In today’s tight hiring market, landing a new gig can require a little creativity. We tapped experts around the country for their best advice on opening doors.
1. LINK UP WITH HIRING MANAGERS
Before you spend another minute polishing your paper résumé, consider this stat: 94 percent of recruiters use the career networking site LinkedIn to search for applicants, yet only 36 percent of job seekers are active on the site, according to a Jobvite survey. “If you don’t have an up-to-date profile, you’re wasting an opportunity,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert. To set yourself apart, follow her checklist:
• Post a photo. A professional-looking pic makes your profile 11 times more likely to be looked at.
• Don’t skip the “Summary” section. “Here’s where you can really demonstrate some personality,” says Williams. If you’re thinking about relocating or switching industries, use this space to explain why.
• List past gigs. A profile that includes more than one position is 12 times more likely to be viewed. Be sure to flesh out your job descriptions so your profile pops for recruiters who are searching with keywords.
• Nix generic vocab. The most-used adjectives on LinkedIn last year were “responsible,” “strategic,” and “effective.” Instead of dropping trite descriptors, try highlighting concrete results. Were you effective because you completed a two-year business development project that came in 12 percent under budget? Say so.
• Talk the talk. “Study the profiles of companies you want to work for,” says Williams. “Then mirror their language. The words they use—say, innovative versus creative—are the words they’ll search for.”
• Share news. Post an industry-related article once a week and you’re 10 times more likely to be contacted about opportunities.
***Enter for a chance to win a LinkedIn profile makeover from the site’s career expert, Nicole Williams, at facebook.com/parademag.***
2. BROADCAST YOUR AMBITIONS
“When job hunting, you want to sprinkle your bread crumbs on the water, and Facebook gives you a much bigger pool of water,” says Brad Schepp, author of How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. The average user has 150 friends; include friends-of-friends, and the number of connections grows into the thousands. Here, a few dos and don’ts:
• Loosen your privacy settings. You’ll be seen by a wider network of contacts. If you’re not comfortable having a completely public profile, adjust your settings so only “friends of friends” can view your posts.
• Join groups. “And not just groups related to your work life, but groups relevant to you as a complete person,” says Schepp. He once made a business connection through his elementary school’s alumni group.
• Post about your work. “Share things that you’re excited about,” says Kareem Taylor, who posted a demo of his voice acting that landed him a gig with CNN. Putting your work out there—whether it’s a website you helped launch or photos of an event you organized—can give friends a better sense of your skills and ambitions. But be judicious; promote your job search or work projects too much and “people can get sick of you,” says Jenn Robertson, who runs her business, Peanut Butter and Jenny Photography, through Facebook. To attract the most eyeballs, she recommends posting in the mornings, when people are skimming their newsfeeds.
• Reach out to promising contacts. Facebook’s Graph Search feature lets you see who in your network shares your job title or works at a particular company. (In the search bar, type “friends of friends who work at [company name]” or “friends who are [job title].”) But don’t post job inquiries on those friends’ walls; it’s better to contact them via private message, says Schepp.
• Mind your grammar. More recruiters reject candidates because of punctuation errors (61 percent) than references to drinking (47 percent), according to a Jobvite survey.
3. HUNT BEYOND YOUR ZIP CODE
Not all job markets are created equal. Take North Dakota’s 2.6 percent unemployment rate, for example, compared to Rhode Island’s 9.2 percent. But when it comes to relocating, hiring managers know talk is typically cheap, says Pamela Mitchell, founder of the Reinvention Institute and author of The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention. “If you’re serious about moving, make a trip and meet people in person. The candidate who says, ‘I’m in town on this date. Are you available for coffee?’, will get more attention.” While you’re on the road, save your receipts—you may be able to deduct travel expenses related primarily to finding a new job on your taxes.
4. NETWORK IN 140 CHARACTERS
If you hate schmoozing over muffin platters at conferences, here’s some good news: The best networking opportunities today are happening on Twitter. “Hiring” was tweeted 1 million times more in 2013 than 2012, says the site’s communications director, Rachael Horwitz.
If you’re just getting started, create a handle that includes your name, upload a photo, and make sure your bio defines who you are as a professional. Follow any companies you’d be interested in working for, as well as industry thought leaders and influencers. Check out people they follow to broaden your list. “Favorite-ing” someone’s tweet will send that person a notification and could get you on their radar.
You’ll also start to hear about scheduled tweet chats (when people post about a particular topic using the same hashtag) that you can join. Follow up with individuals by tweeting directly at them. “People will see that you’re a go-getter,” says Selena Larson, who used Twitter to land her job at tech news site ReadWrite.com.
5. BUILD EXPERIENCE
Forty-one percent of hiring managers consider pro bono work as legitimate as a job. If you’re unemployed—or have free time after hours—consider putting your expertise to work as a volunteer.
One company that has encouraged employees to donate their time and skills is Toyota North America, which utilizes the philosophy of kaizen, a Japanese management style that emphasizes continuous improvement. After Hurricane Sandy, for example, Toyota’s engineers teamed up with an agency of the Food Bank for New York City to streamline its “assembly line” and packing process, and the number of meals distributed to people in need jumped from 25 per hour to 450. Toyota workers also helped the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit focused on rebuilding communities affected by Katrina, by putting up “management boards” that allowed staff and volunteers to track and troubleshoot problems. As a result, the average time to rebuild a home fell from 116 days to 60.
“Designing efficient systems is something we at Toyota do well,” says CEO James Lentz, “but there are many other ways you can help charities.” Take a moment to think about the skills you’ve developed through your career and how you might contribute to local projects. By giving back, you could gain the sort of real-life experience and concrete results that stand out to employers.