When friends ask me for advice about searching for “what’s next,” I typically send these well-worn suggestions. I’m paying it forward by sharing them more broadly. Additions & feedback welcome!
First Things First:
Career development maven Liz Ryan (Human Workplace), offers this helpful checklist, saying job seekers should have: a clear idea of the job you want, a target employer list, a human-voiced resumé, an updated LinkedIn profile, case studies or “dragon-slaying stories” to cite, a professional network, and the confidence to know that not every employer deserves you.
Find a job or two that really excites you, and write to the hiring manager, describing a problem you can solve for them. Liz Ryan calls these “pain letters.” See her advice below. You may never fill out an application again!
- How To Write A Pain Letter, Step By Step (May 2017)
- How To Use Pain Letters In Your Job Search (Nov. 2015)
- How To Write Your First Pain Letter (Mar. 2015)
- Forget Cover Letters — Write A Pain Letter, Instead! (Oct. 2014)
(For balance, here’s an alternate take, reminding you not to presume you know too much about a company.)
Yes, I know: writing this way isn’t natural. For inspiration, check out these Buzz Words and Personal Strengths — two (pre-digital) mimeographs from my college career center which have held up remarkably well!
The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is recommended to prepare for “tell me about a time when…” interview questions (see “dragon-slaying stories”), but it can also help organize your thoughts for your resumé.
Need expert help? Reach out to Sharon Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org. (Tell her I sent you!) She’s patient, effective and will challenge you. In a couple weeks, you won’t recognize your own resumé.
(Related: Check out Tamsen Webster’s “Red Thread®” if you’re struggling to create a compelling elevator pitch for your skills.)
Free Resources from WSJ:
My talented colleagues in the Wall Street Journal’s Digital Experience & Strategy Unit are sharing their best career advice:
- How to Get a Job
- How to Network and Meet the Right People
- Where to Search for Jobs: Finding Your Next Opportunity
- Résumé Formats to Play Up Your Strengths
- 18 Résumé Writing Tips to Get You Noticed
- How to Write a Cover Letter That Stands Out
- How to Prepare for a Job Interview
- Common Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
- What Questions to Ask in a Job Interview
- How to Write a Thank-You Email After an Interview
- How to Build Meaningful Workplace Relationships
- How to Set Career Goals and Plan Out Your Professional Future
- How to Change Careers: Find What to Pursue Next
- Whitney Johnson’s Disrupt Yourself talks about the learning curve, and the important need to slide back down to the bottom.
- What Color Is Your Parachute is a proven framework for planning your path forward. Here are some others.
- Parker J. Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak is a quick read and a wonderful spiritual guide to vocation: finding and embracing your true calling.
- When you land your next gig — congratulations! — definitely (re)read Michael D. Watkins’ The First 90 Days and hit the ground running. (If nothing else, read Watkins’ five essential questions for a new job.)