If you were recently fired, laid off, or left a job on bad terms, it doesn’t have to have negative effects on the rest of your career.
In the weeks and months after you’ve been let go, there is a lot of processing and hard personal work that you have to do to get over it. However, if you’re like most people, you also need money and career momentum too. Which means that staying inside eating ice cream with the curtains drawn can’t last forever.
How do you know when it’s time to start working on securing a new job?
Well, that equation depends on your personal situation. How much money do you have saved up? How bad was the termination – was it a purely financial or “no hard feelings” issue, or was it because of big problems you need to solve before you step into another job?
You want to be your very best self when you’re looking for a new role, and the best way to do that is to be ridiculously prepared.
This is a rebuilding time in your career, and so rushing back into things isn’t going to work. Take time to set yourself up for success, by investing a little time in improving your career image, adding the best tools to your career toolkit, and making an amazing impression when you walk through the doors of a new employer.
Here’s your “I’m ready for my new job” checklist.
Update your resume
If you’ve been out of the job market for a while, your resume is probably a little lackluster. For most people, the care and maintenance of their resumes to the wayside once they’ve landed a job, so most likely the resume that you have now is reflecting a version of you that was applicable years ago – not today.
A resume is tremendously important to an employer who is “meeting” you for the first time, so it is worth taking the time to update it well and make it awesome.
Here is a cheat-sheet for doing a super effective resume update:
Use the Google technique for killer resumes: Hiring managers don’t want to read a to-do list of the tasks you did in your last job. Instead, frame your work history as, “I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.” It’s much more descriptive and helpful for an employer to see what you accomplished in relation to other people at your level and how you achieved that accomplishment/what you did differently than those people. They want to know why you’re awesome, not what you’ve done.
Add new employment, skills and accomplishments that you’ve acquired since you last updated your resume. Did you attend any conferences? Learn any new skills in your last role? Don’t undersell your last role just because you were let go; you still want to wow every potential new employer with the amazing things you can do.
You can also include any activities you’ve taken up since being let go, like volunteering at events, building your own product or blog, joining professional organizations, or contributing to published work. Show that you are someone who always steps up and makes amazing things happen, no matter what. That is someone people want to hire.
Prioritize skills and experience that match the kinds of new jobs you are looking for. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 years of experience in one field if you’re applying for a job in another. Find out what is most important at the company or in the industry you’re pursuing, and highlight your skills within those parameters.
You might have to do some research or update some of your past roles, but it will be well worth it to make sure that your resume hits the points a hiring manager is expecting to see.
Out with the old! Don’t be afraid to remove old accomplishments and employment from your resume, especially if you are now well established in your career but weren’t when you last updated it. Select the most important and impressive roles from the last 5-10 years and focus on the successes and accomplishments you had in them that apply to the role you’re pursuing.
Your resume is competing for attention when it gets placed into a stack with other resumes. Help it get read by:
- Making it look polished, neat, and stylish. Ask a friend with design skills to give you feedback or even take a pass over it themselves to make it look outstanding.
- Keep it concise. Your resume should be 1-2 pages, no more.
- Print it on quality paper. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, but upgrading from printer paper to resume paper will make you appear more professional.
(Want more tips? Use this four step guide to help you update your resume further!)
Build a personal brand
Most people don’t think of themselves as a “brand.” However, when you are applying for new jobs, you want potential employers to be able to gather a “snapshot” of you that has been carefully cultivated by *you* ahead of time and shows you in the light you want them to see you in.
In other words, you want them to find your personal brand.
Establishing a personal brand is a daunting proposition if you’ve never thought about it before, but it’s actually fairly simple. Here are a few beginner steps to making sure the you that is out there to be found is the you that you want employers to see.
What does the internet say about you? How does it make you look in the eyes of a potential employer?
Imagine that a stranger is googling you (because any hiring manager who is even slightly interested in you will.) What conclusions will they draw about you? What conclusions do you want them to draw? How can you control and improve the version of you that they see and read about.
If there are any negative or potentially hurtful pieces of information about you on the internet, think about what you can do to mitigate their damage.
- Can you request that the website take them down?
- If someone has written a negative review about you somewhere, is it worth addressing in your cover letter? (Note: this is only worth addressing if there’s a really big controversy that pops up high in your results. Otherwise, don’t mention it.)
The damage control you have to do will be entirely dependent upon what the internet has to say about you. Just be sure that a quick Google search isn’t going to hinder your chances of employment!
And if you google yourself and nothing pops up – well, then you’ve got some work to do. You won’t want to be invisible on the internet when you’re looking for jobs. It’s time to start cultivating an online brand.
Check your social media presence
When you’re job searching, you have to consider what your social media says about you since, again, it’s one of the first places a hiring manager will find your online persona. Update your privacy settings on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and make sure that nothing you’ve posted will scare away potential employers.
Take a critical look back at your own profile(s) and look for times when you’ve:
- said something bad about your employer or coworkers
- posted or been tagged in pictures that do not uphold the best image and representation of the companies’ you are applying to work for
- liked, posted, or re-posted about controversial issues, particularly if it an issue of interest to your future employer
Now is the time to put these behind privacy settings, or delete them altogether. In general, it’s better not to have anything negative online at all, even if it’s behind privacy settings. Don’t complain about your boss or employer, or post pictures you wouldn’t want your manager to see.
In addition to making sure your social media doesn’t make you look bad, you should also see if there’s anything you can do to have your social media accounts make you look awesome.
For example, are you tweeting links to articles that relate to your industry? Are you having conversations with leaders in your field, or responding to recent news and sharing your opinion?
By engaging effectively online, you can show hiring managers that you are someone who is adding value to the community and taking initiative to be involved – and that never hurts when you’re competing for jobs.
Think about who you are
Who do you want potential employers to see you as? What version of yourself do you want to present to hiring managers
While your personal brand should primarily be an accurate reflection of you, it should also highlight your best qualifications, expertise, qualities, etc.
Think about which YOU, you want everyone to see. What do you want people to think of when they think of you?
Look for commonalities in the way that people talk about you and describe you in person and in the virtual world. For example, if you were to search for our CEO Kate Matsudaira, you get a very succinct picture of who she is, what talents she possesses, and what she’s accomplished.
Through her own branding (a blog, social media) and the brand she’s been given elsewhere (in the press, as a tech leader/CTO) there is a clear picture that jumps out and lets people know, in just a second or two, what they’re getting when they get her.
You want a hiring manager to feel like they know you and how highly other people think of you within a few seconds of searching your name. What are the biggest themes of who you are as a person and what your career is all about? Pick themes that are reflected in what is already being said about you on the internet, and use those consistently throughout your own branding to make sure the message out there is easy to quickly understand.
Consistency is key, and the more you put out there that adds to the message you want to send, the more effective and powerful your brand will become. Start building a brand that says the things you want it to say (over and over again)!
Define your path to success
Before you begin your job search, you need to have a solid understanding of what you are searching for. Think about which jobs are going to be right for you.
What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What positions will allow you to play up your strengths and work on your weaknesses?
Think about what went wrong in your last job; you won’t be successful in a similar position at a different company unless you’ve remedied the downfalls and weaknesses you faced in your last role. Have you gathered the necessary skills and tools to thrive if you’re applying for comparable position? Or do you need a different kind of position than your last one?
Consider if you need to switch industries. This might require getting additional certifications, education, etc., but could be the best decision for you in the long term.
Are there organizations or people you should avoid? While it’s never good to burn bridges in your professional life, it happens. It might be best to avoid organizations where someone already has a negative opinion of you and could hurt your chances of getting fired. Plus, you might end up working with this individual and find yourself in a very tough situation if you do manage to get hired.
You don’t want to just quickly get another job that’s not going to work out or be the best possible place for you. Don’t let the desperation of resume-sending get to you – remember that you want a job where you can shine and add great value, and the focus of your job search should reflect that.
Think about the big picture. The next job you land should fit in your overall career trajectory and career goals. Use this notion as the basis for narrowing down the types of jobs you’ll apply for and to help you define what is going to be most strategic for you!
If you are having trouble defining your career path and figuring out how to achieve that next step, check out this post on leveling up in your career.
How to start a really effective job search
We all know those people who sit at home for weeks, sending out resume after resume, getting no response from potential employers. While searching job postings and sending out resumes can be a part of your job search, it shouldn’t be the whole thing.
- Reach out to your network! Many jobs nowadays are never even advertised before they are filled. Leverage your network as much as possible to make sure you get the best opportunities at the best positions.
- Browse LinkedIn to see if any of your connections know of job opportunities or happen to be hiring
- Use your circle of friends & family: have them keep an ear out for opportunities in their respective networks
- Reach out to former colleagues and supervisors that you still have strong relationships with; they may know hiring mangers or be at a company that is looking to hire people in your field
- Attend networking events and job fairs. While the chances of actually getting hired at one of these events may be low, it could help you form connections with people who know of job leads or can refer you to someone within their network that does.
- Get meetings with people who work at your dream company. Who can you get a coffee meeting with to learn more about a company you’re interested in? You don’t want to spend this person’s time trying to get them to give you a foot in the door, though – instead, set up a meeting where you can ask about the biggest pain points and priorities at the company right now, so that you can tailor your pitch to meet what they really need.You can also ask the person if they’ll make an intro to a hiring manager, but they may decline or not be able too – don’t let this discourage you, though. Knowledge is power, so apply what you learn to create the best application possible.
- Be strategic about which jobs you’re applying to. You can’t apply to every opening, and frankly, you don’t want to. You want a job that plays to your strengths and has the potential to meet your career goals – so fight the urge to desperately send out resumes to any place that will accept them. Instead, focus your time and energy on the positions that:
- • you are most interested in
- • leverage your skills and strengths
- • you have the best chances of being hired for (personal connections, related experience, etc)
- • fits your qualifications and desires
Searching for a job isn’t easy. This is just true.
However, with a quality resume, consistent networking, and a smart strategy for getting in front of the best jobs for you, there shouldn’t be many roadblocks between you and your next dream job.
Keep up your spirits and don’t let the arduous work of applying for jobs get you down. You are making progress. You are moving forward, and getting better. You’re a superstar in the making.