If you’re a millennial, then you’re probably used to reading all sorts of articles, tweets, etc. telling you all about how millennials roll, especially when it comes to jobs. Millennials are job hoppers. Millennials are casual in the workplace. Millennials are obsessed with social networking. These broad-brush statements try to provide a broader cultural context for the generation, but they aren’t necessarily helpful if you happen to be a millennial, and are looking for career guidance. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide, walking you through the job hunt from start to finish.
Step 1: Figure Out What You Want
Maybe you’re just finishing up with school. Maybe you’ve been coasting in an entry-level job for a while, or bouncing around in short-term jobs that don’t really scream “long term career options.” Whatever the case may be, it’s never too late to figure out what you really want to do with your life, and start building toward that goal.
“Do what you love” is an ever-popular piece of advice. It’s also not a hard-and-fast rule. Sure, the concept of getting paid to do something you’d do for free is the ideal for most working people. It’s also not very realistic in a lot of cases. What you love to do may not pay well, or may not be feasible long-term. What’s most important to consider in setting your career goals is what you can do well, and how you can turn that into a career, not just a job. For example, being an accountant may not be the most glamorous career path, but if you’re a math whiz and can see yourself conquering various levels in the field, then it’s a solid choice. (You can still pursue your passion for interpretive dance in your free time, or turn your dog stylist business into a side hustle.) Thinking now about what your short- medium-, and long-range goals is a great first step because it helps you really focus your time and energy during your job hunt.
Step 2: Build Your Resume
Once you’ve got your next steps figure out (or have at least identified where you want to target your job search), it’s time to start building your applicant package. The foundation of this will always be your resume. Resume trends and fads will always come and go (I’m pretty sure we all thought we’d have video resumes by now), but you can never go wrong with the classic: an organized, efficiently worded one-sheeter that gives a snapshot of what you’ve achieved, and what you’re seeking to do next.
You’ve probably created a resume before and have a Word doc kicking around already, so what comes next might be a little painful. Scrap it. Create a brand-spanking-new one—one that doesn’t just reheat an older version of yourself and your career, with cut-and-paste updates. Take the opportunity to really think about every word you’re putting in your resume.
Tips for creating your resume masterpiece:
- Pick a format.
- Write a headline or an objective statement.
- Use strong action words to describe your experience.
- Outsmart the robots.
Don’t forget: You can create a general, foundational resume that has the most up-to-date information about yourself, but it’s also important to customize your resume for each individual job for which you’re applying. You don’t have to create a new resume from scratch for each job opening, but you can customize fields like the headline, some bullet points, and skills to match the job description or the target company.
Step 3: Build Your Brand
Now more than ever, your brand is a factor in your job search. Your career brand (or your professional story, condensed into an easily pitch-able sentence or two) goes beyond your resume, and now extends to your online presence as well. To build your brand, it’s important to consider what information about you is out there in the public sphere, and how that might be perceived by potential employers. That means taking a close look at all of your social media profiles, making personal accounts private, creating new ones that have a professional shine, and showcasing your work.
A personal website is a great way to accomplish this, as is building a robust LinkedIn profile. These avenues are great for giving a recruiter or potential employer more information than you can cram into your resume—showing rather than telling. As with anything in your job hunt, it’s crucial to keep your brand (and any public-facing websites, social media, etc.) friendly, professional, and updated as often as possible.
Step 4: Build Your Network
This can go hand in hand with the brand-building, because it’s all about forging connections in your professional community. Your network (whether it’s people you know in person or digitally) can be one of your biggest assets in the job search. This doesn’t mean simply collecting names on LinkedIn like those fishbowls full of business cards you see at restaurants. Meaningful connections are the ones that will benefit you the most, either by what you can learn, or what opportunities may come your way. Interaction is key—whether that’s responding to a blog post, retweeting, or emailing to say “Hey, I thought you had a really interesting point on X.” And for the professional contacts that you know IRL, keep those bonds alive by having a coffee once in a while to catch up. Even a holiday card once a year can go a long way.
Keeping your network fresh is a way to bolster your job search. You never know when someone who knows someone might have the right job opening, or can put in a good word for you. And even if you don’t get a perfect job opportunity handed to you via LinkedIn, you can still learn more about how your industry works, and what it takes to move onward and upward in it.
Step 5: Upgrade Your Interview Skills
Millennials sometimes get a bad rap (fair or not) for always having noses buried in devices, texting over calling, and generally being digital-savvy over communication-savvy. This means that strong interview skills are essential. Like the resume, the interview is a part of the job hunt that doesn’t change much over time. The same sets of skills will likely determine your success (or failure) as they did for your parents before you.
Interviews can be a minefield for everyone, so it’s important to be prepared.
Tips for your interview prep:
- Have a go-to interview outfit that’s spotless and professional.
- Work on your handshake, eye contact, and posture.
- Have your talking points ready to go.
- Be prepared for all sorts of questions.
- Ask good questions.
The more prep and practicing you do before an interview, the more at ease you’ll feel on the day itself.
Step 6: Become a Follow-Up Ninja
After you’ve had an interview (or two) you just sit back and wait for the email to roll in, right? Nope. Don’t forget the crucial step of following up an interview (of any kind) with a thank you note to everyone who met with you. Prompt, same-day follow-up shows that you have great manners, and are engaged and enthusiastic about the process. Even if you had a terrible interview or didn’t get the job, these thank yous can help you stay on the radar for future opportunities.
Tips for writing an ace thank you note:
- Get contact info at your interview. If you didn’t get business cards or catch someone’s email address, it’s okay to ask the main point person (recruiter, HR manager, hiring manager) for Barbara’s email address so you can thank her for her time.
- Make it short, but sweet. Include the highlights of your interview (skills you want to emphasize, any interesting discussion you had), but only briefly. They already have your resume.
- Proofread the heck out of it. This could be your last chance to make an impression before the hiring decision is made, so you want to make sure there aren’t any glaring typos or name mistakes in your note.
- Send it the same day. If the idea of sending your note from the lobby right after your interview sounds like a bit much, do it after you get home. But timeliness is the key, and that way it’s off your mind.
Step 7: Be Patient
In everyday life we get so much instant feedback that we often get frustrated when some things lag—like job offers or news about next steps. When looking for your next job, don’t get frustrated too quickly. You’re playing the long game here. And if you’ve done the best you can in setting yourself up for the job opportunity, things will come together for you.