Whether you’re seeking employment or seeking employees, the process of matching the right position with the right person is one of the most challenging — and most important — things you can do. Professionally, financially, socially, and emotionally, the process can be very draining for job-seekers, and employers need to be acutely aware that improving employee experience starts well before hiring.
Searching for a new job can be an exhausting and demoralizing process. I should know; I’ve been searching for several months at this point. While I haven’t yet landed a permanent position, I have learned a lot about job hunting throughout the long process. In the midst of this slog, I have to constantly remind myself about the following hard-won lessons gleaned from experience and employer feedback which I try (and often still struggle) to incorporate into each new job application.
1: Take your time with your application and your search.
As obvious as it seems from the outside looking in, I have to remember that, just as I hope to be seen as an individual among a crowded field of applicants, each potential employer wants to see applicants who have taken the time to research, craft a specialized cover letter, and adapt a CV, with the company’s particular needs and style in clear focus. It’s tempting to use a general catch-all cover letter with the name simply changed at the top (especially when I know that I will most likely receive a form letter back). But, I have to realize that the more time I put into an application, the more chance I have of gaining the job poster’s attention. A rushed, over-general application will likely be passed over just as quickly. If I’m going to spend any time on an application at all, I might as well make it productive, rather than an automatic waste.
This means that I can’t apply to every single job that remotely fits with my skill set; I have to be more selective with where I spend my time and energy. In addition to making the applications more attractively specific, doing a little research also helps with this selectiveness. Rather than applying blindly, I can see beforehand whether I think the job and I would be a good fit for each other.
2: Know what you want, but be open to possibilities.
I check several job boards multiple times a week to browse new postings. I usually start with more specialized sites, specifically focused on my desired field. Since I am most interested in publishing jobs, I look on the boards at Bookjobs.com and Poets & Writers, among others. Not only have I applied to several positions I have found on those sites, they also give me an idea of the present landscape and an understanding of the types of jobs that are currently available in my field, directly from publishing companies, both big and small. All of the jobs there are field-specific, so I don’t have to dig through a lot of irrelevant postings to find a few scattered gems.
Those smaller sites don’t always have a lot of variety, however, especially in terms of location (for those of us outside of New York City). So, I also turn to larger, more generalized job sites such as Indeed.com, Jooble and LinkedIN. ZipRecruiter has a one-click apply option for most postings (which may or may not be a good thing, given the first list item above); they currently send me a text message for new, relevant job postings every day. On Glassdoor, you can find some job postings, but also job reviews from past and current employees, as well as salary information. For these general sites, it’s important to find, through trial and error, a series of search terms to narrow search results down to desired location and area of interest (for me, “editing,” “publishing,” and “books,” among others). You can also search by the type of situation you’d like, including the increasing range of remote work options.
3: Reach out to others.
I know, intellectually, that personal connections are often the most important part of any successful job placement. But, as a classic introvert, I am not always great at networking, My more extraverted wife has often encouraged me to contact people at companies I’m interested in, whether I know them already or not, which sounds like a straight-up nightmare to me. Still, she has a great job and I’m still looking, so maybe she’s right. When she herself was a job-seeker, a few years ago, she would often set up “informational interviews” with hiring managers to introduce herself and get a feel for the company directly. Even if that particular company was not hiring or was not a good fit for her, she often found out from these new connections about other job postings elsewhere. I had never heard of such a thing before, and I’m still not sure it exists as a practice within my field, so this might only be available for some particular job paths. Still, making and maintaining connections is rarely a bad thing. At the very least, it can’t hurt to reach out to friends or peers, especially those who have recently been hired themselves, to see what they know about or where they found their own positions. I’m told it is also helpful to reach out to interviewing managers after the fact to solicit feedback, though this is a move that I have not yet been courageous enough to employ.
4: Be kind to yourself.
I have been rejected, either directly or tacitly, from so many jobs during this search process. Though, as a writer, I am already very well acquainted with rejection, I have found that it never really gets easier for me; I always take it at least a little bit personally, despite knowing that I shouldn’t, knowing that there are myriad reasons why an editor, or hiring manager, might pass over me. And, though it still hurts a bit, if I actually want to find a job, I have to believe in this calmer, more rational side of my brain, not the one flying around in blind panic-mode, but rather the one that is telling me that rejection is not personal judgment, it’s about finding the right fit, mutually. All I can do is take the time to keep searching, to put in the work and make connections with my best face forward, and something will come through, eventually. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.