I'm a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) and Founder of ForwardThink Career Coaching. I help job seekers and career-transitioning professionals find satisfying work that they're not only passionate about, but that leverages their top skills and abilities. I work with clients from the beginning stages of career exploration through the job offer, tailoring my services to the..
If you’ve been asking yourself this question, trust me, you’re not alone! Job seekers know how important soft skills are in the workplace and even see soft skills included on job descriptions. So they wonder if they should add them to their resume.
My short answer is…no.
But first, let me give a little more background on soft skills…
They are those critical, but somewhat general, skills such as:
The trouble is, these skills apply to practically every profession. It doesn’t matter if you’re an accountant, lawyer, digital marketer, teacher or software engineer — employers expect you to possess these skills. (It doesn’t mean everyone does, but that’s the hope.)
So just listing them out on your resume in no way differentiates you from other candidates. Most recruiters consider them resume filler.
You might think, “But they were listed as requirements on the job description! Aren’t I supposed to include keywords from the job description on my resume??”
And yes, I’ve had clients recently show me job descriptions where almost all of the required qualifications were written in form of soft skills. It can be so frustrating since it makes it hard to know what the employer is truly looking for in a candidate.
So here are 3 tips for tackling this issue:
Skills Tip #1
Look at other sections of the job description, such as the position overview and duties/responsibilities to find the required hard skills, so that you can include those on your resume.
Skills Tip #2
If a job description is really brief, vague, and basically gives you nothing to go on, it might be an indicator that it’s not a quality opportunity. (Fake job listings do exist, my friends!) So focus on ones that clearly spell out the duties and requirements of the role.
All of this is not to say that soft skills aren’t important. They are! But find ways to demonstrate your soft skills within your accomplishments, both on your resume and in an interview setting.
For example, discovering and rectifying errors on vendor invoices demonstrates your attention to detail. And winning a new account through your sales presentation proves you’re an effective communicator.
So when it comes to soft skills, show, don’t just tell. And incorporating hard skills from the job description onto your resume is always your best bet. That way employers can quickly see how you might be different from and better than the competition.
When you’re spending untold hours each week job searching, you never want to think that you might actually be sabotaging your efforts. But in working with clients, I’ve seen many of them fall into the same bad patterns. Without even realizing it, they’re spending too much time doing the wrong things in their search.
Be honest, are you guilty of some of these unhelpful job search habits? (No shame if you are! But there’s a better way.)
#1 – You’re Casting Too Wide a Net
It’s totally logical to think that the more types of jobs you’re open to, the greater your likelihood of landing one. But if you search too broadly, your branding (as a candidate) will seem all over the place.
Instead of showcasing your most relevant skills, your resume and LinkedIn profile will scream, “Look! I can do EVERYTHING!” This will l undoubtedly confuse potential employers who will be more inclined to focus on candidates who demonstrate their fit for the specific role at hand.
So make sure you’re zoning in on one or two related job titles at a time and create a resume and LinkedIn profile to support that.
#2 – You’re Sending Off the Same Resume for Every Job Application
Even if you’re focused on a specific position — let’s say Account Manager, for example, you still don’t get to fire off the same resume for every Account Manager role you come across. (Aww, I wish it were that easy…)
That’s because using the same resume for every application may prevent it from making it through the applicant tracking system. The ATS is scanning for specific keywords (based on the job description), and if you don’t have enough of them included on your resume, it might get lost in the proverbial black hole.
So take the time to customize each resume to the job description, paying close attention to those relevant keywords. Yes, it’s a pain. And yes, it makes a huge difference!
In a previous blog post I talked about stepping away from your computer and getting out and networking with people. And that’s definitely a critical component of your job search. But you can also network online using the best networking tool of them all — LinkedIn!
Since you’re anywhere from 5-15 times more likely to be hired as a referral (according to Jobvite), building relationships with employees at companies you’re interested in can be a powerful way to get your foot in the door.
Online and offline networking with a targeted list of people should make up 50% of your job search strategy. (That means taking a break from those job boards.)
#4 – You’re Trying To Do It All By Yourself
Job searching alone can feel utterly confusing, isolating…and just plain no fun! You may find yourself constantly questioning whether your resume or LinkedIn profile are making the right impression. And scrolling through endless job postings may cause general malaise. Also, it’s hard to prepare those tough interview questions when you’re a one (wo)man show.
So, join a job search community, get help from a career coach (like me!), or at the very least talk with others about your job search so that you can get the guidance and feedback you need.
Wrapping it Up
As you can see, you could be sabotaging your job search without even realizing it. But by taking some key actions, such as: getting laser focused, using a customized resume for each role, leveraging your network, and getting support, you could nab that great job even quicker.
Here we are in the beginning of 2019, and…well…you might feel like you’re in a bit of a post-holiday funk. The Christmas tree has been taken down, the champagne glasses have been put away, the weather’s been wacky…and there are those dang New Year’s resolutions.
Those resolutions, that seemed so ambitious and exciting at the clink of a “Happy New Year” toast, now seem completely overwhelming and undoable.
The main problem with resolutions is that we often choose ones that are too broad or vague (get healthy, make more money) or, conversely, ones that are so rigid, we know we’ll never adhere to (cut out ALL sugar, meditate for 1 hour daily).
So when it comes to finding a stellar new job in 2019, we want to make sure we’re choosing resolutions that are specific and actionable. Saying “I resolve to find a new job” just won’t cut it. (Not to mention, it feels so uninspiring.)
Here are 4 Job Search New Year’s Resolutions that will get your engines started and keep you cruising the next few months:
#1 – I Resolve to Create a Job Search Plan of Attack
When clients come to me, they usually think a job search starts with updating their resume and LinkedIn profile — and then clicking APPLY on job board postings.
But without a clear plan, it’s easy to fall into what I call being a “reactive job seeker” — passively responding to job opportunities that seem half-way decent (but have probably already gotten a ton of applications).
A better approach is to take stock of what you’ve liked and disliked about current and past positions and companies in order to determine SPECIFICALLY what you want in your next role and company.
From there, it’s helpful to write out an ideal job description as well as a list of 15-30 target companies whose mission/product/service speaks to you.
Up to 80% of jobs aren’t posted online, so start building relationships with people at those companies in order to find out about possible opportunities that are in the works. (More on that in #3).
#2 – I Resolve to Celebrate (and Document) My Accomplishments
Job seekers often feel intimidated throwing their hat into the ring for a job opening because they worry they won’t measure up as a candidate.
They reluctantly apply, but then their worst fears are confirmed when they hear nothing back.
But what I find is that, it’s not an issue of lacking the right skills and experience to do the job, but instead not conveying that expertise in a compelling way.
Job seekers routinely undersell themselves by listing vague, general duties on their resume and LinkedIn profile instead of creating quantifiable accomplishment statements that paint a clear picture of positive outcomes.
The truth is, in your current and past positions, you’ve done some impressive stuff! You’ve probably solved complex problems…and these achievements need to be CELEBRATED.
And they also need to be written down.
So think about ways you might have increased revenue, or cut costs, or streamlined a system, or oversaw a project from start to finish. What strategies, methodologies, and technologies did you use? What were the results? Can you put it into numbers?
Even if you’re not starting a job search right away, start writing these accomplishments down now. Look over previous performance evaluations and search through emails, project proposals and reports. Know the details.
Not only will this process help you make concrete improvements to your resume and LinkedIn profile, but you’ll start feeling more confident as a professional. And that confidence will shine through as you network and interview.
#3 – I Resolve to Make LinkedIn My Friend
Oh LinkedIn…the forgotten social media platform. It certainly isn’t as fun or sexy as Facebook or Instagram. It’s a bit stodgy and buttoned up (and not exactly the most user friendly *cough cough).
But what’s amazing about LinkedIn is that it’s really one massive database of professionals and companies — ripe with research and networking opportunties.
Unfortunately, most job seekers only use it to post an online resume (and an oft-incomplete one at that).
As I alluded to in Resolution #1, you can use LinkedIn to research companies of interest and see how you’re connected to employees there. If you know someone in common, you can request an introduction directly on the platform.
If not, you can send the employee a personalized connection request to start a meaningful dialogue.
LinkedIn is also a great place to join and contribute to industry-related groups, where you can showcase your subject matter expertise.
Being regularly active and visible on LinkedIn will allow you to strategically expand your network and get noticed by potential employers.
#4 – I Resolve to Take Rejection in Stride
Ok, I know…we don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions with the word “rejection” in them. But when it comes to a job search, rejection unfortunately comes with the territory.
Sometimes it’s sending off that perfect resume and cover letter and not hearing back. Or reaching out to an employee at your favorite company and getting radio silence. Or receiving a “thank you but no thank you” email after you SWORE you nailed that interview.
I think the most painful part of rejection is the unknown. Why didn’t they respond? Why didn’t they make me an offer? What did I do wrong???
The unfortunate truth is that you’ll probably never know for sure. You can do everything right and still not get the job. It’s a tough pill to swallow but a necessary one.
So keep your efforts up, stay strategic, get help when you can, and know that rejection happens to every single one of us. It’s really a patience and persistence game, so grit your teeth and don’t give up.
Well there you have it. Hopefully these 4 New Year’s resolutions will keep you focused and on track to landing that fantastic job very, very soon.
You may have heard about informational interviews but never really understood what they were exactly…or how to conduct one.
Essentially, informational interviews are conversations you arrange with someone who’s either in a profession you’re interested in pursuing or works at a company you’d like to learn more about.
They can take place over the phone, over coffee, or even over an extended email exchange.
Informational interviews differ from regular interviews in that there’s no specific job at stake. They’re more casual in nature…and you’re the one asking most of the questions.
These interviews are an excellent way to gather information that’ll help you make the right decision in your career…and possibly lead to a plum opportunity.
Here are 3 reasons why they’re so powerful:
Reason #1 – Informational interviews can help you decide if a career path is right for you
If you’re thinking about making a career change or are a recent grad, no amount of online research on a profession compares to speaking with one or several people who are doing that exact thing.
They can give you the lowdown on all aspects of their occupation, both positive and negative.
They can also give you insight into how to get started in that field as well as which skills you’d most need to acquire or leverage.
Reason #2 – Informational interviews can provide you valuable information on a company
If you’re not making a career change but are wanting to find a similar role at a new company, arranging informational interviews with a couple employees at that company can help you determine if it’s the right fit.
Once again, no one has a better scoop on an organization than the people working there. They can speak to the company culture, the dynamics of their department, and what the higher ups look for in a candidate.
You may even learn about opportunities that aren’t currently posted online, thereby tapping the hidden job market.
Reason #3 – Informational interviews can lead to real interviews…and potentially job offers
The saying “it’s not about what you know but who you know” couldn’t be more true when it comes to job searching. According to Jobvite, you’re 5 times more likely to be hired as a referral than as an unknown applicant.
It makes perfect sense! Employers would rather hire a candidate who someone they know can vouch for. That’s why most mid size and large companies offer employee referral bonuses to encourage their staff to send qualified applicants their way.
So by doing informational interviews and building meaningful relationships, you can increase your chances of being invited in for an actual interview.
How do you find the right people to conduct informational interviews with?
I think it’s best to start by asking friends and family if they know people who are either in your desired career or are working at a company of interest — and see if they can introduce you. LinkedIn makes it easy to see how you’re connected to prospects and request an introduction.
But if you’re not having luck with this route, you can do own LinkedIn research by job title and company and send personalized connection requests to the appropriate people. From there you can get the conversation going.
Regardless of your approach, know that informational interviews can be a game changer when it comes to starting out in a new field or getting your foot in the door at a stellar company.
Ahhhh, the weekend. After a long week of slogging away at a less-than-stellar job, you finally get two glorious days to relax! I mean, weekends are all about spending time with friends and family, running errands, and catching up on all your favorite shows, right?
Well, the unfortunate truth is that if you’re looking for a job while working full-time, the weekend is a crucial opportunity to delve into that job search.
But I get it, it feels unfair. Everyone around you is taking a load off and enjoying themselves. And you’re there…working.
So how the heck do you stay focused and do a weekend job search without feeling distracted, aimless and, well…bitter? Here are a few tips:
Weekend Job Search Tip #1 – Remember this Situation is Temporary
A job search can seem endless. It can feel like a second job — because, well, right now it is. When you’re not working, you’re working on your job search. And while you are working, you’re thinking about your job search. This can be crazy-making!
But take heart…if you’re job searching the right way, this feeling of double duty won’t last long. You’ll nab that great job, and your weekends will be yours again. (Cue the fruity cocktails!) But for now, you need to remind yourself this is only temporary — so roll up your sleeves, and make this thing happen!
Weekend Job Search Tip #2 – Find the Best Environment to Get Work Done
When everyone around you is in weekend mode, it can be hard to separate yourself from all the merry-making. Your friends and family might also (unintentionally) sabotage your efforts by trying to convince you join the fun.
So, you may need to physically remove yourself by grabbing your laptop and heading to a quiet cafe or library. This might mean handing off childcare duties or chores to another family member for a few hours in order to get some work accomplished. It might not be easy or ideal, but once again, if you’re dedicated to your job search, this is only temporary.
At this point you might be asking, if I’m not currently working, do I still have to dedicate my weekend to my job search? Don’t I get weekends off?
Well, that depends on how much you’re getting done during the week, of course. Weekends can be a great time to do volunteer work in your community and attend events that have networking potential.
The key is finding time when you work at your best. Is it early in the morning or late at night? Do you need total silence or some background noise. Can you work for several hours at a stretch or need to take several breaks to stay motivated? It’s all about finding that efficiency sweet spot.
Weekend Job Search Tip #3 – Don’t Waste Your Time on Meaningless Job Search Activities
You’ve got two short days to make the most of your job search. But it’s easy to spend too much time on comfortable tasks that feel productive while avoiding all the hard stuff that can actually move the needle.
Be honest, are you guilty of any of these?
> Firing off the same resume and cover letter — or worse, NO cover letter — to hundreds of job postings each week, because it feels so quick and efficient.
> Constantly playing around with the font style, font size, text color, and formatting on your resume, because if you could just get that right, you KNOW the interviews would start pouring in.
> Asking your close friends and family to tell you if they “hear of anything” and then getting frustrated when they come up short.
If any of these sound like you, it’s time to rethink your job search strategy. Here are some ways to make greater strides in your search:
— Instead of just applying for jobs online willy nilly, spend the bulk of your time on LinkedIn: optimizing your profile, expanding your network, and researching companies in order to come up with a short list that you feel most excited about.
— If you do apply for a job online, try to apply within the first 3 days it’s posted and make sure you meet at least 80% of the requirements, otherwise you might be throwing your application into a black hole. Tailoring your resume and cover letter to the job description is key.
So…while it may feel like a major bummer to spend your weekend job searching, you’ll thank yourself down that line when you get that fantastic offer.
And I’m by no means trying to imply that you shouldn’t take any time for yourself. We all need a little downtime to relieve stress and self reflect. So work that into your weekend or a weeknight as well. It’s all a balancing act!
You there…yes YOU…peering out from behind your laptop. I have a feeling you’ve tunneled down an Indeed/LinkedIn/ZipRecruiter/Glassdoor rabbit hole, am I right?
Don’t be ashamed. Those online job boards can ensnare even the most vigilant job seeker. They seduce you with their endless job postings, making you feel amazingly productive with each click of the APPLY button.
But don’t be fooled! A true job hunt can’t be entirely successful from a laptop alone. Sometimes you have to get out in the big bad world and actually talk to people. Or do some job searching IRL (as the kids say).
So here are some strategies for taking your job hunt offline and learning about potential opportunities:
In-person networking events can take many forms. Some are more traditional, taking place in large conference halls and organized by industry. Others might be small, casual, and completely non-career related.
Meetup.com is a great resource for finding a wide variety of groups and events. You can search by location and browse by an array of types: career & business, social, outdoors & adventure, food & drink, hobbies & crafts, etc.
Depending on where you live, there may be multiple events happening each day, exposing you to people across various industries.
Alumni & Chamber of Commerce Events
It’s easy to forget what powerful resources your alumni association and local Chamber of Commerce can be. Even if your alma mater is in a different location, check with your alumni association to see if there’s a local chapter. It just might be holding an upcoming event. And talking about the glory days of college is an instant conversation starter.
Your local Chamber of Commerce may also schedule industry mixers from time to time. They’re a great way to network with like-minded professionals in your field.
While more career-focused networking events can be really helpful, don’t think that has to be your only option. Because if you think about it, any type of social gathering is a potential networking event. This could be a friend’s dinner party, a neighbor’s BBQ or a nephew’s baseball game. Any opportunity to meet and interact with new people can have positive outcomes.
Volunteering in your community can be a true multiplier. Not only does it allow you to experience a different environment, meet new people, and potentially learn new skills, but you get the satisfaction of doing some good in the world. Volunteermatch.org and idealist.org are two great sites to find local volunteering opportunities.
A Few Things to Note…
Regardless of the type of event you attend, it’s smart to bring personal business cards that include your contact info and LinkedIn URL. Exchanging business cards can allow you to follow up and stay in touch with your new contacts.
Also, don’t worry if walking into a large room full of strangers gives you sweaty palms and marble mouth. You definitely don’t have to be an expert conversationalist to reap the benefits of these events. I find that putting the focus on the other person and asking them questions can take the pressure off.
But be prepared to answer that inevitable, “So, what do you do?” No need to delve into your entire work history, but it’s completely kosher to let them know the kinds of opportunities you’re targeting as well as any specific companies you’re hoping to get to know better. You never know who these fellow event attendees may know and could introduce you to!
So don’t let that silly laptop stand between you and some powerful networking opportunities. Putting in actual face time can be a real game changer in your job hunt.
When you’re looking for a job, especially for a long time, it feels like there’s an amorphous weight hanging on your shoulders. It’s hard to keep moving forward when you really just want to lie down and yell “uncle”!
So here are 5 tips to help you continue to fight the good fight:
Motivation Tip #1 – Know This is a Temporary Situation
When you’re doing what seems like an endless job search, you might start thinking — am I EVER going to actually find a job??
What starts out as a finite endeavor begins to feel more like a permanent state of affairs.
Sometimes it helps just to accept that, during this time period, things will be quite un-fun, filled with frustration and rejection. No two ways about it.
But then…guess what…it’ll end! And you’ll be in a much better place. So hang in there and repeat, “this too shall pass.”
Motivation Tip #2 – Search SMARTER (Not Harder)
It’s easy to fall into a trap of making a job search a numbers game.
Number of hours dedicated per week, number of resumes sent, number of networking messages composed.
You might think, “I’ve been working so hard at this. Look at the volume!” But when the results don’t add up, it’s easy to get discouraged.
When I first start working with clients who’ve been job searching for a long time, their confidence has flagged, and they’ve resorted to applying for roles they’re WAY overqualified for…or just plain not right for.
Recruiters and hiring managers instantly see a mismatch between their qualifications and the requirements of the position — and disregard these applicants. And that’s why they’re not hearing back.
So instead of logging long hours throwing spaghetti on the wall, get strategic and only target positions that are in alignment with your skills and experience.
Motivation Tip #3 – Uplevel Your Network
Dovetailing on the last point, it’s common to think that the jobs you see posted online are the only opportunities that exist.
But up to 50% of jobs are part of the hidden job market and are only known to employees at the company. Sometimes these positions will eventually be posted, but companies are first encouraging referrals.
That’s why expanding your network and building relationships with employees at companies you’re interested in can be so powerful. These employees can refer you to opportunities just before or just as they become official.
LinkedIn is an excellent tool for connecting with colleagues, friends and family — and requesting introductions to people at your target companies, if possible.
Motivation Tip #4 – Seek Community
Plodding through an extended job search can feel super isolating. It’s easy to forget that others in the same boat are experiencing the same highs and lows you are.
So seeking a community of job seekers can help ease those discouraging feelings. You may have luck finding Facebook, LinkedIn or local Meetup groups that are geared toward people on a job hunt.
Aside from moral support, fellow job seekers can serve as a valuable resource. They can give you the lowdown on what’s worked and not worked in their search. They may also have connections at certain companies or a lead they can share.
Motivation Tip #5 – Find Balance in Your Life
While it’s ideal to keep up steady efforts, you definitely don’t need to be jobsearching all day every day. (See Tip #2.) Striking the right balance between work and play is key.
So if you’re not currently working, take periodic breaks from your job search and pick up a hobby, spend time with friends you don’t normally see, or do some local volunteering.
And if you’re looking for a job while working full-time, finding free time can be challenging, I know. But it’s critical to take time for yourself and recharge. (I’m giving you permission!)
Hopefully these 5 tips will help you keep your spirits up and breathe a little new life into your job search.
Before you know it you’ll be starting that new stellar job…AND awaiting your first vacation. (Isn’t that how it always goes??)
It’s common to think of LinkedIn as a “one and done” platform. Create your profile and buh bye! From there recruiters should start contacting you like crazy, right?
I wish it were that easy…
What many people forget is that, like most social media platforms, LinkedIn favors active users. They reward regular activity by making your profile more visible to others, allowing you to rank higher in search results. This increased visibility can obviously help you get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers.
But you might be thinking, “What the heck do I do on LinkedIn each week??”
(You definitely wouldn’t be alone in wondering that…)
So here are 5 actions you can take each week to make LinkedIn a regular habit:
LinkedIn Action #1 – Build Your Connections
Just like having a large number of Twitter or Instagram followers can give you more visibility and social proof, LinkedIn rewards users who have over 500 connections.
But that’s only one piece of it. Having a large number of 1st degree connections exponentially increases your number of 2nd and 3rd degree connections. And those are the people who could potentially help you in your job search.
So if your number needs a boost, think through everyone you’re still not connected with — friends, family, current and former coworkers, etc. Use your Facebook friends and Instagram followers as a guide. LinkedIn will suggest people to connect with, and you can also upload your email contacts to send mass invites.
LinkedIn Action #2 – Share an Industry Related Article…or Write Your Own
Standing out as a job seeker is all about branding yourself as a subject matter expert. Employers want to see that you’re keeping up on industry trends and offering innovative solutions.
So if you go to the home page of LinkedIn, you’ll see this prompt:
You can either share a relevant article or compose your own (which holds more weight of course). You can share these articles with your connections, in groups, and with the public. More eyeballs on your articles can lead to more eyeballs on your profile, more connections…you get the idea.
LinkedIn Action #3 – Join Relevant Groups and Participate
Yes, groups aren’t quite as active as they used to be (mostly because LinkedIn cracked down on spammy activity), but they can still be a great place to connect with like-minded professionals and learn about industry trends and job opportunities. (Click on the Jobs tab within each group to see postings.)
You can search for groups using the main search field on the top left navigation bar. You’ll want to search by job function, industry and city to find the ones most relevant to you. Aside from sharing your own articles, like and comment on other group members’ as well.
LinkedIn Action #4 – Endorse Your Connections’ Skills
There was a time when the Skills & Endorsements section on your profile wasn’t that important. But LinkedIn’s algorithm has put more emphasis on this area, making your profile more visible if you have at least 5 skills listed. And, as you can imagine, a greater number of endorsements helps with credibility.
So, what’s the best way to get endorsements? Well, give them of course! But don’t just do it willy nilly. Focus on the connections whose skills you have firsthand knowledge of. Then don’t be shy about asking those connections to return the favor.
LinkedIn Action #5 – Ask Someone You Know to Introduce You to Someone You WANT to Know
The real power of LinkedIn happens when you’re able to expand your network strategically…which could lead to getting referred for the right job opportunity. But this first requires proper research on your end.
If you see that one of your first degree connections knows someone at a company you’re targeting, ask if they’d be willing to introduce you.
Just make sure you have a plan for how you’ll follow up with that new connection once the introduction is made! Requesting an informational interview is a great way to learn more about their company and possible opportunities.
As you can see, LinkedIn isn’t a “set it and forget it” platform. It’s important to take action on a weekly basis so you’re branding yourself effectively, networking strategically, and increasing your visibility.
That’s when you start to see your efforts pay off…