I recently ‘graduated’ from university – though I won’t have the degree in my hands for a couple more weeks – and I have joined the unemployed masses. No longer can I absolve my joblessness by saying I am a student, for student I am no longer.
A few days ago I got together with some other unemployed friends, and the topic turned towards job hunting, as it was bound to. From that experience I learned that although I am still unemployed – mostly through my own fault, I’ll admit – I have had a better callback rate than many of my (more skilled) colleagues.
While I cannot say I am an expert, I have learned some useful tips in the couple of months I have been looking, and I wish to impart my (newly acquired) wisdom, like any narcissist. So enough with the preamble – here we go.
Update Your CV and Resume
Something that should go without being said, but I’ll say it: you need to keep updating your CV and resume (in Pakistan, a CV is a multi-page in-depth review of your achievements; a resume is 1 page long). Add newer positions, projects and accolades and remove the older ones. Don’t have a CV? No problem; grab a template off of Word or the Internet and type away. (Just, please, no templates that look like registration forms. They look so childish.)
One step most people I know seem to skip is that they forget to tailor their CVs according to the job. Managerial positions will care more for your leadership experience and proof of your communicating abilities than your programming knowledge; editorial positions will want to know how proficient you are in English; and so on.
One question I get asked often is whether to include your photo in your CV. I would recommend not to unless specifically stated in the advertisement, and to instead include a link to your LinkedIn on which you have an updated professional photograph of yourself.
While there is no one way to have an awesome CV, there are a number of ways to have a terrible one.
Update Your LinkedIn (and Stay Active There)
LinkedIn is like Facebook for professionals. One of the smartest steps you can take is to complete your LinkedIn profile until it gives you that Expert or All-Star profile rating. Add all the information you included in your CVs, but with some extra details such as lengthier project descriptions, collaborating members, supervisors, etc. Add all the information you couldn’t add to your CV because of space, or because it wasn’t relevant to the specific job. Have a professional photo of yourself there and change it as your face changes. Delete older positions and projects as you move on – don’t become outdated.
Once you’ve got your LinkedIn, don’t think you’re done yet! You have to post regularly on it too. Share articles, comment on other’s posts, congratulate people on their career milestones – just keep it as professional and articulate as possible. Remember, your future (or worse, current) bosses might see your posts.
Write a Cover Letter/Email
Apparently, this is a foreign concept to most recent Pakistani graduates, especially from universities that don’t focus on soft skills (like mine). Despite professionals in the field and our own alumni stating the importance of a cover letter or email over and over again, a lot of applicants just skip out on it.
So maybe you might listen to one of your fellow job hunters: please, for the love of all that is good in the world, write a cover letter or email. Most companies take emails these days, so write your cover letter in the email, not attach it as a separate file. There’s nothing more unprofessional than a blank email or one with nothing but “See my attached CV.” Google is your friend – use it.
Send in Your Applications During Working Hours
You can have great applications, but they won’t matter if nobody sees them. A trick I learned from my university days which got me one of the highest email response rates from my professors* was to email early during the day, earlier on in the week (with Monday before noon getting me the most responses). This especially holds true for work emails – they’re usually only accessible on the job.
If you email on a weekend, especially if you email a company’s HR department, then forget about ever getting a response. Your email has disappeared into the void that is an inbox with 999+ unread messages.
Read up on ways to make your cover letter the best one possible for you. First impressions are usually the last impressions – make yours count.
These are just some of the aspects of job hunting I thought I would address, as I seem to be getting a lot of queries about my methodology from others in the (figurative) unemployment line with me. Hope it helps.
*From a totally subjective survey that I informally gathered data for by gouging the intensity of the groaning people did when I said “Just email the professor.” I got responses around 90% of the time from my professors, and 100% of the time on important matters, so I never quite understood the problem.
DISCLAIMER: I am, still, obviously, still very unemployed, and many folks who didn’t follow these guidelines are currently working, so take all of this with a pinch of salt.