This is a follow-up to my previous post, My Job Search Insecurities – Are You The Same? If you are like me, and the job search process turns you into a self-doubting, self-flagellating mess, maybe the tips below will help you. Again, not claiming they are original, and I know that what works for some may not work for others.
I think these tips could be especially useful if, like myself, you’ve worked a multitude of jobs and done a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and you feel like your resume is all over the place. Since I came to Canada, I’ve worked in retail, I was a receptionist, a loan officer, a collections agent, a website admin/social media manager and a freelance writer. All immigrants must pay their dues, I’ve been told. Back home, I was a translator and a journalist, with some sporadic teaching experience. As you can see, it’s really all over the place!
1. Do a “Lego” resume.
Every job application has to be customized, so, even if you have separate resumes for different sets of skills, you’ll still end up editing a lot to make them match the job description.
I found a solution to customize my resumes in a way that saves me a lot of time and mental energy, and I named this solution “the Lego”, because you get to build your resume like a Lego toy.
And here is how:
– make a folder for your resume
– put your header (with your name, email and phone number) and education in one document
– put your summary of qualifications in another document – list every single skill you have
– take each job experience you’ve had and put it in a separate document, then milk it really well – list every single task and accomplishment related to that particular job
– proofread all the documents, make sure there are no spelling or formatting mistakes
This way, all the sections of your resume will be like puzzle pieces, each in its own little document, waiting to be combined.
When you find an interesting job ad, all you have to do is piece together the relevant sections and edit out any superfluous information. And make sure to pepper some keywords found in the job description, because many companies scan for those words. The hard part has already been done, the sections are already written, and now it’s mainly a copy-paste-cut effort.
For example, if I’m applying to a social media position, I’ll leave out my seasonal gig as a toy store clerk, or my month working at Pier 1. It just clutters the resume and gives no valuable information about my suitability for the job. However, if I’m applying for a retail position, I will list all my jobs in the field and leave out or minimize my other work experience, because I don’t want to seem overqualified.
The “Lego” method just gives me a faster and easier way to build a customized resume, and I hope it will help some of you as well.
Note: Yes, I know that having a master resume is easier, and I have one of those too. But it helps me if I see each skill in a separate document, because I’m not distracted by the others and I edit better.
2. Make a list of stock sentences for your cover letters.
By “stock sentences” I don’t mean platitudes; no “I’m a punctual and dedicated team player”, no “I thrive in a competitive environment”, no “I’m a fast learner who likes to go the extra mile” or some other crap like that.
But, let’s face it, you will not write every single cover letter from scratch, and one-size-fits-all cover letters are very obvious to employers. Create a document with statements about your goals and achievements in different types of job settings, so you can reach for them when needed. Mine are divided in categories: creative, technical, customer service, finance, education, and I also have an introduction and an ending. As long as they are consistent and relevant, it’s all good. Of course, you’ll still have a little editing and customizing to do, but it will be much easier.
3. Keep an organized bookmark folder with the career pages of of your favourite companies.
We all look for jobs on Craigslist, Monster, Workopolis or Indeed, but it’s important to also have a folder in which you keep links to those companies/institutions that you already know would be a good fit for you. If you don’t do that, you’ll likely forget to check each and every one of them daily.
In my folder, I have: all the local universities, a couple of banks, a couple of libraries, several non-profits, several settlement agencies and community centers, a few publications, a directory with all the government agencies in my province… you get the point. It takes me about an hour to go through all of them every day, but, hey, if I can spend an hour looking at cat gifs on Buzzfeed, I can sure spend an hour browsing for jobs.
4. Keep a spreadsheet of your application history.
Nothing fancy. Company name (with hyperlink to the website), job advertised, date of application, contact person name and room for any comments you might have.
Once the applications pile up, they will start mixing in your head, but a spreadsheet will help you keep track of them. You don’t want to get an interview call and start scratching your head, thinking “when the hell did I even apply for this job?”
5. Until your ships come in, get all the freebies you can get!
Sign up with an employment agency, meet with a counselor or a case manager and ask about everything you can get and about programs where you can register. You paid taxes to get support in times of need, so don’t feel embarrassed.
You may be able to get a free bus pass or bus tickets, grocery or coffee shop gift cards, free courses (First Aid always looks great on a resume!), clothing and other things, depending on the agency handling your case. Ahh, the perks of unemployment, it’s like Christmas all over again!
Tomorrow, I have an appointment at the YWCA, and I want to ask them to refer me to Dress for Success. I don’t have ANY good interview clothes, and a cheap outfit on a big girl is double-trouble. I haven’t had any luck with thrift shops either. I always see that great blazer or sleek shirt that would look nice on me if I were 2 sizes smaller. I have an hourglass figure with a big bust, so the shirts that fit me well in the waist don’t button up at my chest, and the ones that fit my chest make me look pregnant.
I was thinking, if I get some good clothes at Dress for Success, maybe a nice designer suit, I would spend a little on having it fitted to my body shape. But there’s no point in having a cheap suit altered, because the alterations may end up costing more. I suspect that most of those rich business women who donate clothes to Dress for Success are not a size 18, but I hope to get lucky and find something nice that fits.
6. Stay organized. I cannot say this enough.
Keep your room tidy. Keep your computer organized. Keep track of your bills. Have a daily routine. It will give you a sense of control when you start to panic. Even if you’re the more bohemian type, job hunting demands clarity.
7. Have a money plan.
As much as you can have a money plan when you don’t know where your next paycheque is coming from. But you can curb your spending and stretch your finances for a little longer.
What works for me:
– cooking my food in big batches. I got a giant soup pot from a thrift shop for $6 (a similar model was almost $40 at Walmart). I make a batch of soup that lasts me for a whole week, for around $15. It’s healthy, low-calorie, it saves me time and money, and it helps me keep track of my food expenses. A box of Wasa crackers that I eat with the soup lasts me for a week and costs $3.
-using Ebay and other discount websites for gifts and for satisfying the occasional shopping impulse. Luckily, my impulses can be easily satisfied with only a few dollars.
-never taking my credit card with me when I go out. Last time I used it was to pay a dental bill, which was necessary, but no shopping on credit for Freesia!
-letting all my friends know that money is a concern right now and that I need to focus on job searching. It’s easy to get tempted to go out and spend money you can’t really afford to spend. Employed or not, you still need a social life.
After I told my friends that I’m going into austerity mode, they suggested activities that are free, or offered to treat me, or just came to visit me over a cup of tea. Be honest about your situation, and then you’ll see who your friends really are. The last thing you need is to deal with social pressure and worry about keeping up appearances.
-never going shopping without a list
-carrying a small bottle of water and a snack when I go out for a longer time.
But I would rather talk more about deals and money-saving tips in a future posting. In the meantime, I hope these tips help someone, and I will keep you posted on my job search progress. My goal is to be employed by Canadian Thanksgiving, which falls on October 14th this year.
Please tell me about your job search tips and your ways of coping with unemployment. How do you deal with it?