Job Search Tips

Dos and don’ts when searching for a new job

Written by Eric Titner

Attention millennials: Are you gearing up for a job hunt? As someone who’s young and relatively new to the world of work, you may just be starting to realize that the level of competition for available positions out there is intense—which means that you’re going to have to be at the top of your game when searching for a new job and there’s zero margin for error if you want to be taken seriously by potential employers, hiring managers, and HR professionals (AKA, the job gatekeepers).

The Balance recently published an article highlighting the uphill battle millennials currently face in the job market today, along with practical job searching tips they can employ as young workers in the constantly evolving professional landscape.

According to the article, “Even as the job market has recovered following the Great Recession, unemployment for millennials continues to remain high when compared to older, more experienced workers. Some classic job search advice—like avoid job-hopping—isn’t applicable to millennials, who are frequent targets of layoffs and victims of industry instability.”

Obviously, millennials need a specific and targeted set of job hunting dos and don’ts when searching for new jobs. Take advantage of the following list of guidelines to make your next hunt as successful as possible.

Job Search Dos

Define your goals. When you get started on your next job hunt, you should kick things off by envisioning a primary goal for yourself. This may be a challenging task if you’re just getting started in the professional world and haven’t pinpointed what exactly you want to do, but you should try your best to focus your job hunt as precisely as possible.

Why is this so crucial? Your goal will help you target your cover letters and resume, and focus your job search. Also, hiring personnel love a confident young potential hire who knows exactly what she or he wants to do with their life. If you have a goal for your next job hunt, then great—run with it! If not, consider asking yourself the following questions to help you define your goals and purpose:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • Why do I do what I do?
  • Which values are driving my goals?
  • What’s my purpose?
  • What vision do I have for my career over the next 1, 3, 5, or 10 years?

Target your audience. Now that you have some clearly defined goals for your job hunt, you can begin to target your audience—this includes the industries, insiders, and companies that you want to connect with in an effort to help you achieve your stated goals. Some of you may already feel as if you know everything there is to know about the position or industry you’re looking to break into. If so, then great. If not, then do some research and get to know as much as you can at the onset of your job hunt.

Consider asking yourself the following questions when you’re trying to figure things out: 

  • Are there specific companies I’m interested in?
  • Am I aiming to secure a position in a specific industry?
  • What advantage or benefit does this position bring to their business?
  • What will the company be lacking or missing if there’s no one in this position?
  • Consider some of the struggles and obstacles facing the employer and the industry. Make a list of the most critical ones, and reflect on times in the past when you’ve confronted similar challenges.

Define your potential value. With a clearly defined goal and audience, you can begin crafting your targeted resumes and cover letters—and demonstrate your value as a potential hire. What can you potentially offer employees if you were hired? How can you help them meet their specific needs?

If you need some guidance to help you define your potential value, including what makes you stand out from the job hunting crowd, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What benefit or contribution do I add?
  • What key accomplishments or successes have I delivered time and time again?
  • What would I say is unique about myself and how I do what I do?
  • What are my greatest strengths?
  • What do others see as the value I add?
  • How have I positively influenced others?
  • What would others say is fascinating, compelling, or interesting about me?
  • What benefit would an employer or company get from choosing me over another candidate?
  • What benefit or value did I bring to my previous employers?

You should also reach out to friends, family, and your network and ask them which words they would use to describe you.

Know where to look. The job hunt landscape has changed drastically from what your parents might remember, so consider passing them by for advice. The article by The Balance has some excellent targeted advice for conducting an effective job search: “Millennials are the social media generation, and your network of friends and acquaintances on major social media platforms can do more than like statuses. Connections are valuable—from sharing a job description that hasn’t been posted to making an introduction, your connections can help with your job search greatly.”

They suggest the following targeted tips for kickstarting things:

  • Sign up for LinkedIn: Make the most of this targeted site, designed specifically for making career connections and job hunting. A basic account is free, so there’s really no reason not to take advantage of it.
  • Clean up your existing social media: Make sure there’s nothing embarrassing or offensive that might pop up on the social media sites you use, should potential employers check them out.
  • Use your college career office: Another great free resource, take advantage of the services your college career office provides to get a step up on the competition.
  • Attend industry events: Events designed for folks in your target industry to connect are excellent opportunities for you to meet key people and possibly network your way into your next great career opportunity.

Job Search Dont’s

Don’t ignore the basics. Many of the fundamentals of an effective job search have not changed over time, so overlook them at your own peril:

  • Follow instructions provided when applying to each job.
  • Make sure your resume and cover letter are free of errors.
  • Follow the rules of proper interview etiquette—be polite, dress appropriately, display good body language, and turn off your phone!

Don’t get too cute with your resume and cover letter. Sure, you want to stand out from the competition, but do so through the impressive content of your documents—not by using wacky designs, crazy fonts and colors, or any other overly creative flourishes. Chances are, you won’t be taken seriously as a potentially candidate, and unless it’s asked for it isn’t worth the risk.

Don’t let frustration get the better of you. Job searching today can be a long and protracted experience full of disappointment, especially for millennials, who are used to instant gratification. This can be frustrating for job seekers, but don’t let that frustration defeat or derail you from your ultimate goal—keep things in perspective and find a way to maintain your composure, motivation, and drive during this process.

If you’re a millennial on the hunt for a new position, make the most of these dos and don’ts to jumpstart your job search and land your next big professional opportunity. Good luck!

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.