ve lost track. And, you hear nothing, from anyone. If you are lucky, the online application process will send you a computer generated email thanking you for applying for the job. And that’s it. Days, weeks, and sometimes even months go by and nothing. So what should you do?
Getting a job, a good job, is a full time effort and requires just that – lots of effort. You need a stellar resume, a crisp and compelling cover letter. You also need polished interviewing skills and you must have a plan.
First, step back and consider your job search strategy. Can you even call it that? Have you set goals and a timetable for executing your plan? Do you have an idea of what you’d like to do? If you answered no to any of the foregoing, it’s time for you to pause and hit the reset button.
If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, nor a solid job search strategy, it’s like aimlessly driving with no end destination. Trust me, it won’t get you where you want to go. Worse yet, if you are lucky enough to land an interview with your undefined approach, it will be clear to the interviewer that you are a wandering soul in search of a home. Any home. And, there isn’t a chance that they will hire you.
For these reasons, spending time reflecting on your goals and exploring options is time well spent.
Before your start your job search in earnest, hone your plan. Only then can you proceed to the most critical step: developing your personal network. Your network is your single most effective job search tool. It’s also critical to avoid having your resume fall into the dreaded application black hole.
Here’s why. Any job you find on line also can be found by any of the other 1.6 million plus college graduates looking for a job. Companies get so many online applications that they have software programs to screen resumes. Only the most qualified applicants (on paper) get through.
Most college graduates won’t find their first jobs on line, they will find them through people. People they know already or new people they they reach out to.
At its essence, networking is about making connections, ideally lasting ones, where both parties benefit. You benefit from learning more about a field of interest. Your contact benefits from feeling good about helping someone just starting out.
Informational interviewing is a key step to developing a network of advocates. To create your network, you have to be willing to put yourself out there and ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a sign of maturity. Most successful executives were once in the same place you are. As a result, they generally are willing to help you if approached properly.
Next, begin by contacting family friends, researching your school’s alumni database, and mining LinkedIn’s alumni tool. From there, develop your list of potential contacts and prioritize them. Then, write a short, customized email to each person on your list. Start by letting them know a bit about yourself, your shared connection (family or college). Then, politely ask for a 15 minutes or a half an hour of their time to learn more about them, their career, and their company.
Prepare a series of well thought out questions for your meeting. In an informational interview, you will spend as much time asking questions as answering them. While it can feel a bit more informal, treat informational interviews as though they are a real job interview. In many ways, they are. Your goal in an informational interview is not to secure a job. Rather, it is to make a connection and get career advice from an expert in an area that interests you.
Finally, be sure to follow up any calls or meetings with both an email and a hand-written thank you note. The latter is a lost art. A well-written thank you note is one of the most effective tools you have in your search.
Network sincerely and effectively and not only will your resume not be lost in the application black hole, you may just find that a great job opportunity magically presents itself.