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5 Strategies for a Successful Job Search

Applying to All Those Jobs Is a Waste of Time

In the second and final chapter of our 2-part series on employment (see part 1, which focuses on tips for employers), we’re digging into the job search process. We don’t mean to brag, but our results speak for themselves: our last 3 job placement clients all applied for exactly one role—and all 3 got hired.

An illustration of a hand holds a sign that says "hire me!"

1. Don’t Rule Yourself Out

We often see folks dismissing roles they would be a great candidate for because they don’t have 100% of the skills required (unsurprisingly, it’s usually perfectly well-qualified women or people of color). Of course, you shouldn’t apply to jobs you are a complete mismatch for. But if you see a role you’re interested in and you meet the majority of the criteria, don’t get hung up on one or two items you might lack. Be prepared to address any gaps in a cover letter or interview, and if you need some reassurance, remember Sarah Hagi’s motto: live your life with all the confidence of a mediocre white man.

2. Apply for the Right Gigs

Figure out what matters to you most. Is it money? Remote work? Benefits? Day-to-day work? Nonprofit or corporate? Make a list of priorities and only apply to the gigs that are the right balance. Applying to tons of jobs that you haven’t properly vetted is a waste of your time. Reduce your list, carefully compare opportunities, and then apply. You’ll end up with less mental clutter and stress, and more time to prepare truly compelling applications.

3. Hone Your Story

Where are you now and where are you headed? Develop an elevator pitch and repeat it everywhere (parties, work events, phone calls with your mom). That narrative should drive your application materials, from the cover letter to the resume (and then, ideally, the interview!). By the way, if you’re sending the same resume to every hiring manager, you’re doing it wrong. Edit your resume to reflect the requirements and wording in the job description. If you’re stretching to get there, you may need to take steps to get the experience required for the roles you want. Volunteer, join a board, or find a job that could be a stepping stone from where you are now to where you want to be. And since you’re diligently following rule #2 (Apply for the Right Gigs), you now have time to do all this honing and wordsmithing.

4. Expand or Deepen Your Network

Nepotism is alive and thriving! In most hiring processes, there are two application pools: applications received from the public job posting, and applications referred from people who know people who know people. Even worse, sometimes employers post a job for a role they have no intention of filling. So, let networking work for you. Build and extend your professional network by attending events at your goal workplace or finding opportunities to meet people who work in the field you want to join. The closer you can get to the inner circle, the more likely you are to hear about new opportunities, to know the details of who’s applied or what the hiring manager is looking for, or to be on the short list since they already know you.

5. Get a Mentor

One of the most valuable ways to get where you want to be is to find someone who is more accomplished and experienced than you in your chosen field and then adopt them as a mentor. Are they teaching a class you can take? Are they on social media, and if so can you connect and thoughtfully engage with their content? Do they offer consults or would they consider a paid consulting gig? A mentor can connect you with key contacts, provide insight from their personal experience, or offer advice on your goals and career plans. Whether it’s a one-time conversation over coffee or a more committed, long-term relationship, get yourself someone who is older, wiser, and willing to share.



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