I’ve probably had more than two dozen jobs from the time I was of legal working age. I’ve been a tour guide, a cashier, a career counselor, a beauty store clerk, a test examiner and a government employee. And it’s not because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life — I always knew I wanted to be a writer. But with college and military moves, finding a job in my field wasn’t always an option.
I actually didn’t realize that anyone else noticed my proficiency for finding (and actually securing) new jobs until a friend said something to me about it. I had just ended one contract job and within a couple of weeks had secured another.
“Wow, you always have a job!” she said. It was true — during the three years I lived abroad, while my husband was in the military, I had three jobs, each of them one-year contracts. Yup, I’m an expert job-getter.
Here’s what worked for me.
1. Step outside of your comfort zone
When I moved to Florida after graduating from college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I did know I had bills to pay. So I took a job at a beauty salon while I applied for graduate schools. I ended up leaving that full-time job for a part-time weekend job at a beauty supply store that I kept all throughout grad school. Was it a great job? No. But it made for some nice spending money to supplement my meager graduate assistant income.
2. Keep your resume updated
Whether you’re a student, a stay-at-home mom or cruising along in your career, you never know what opportunities may come along. And when they do, you don’t want to be scrambling to get your resume together. (Take it from me, cobbling together 10 years’ worth of your work history in a few hours is not fun). Check out ZipRecruiter’s handy infographic for tips. And don’t forget the cover letter!
3. Seek out opportunities
Sometimes, even though you’ve searched high and low, you may not find a job that meets your qualifications and is something you’ll be passionate about doing day in, day out. In those cases, it’s perfectly OK to request an informational interview at a company or in the industry you want to get into. One caveat — if you do get your foot in the door and are offered a job, don’t forget to bring up pay.
4. Realize pay isn’t (always) everything
I know, I know — I just said to ask about pay. And it hurts to say that pay isn’t everything. But if you are transitioning into a new career or taking a job that would be great for your career or is something you are passionate about, it’s OK if doesn’t start out paying big bucks. And in many cases, certain perks (a flexible schedule, vacation time, etc.) may actually be more important to you than money. But if you’re concerned about pay, take a look at your budget and discuss it with your accountant/spouse/significant other to make sure you can pay the bills before you decide.
5. Be prepared for the interview
Preparing for the interview can be especially daunting if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while or are changing careers. I remember rushing into an interview (late! Another no-no!) and letting the hiring manager know in the answer to her first question that I knew nothing about the position or the company. Doing your homework by researching the company not only makes you more prepared for the interview, but it also lets you know whether the job — and the company) is a good fit for you. Another insider tip: If you aren’t familiar with where the business is located, do some recon the day before and drive to the location. You’ll find out where it is, how long it will take you to get there and where the main entrance is located (I learned that the hard way — see above).
6. Dress the part
What kind of job are you applying for? How do the employees dress? Those questions will help you decide whether you should dress business casual or even wear a suit. If you have friends who already work at the company, ask them how the employees typically dress. One caveat: Even if you know employees routinely wear flip flops and shorts to work, you don’t want to wear that to the interview. Call me old-fashioned, but I still go by the adage: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
7. Don’t get discouraged
Anyone who has been job hunting will probably agree — it’s practically a full-time job in itself. Once you’ve gone through several rounds of interviews and several resume revisions, it’s easy to get discouraged. And that can sometimes come through as desperation to a potential employer. Be honest with yourself; is this a job you really want? Can you see yourself fitting in here? Or are you afraid to turn down an offer because you think nothing better will come along? The interview isn’t just for the employer, it’s for you, too. And starting that relationship on the right foot will make for a much happier and productive work life for you.