Tips for Job Searching

I have been searching for a new job, surprise! Am I jobless at the moment? No. Will I be unemployed in the near future? No. Did I just quit my job or get fired? No! I am currently still employed at a school district in NJ, and I still have my weekend job at a home decor retailer. Well, what is going on, and why am I searching for a new job? 

Two years ago, I became employed at a school district near me. The district was receiving a 5 – year grant for out of school services for students. I joined the team as a Data Coordinator and administrative assistant for the last two years of the grant. Now that the grant has been completed, my position has been abolished, and I am searching for a new job. However, I will not be jobless because I still work in retail, fortunately and unfortunately.

Working in retail isn’t so bad, but I did not earn a Bachelors in Criminal Justice or a Master’s in Legal Studies to be a cashier. Retail and customer service are great jobs for people who truly enjoy that kind of work, but I went to school for something else, and I intend to put my degrees to great use, eventually. However, having this second job in retail has been, and will continue to be useful. Currently, I work 7 days a week between both jobs, and the money I get from my weekend job supplements my income. It helps me to save for adventures, put a little more back into paying off my student loans, and to just have a small cushion in the bank. In addition, I have been gaining experience in expanding my social skills by interacting with different people. It also helps that I won’t have any gaps on my resume, as many people do because of the pandemic. 

I’m also very fortunate that the reason I am looking for a new job isn’t shrouded in negativity or for bad reasons. I worked under a grant that was fully complete, and it’s naturally time to move on. I wasn’t fired. I didn’t decide to leave/quit before the program was completed. I saw this experience through until the end. Now that you know what has been happening, let’s talk about the job search process. 

Searching for a job can be overwhelming and daunting, no matter what stage you are in. Whether you are a high school student, someone searching for their first job, a recent college graduate, or making a career change later in life, searching for a job is never without its challenges. Below are some tips and my thoughts on the process.

Tip #1: Update Your Resume 

The first thing you can do when searching for a job is to create and/or update your resume. This is very important, as almost all job applications and companies require resume and work history submissions. Resumes provide employers with a brief overview of your experience, skills, education, and more – in other words, your qualifications. Not only is it useful for employers, but it’s beneficial to you in your job search. When you update your resume, it gives you a chance to review your skills and experience, reevaluate your career goals, and identify what types of jobs you will be searching for and submitting applications. This will also help you if you are interested in submitting your resume to companies that don’t have formal applications/open positions, but you want to let them know you are interested. 

Tip #2: An Optional Cover Letter Isn’t So optional 

Do employers really read your cover letter? Some do, and some don’t. If you submit a resume, then why should you also include a cover letter?  Effort! I feel like a cover letter is actually a test. Employers want to see how much effort and interest you put in before deciding if they are interested in you. A cover letter is a chance to show that you have actually given some thought to working for the company and that you truly do want to be considered for the position. Use the cover letter as an opportunity to introduce yourself, highlight specific experience and skills relevant to the position for which you are applying, and to convince the employer that you will be an asset. This is all before you might be given a chance to meet them for an interview, and in fact a cover letter can help the employer in deciding to extend an invitation for an interview. Sometimes, “optional cover letter” is code for “serious candidate only”. 

Tip #3: Be Prepared For An Interview At Any Time 

You could submit an application on a Monday and receive an email or phone call requesting an interview on the following Wednesday. Sometimes, things do move really fast, even if they don’t eventually work out. You should be prepared for an interview at any time! Do your research, write down some questions you might have, and be prepared to put your best foot forward at a moment’s notice. You can read some of my tips for interviews here —> You Interview Well: Tips for Interviews

Tip #4: Have Some References On-hand 

I will be honest, I dislike having to provide references. Don’t get me wrong, I have never been worried that a reference would have anything negative or questioning about my work ethic to relay. However, I dislike having to ask people for reference letters, and I dislike the notion that a prospective employer needs input from a past employer to help them decide if I’ll be an asset to their company. I’ll tell you why.

I feel like every job, every position, every company is different even when they seem similar.  Even if I have the same titles and duties at different companies, it is not the same. Maybe I was a really hard worker at my previous job, but that doesn’t mean it will be the same at a future job, and vice versa. Maybe I had a lot to learn and work on in my previous job that I won’t need in a future job, and vice versa. The prospective employer won’t really be able to tell if I’m an asset to their company unless they hire me and see for themselves, no matter what a reference letter says. All of my references could say the most wonderful things about my work ethic, my character, and more, but really they can only attest to what they have witnessed while I was actively employed with them in that one position. 

I know, I know – some people look really good on paper and references can provide another part of the picture to bring things a little more into focus for future employers. However, the picture won’t be clear until the prospective employer takes a chance anyway. Either way, it is still important to have references on-hand. There is a strong chance you will be asked to provide some, and you don’t want to be unprepared. In fact, some employers just want to know that you are confident in providing them with people they can reach out to if they need to. It says a lot. Don’t forget, at least two references should be professional, and you’ll usually be asked for a minimum of three references total. 

Again, job searching can be overwhelming, but I hope you keep these tips in mind. I hope this helps anyone looking for a job because it has certainly helped me.

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