Get out there (while staying inside)
Yes, you should research and answer ads for positions on sites like Indeed Opens in new window, CareerBuilder Opens in new window and Dice Opens in new window, not to mention on employers’ own job boards. But employers’ HR systems (especially large ones) have long been known as “black holes” where even great résumés go to die. So while you should be in their systems — if only to follow up — you shouldn’t depend on them.
Instead, getting in the (virtual) door is mostly a matter of who you know. (You don’t have to know them well — just well enough to enable you to get your résumé on the hiring manager’s screen when an appropriate position opens up.) And that means networking.
Make no mistake: Most people, especially introverts, aren’t “natural” networkers. The thought of asking for help from a former coworker — let alone a complete stranger — can keep you in your protective shell. But the COVID-19 crisis gives you an automatic conversation starter — we’re all in this together, right now.
Once you break the ice, you’ll find that people who’ve been in your shoes (or are in them now) are more than willing to help.
The “two-step”: Find the job, then an insider
The point of networking is not to get a job offer (at least not initially). Rather, it’s to build relationships with people who can potentially lead you to insiders: hiring managers where you want to work. They’re who’ll know about (and can decide on) positions as they open. You’ll want your name to be top-of-mind when they do.
All of it takes time, research and some reverse engineering: Determine the company where you want to work. Use LinkedIn Opens in new window or other sources to find people who work there (insiders) and are connected to your connections. Ask your connections to introduce you to those insiders. Then ask the insiders if they have time to chat about their industry or company — you want advice, not a job.
Once you’re on the phone (or text or email if you have to), talk about things you have in common (research first!), from alma maters to professional groups to sports you miss watching. Ask about trends in the field or the culture of the company. Then ask for names of other insiders they can refer or, better, introduce you to. Maybe they’ll even offer to forward your résumé to the right people. Including hiring managers.
Toughen up your “soft” skills
The qualifications on your résumé might get you an interview, but when it comes to landing (and succeeding in) a job, culture Opens in new window is currency.
These days employers first want to make sure you’re the right “fit” for their organizations — how, and how well, you’ll work with your potential teammates. Are they goal focused? Collaboration crazed? Buttoned up or casual? Find out beforehand: Research companies’ cultures at sites like Glassdoor Opens in new window, Comparably Opens in new window and The Muse Opens in new window or, if you can, get the scoop from an insider.
In many cases, you may need to focus on (or beef up) your communication, interpersonal, emotional and other “soft” skills.