*Disclaimer- this advice is mostly geared for white-collar, professional roles.
I receive at least one email a week from someone asking advice to help them find a job. The difficulty doesn’t seem to discriminate between industries, across professional disciplines, or by generation. Landing a professional job is very difficult, and I’d like to help as much as I can. The problem is that I’m no expert. And also, that the experts aren’t really experts (otherwise they’d be working a professional job too).
I know that statement sounds mean, but it can be especially daunting to conduct a job search, and the last thing you want to do is waste any time whatsoever. There are some amazingly helpful thought leaders (Liz Ryan, Laurie Reutiman, etc.), but most of the fodder out there is just self-promotion, and these four simple tactics have worked to at least get me past the endless void of radio silence, and into some solid interviews. From there, it’s a whole other story (see below).
Here’s a run-down of how I optimized my job-search tactics:
1. Research and Vetting
I think by now we all know the feeling of completing a 45- minute online application and sending it to the abyss, where you’ll either receive a generic, auto-reply email about your status, or perhaps never hear anything at all. That’s exactly why it’s so important to do research on job requisitions and companies before investing the time to apply. You can save yourself so much headache and heartache by vetting companies and jobs that you’re only seriously interested in. It might seem safer to “play the odds” and apply to every job you’re qualified for, but you’ll be wasting valuable time. Instead, you’ll want to adopt a mindset that time is the most precious resource you have in this endeavor. So stop blanketly applying!
That’s exactly why it’s so important to do research on job requisitions and companies before investing the time to apply.
Some advice: Toggle between several boards (The Muse, Indeed, Simply Hired, and LinkedIn) looking for the most timely and relevant posts. You’ll learn a lot about companies this way. Especially keep an eye out to avoid reqs that are over thirty days old, or postings that are “sponsored” over and over (as these are likely getting inundated with bad applications on the other end). You’ll also learn that most companies think they’re quite different based on their various self proclamations on their Careers’ pages etc., but you’ll quickly see that they’re all saying the same things, such as great culture, growth, fast-paced work, etc., so use a gut-check and only focus on applying to the requisitions where you’re genuinely interested in working.
Treat it as a journalistic assignment and find postings using several different boolean string searches depending on what you’re preferences are.
Here are some examples from my saved Indeed searches:
- “Human Resources” or “HR” or “People Operations” or “Talent Management” jobs in Austin, TX
- “Management Consultant” or “Organizational Development” or “OD” or “Organizational Effectiveness” or “Talent Management” jobs in Austin, TX
- “Survey Research” jobs in Austin, TX
- “Research Analyst” or “Junior Consultant” or “Research Associate” jobs in Austin, TX
- “Industrial Psychology” or “Organizational Psychology” or “IO Psychology” or “I-O Psychology” or “I/O Psychology” or “Business Psychology” or “Consulting Psychology” jobs in Austin, TX
Pounce on freshly posted reqs ASAP. The longer a req has been posted, the odds are that some recruiter’s inbox is just polluted with people blankly applying. What are the chances that you’ll get their attention after thirty days of applicants? Indeed and LinkedIn also post analytics about the number of applicants, or how you stand in comparison. It doesn’t hurt to be mindful of this data either.
If a posted job sounds particularly interesting, move directly to social channels and start creating a backlog of companies to follow. During the research and vetting process, I recommend keeping separate tabs open for Indeed, LinkedIn, craigslist, builtin, and then other social channels e.g., twitter, angel.co (startups) to bounce off of while popping open any good reqs (if nothing else, you can follow these companies’ pages on social for future reference – they’re obviously hiring).
Finally, if you get to a road block in your searches where you’re not seeing new postings, or you’re not seeing any postings at companies that pass your gut-check, feel free to send in a thoughtful email to the direct contact email on their site. You’ll be standing out if you can send a message that shows you’ve genuinely taken an interest. Liz Ryan also writes frequently about contacting companies with Pain Letters.
2. Making Connections and Networking
Before you start networking, make sure you’ve researched some best practices. Personally, I’m not too afraid of “harassing” someone with a cold LinkedIn request, although I say that because some people are definitely put off by it. Which is totally understandable, and it also happens to me.
Also, a quick caveat regarding professional association local chapters, networking events, and happy hours- they’re great for making new connections, and I attend regularly. However, these types of activities are more about expanding and enriching your network, and not the most effective method of getting directly in front of a hiring manager quickly (in my own experience). In most situations, you’ll still need to follow the normal channels of applying, interviewing, and being assessed against other candidates.
If there’s any kind of connection, e.g., alma mater, previous companies or similar roles, etc., it might be useful to cold connect and then start a relaxed conversation. I’m about an 85% hit-rate with making connections this way, and I end up with about 1% who I later have to disconnect from – the ROI is totally worth it.
For more advice about how to be genuine in this process, I’d recommend reading Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take, specifically Chapter 2.
3. Establish Your Brand
I suggest writing as much as you can, and aim to produce content with value. It’s another way of building your network, while also showcasing your first-hand previous experience. A lot of professional roles will require some sort of work sample, test project, trial period (or all of the above). Being able to clearly communicate valuable insights about your profession is a tactic that will only benefit you, if not just by having evidence of your subject-matter expertise in your field, but also in developing your own unique perspective as a professional.
There could easily be a whole article on how to start blogging, so I’ll save that for your own research. My experience is that you need to balance technically-complex content with practical and applicable material (e.g., a quick analysis of vendors, solutions, new shiny apps).
Specific advice for I-O psychologist practitioners (since I receive lots of requests for advice from new grad students or newly minted I-O professionals):
Think about your audience – in I-O you can write articles on LinkedIn and Mediumabout very technical topics and they might garner a decent readership of academics and researchers. If you want to get exposure on social media with sound credibility, you have to bridge the gap we always talk about as being I-O practitioners, and that means connecting with clear communication and messaging – watch Art & Copy, read Olgilvy,, etc. As psychologists we are already equipped to live in that world, e.g., UX, design, etc. I say embrace design thinking in everything you do.
Check out this vet tech resume which I helped create using Canva (an especially easy-to-use design tool). The candidate received five offers a week after beginning her career search. I also used 99 Designs to source a graphic designer to work with me on designing an infographic resume, which was hit or miss depending on the audience. Nonetheless, the positive feedback I’ve received has been nothing short of phenomenal.
In addition to creating content on LinkedIn, or Medium, you should create a landing page on Wix, WordPress, Strikingly – to establish yourself on the web. When you’re googled, the whole first page should be you! Again, because this advice is geared especially toward professionals, your social media presence must be a direct representation of you, so keep it professional. However, don’t be afraid to show some personality. It’s definitely a balancing act. Not having a social presence (either through non-participation, or through fire-walled privacy settings) is almost as bad as having an unprofessional social presence.
4. Authentic Interviewing
As far as interviewing, I don’t have much advice, as I’ve always thought that interviewing is more a matter of the interviewer than the interviewee (even when I’m on the other side of the table). People project a lot into these extremely contrived situations, and from an objective behavioral assessment standpoint, I think there’s too much noise to actually get the level of accuracy we think we have in the evaluations we’re making. I’ve hired people who flawlessly interviewed and then sucked miserably at actual work – and vice versa.
Taking the signal to noise problem, my only advice is to be as authentic and genuine as you can, while also tempering any natural inclinations toward over-sharing (yes, that’s definitely a thing). If you’re lucky, you’ll have the opportunity to provide work samples (these are the best chance you’ll have to prove yourself, as well as for the company to get an objective evaluation of your skills).
Good luck, and feel free to comment any additional thoughts, tips, or concerns that you might have. Since I’ve just started a new role- thanks to following these steps– I’ll add that all opinions here are my own.
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