5 Things I wish I had known before I started applying for jobs

I want to preface with the disclaimer that I by no means consider myself an expert in applying, interviewing, much less getting a job. I am openly admitting that I am still getting my ducks in a row (much of which I often define as marathon-ing Friends on Netflix). However, after spending my share of time in the unemployment pool, but also perpetually listening to interview podcasts, I’ve learned a thing or two, or five, about what works and what does not. I thought I’d share them so you can avoid them, tiger. It might have been best to wait until I was employed to post this, but I’m going to listen to what the kids are saying these days. YOLO, dude.

1. Don’t Underestimate Cold Emails

Often taken so much for granted it’s forgotten: there are people behind the careers page you keep drooling over. Real people with email addresses and, more likely than not, a desire to share their life learnings with you. Find the Nancy Drew in you and treasure hunt their email down. If I can do it, I rest assured you can as well. You can generally guess what a company’s email structure is, but Email Breaker is a good site in case you’re lost on that end. If you feel completely off the tracks, then you can test run on Email Checker until you find gold. I’m not saying one email will necessarily be enough to get a response, but if you word it right, stay concise and use a catchy subject line or PS to finish off, you might make magic happen. Not only are you showing active determination and interest, you are also expanding your network. Give them a chance to put a face (and a good cup of coffee) to your email address.

When email truly fails, I suggest cold-tweeting. The new cool. Also, consider upgrading your LinkedIn so you can become a real work-force creep — but remember when your 30 days are over, because which unemployed graduate can afford premium LinkedIn? Not this one.

2. Show Your Drive

You may not be totally certain on what your path is and instantly panic at the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” because let’s face it, anything you come up with will be pulled out of your rear (pardon my french). BUT: A friend of mine once gave me advice so good I felt like I had been touched by an angel. “Companies look for experience in older candidates and drive in younger ones,” he told me. The truth is, you want to be able to sound passionate and dedicated to what the company is doing in a cover letter or interview.

If it’s not honest, or comes off synthetic, well — sorry not sorry — you should probably be applying elsewhere.

Find your soul, connect with your passions and consider that the world is your oyster.

PS. Considering a career in fortune cookie quote writing. Thoughts?

3. Good Manners Go a Long Way

I know you can still hear your parents and junior school teachers in your nightmares going on about being polite and well-mannered (is that just me?). It’s an unspoken rule of the adult world, I know because I have been granted access, and you must comply. Everything is in the details. So, hold the door, say thank you, you’re welcome, and remember your table manners. Body language falls under this criteria too, meaning you should pull your shoulders back (I know you just did, HA!), stop fidgeting with your fingers and tapping your heels on the floor. Unfortunately, being still is the first step to looking cool and collected. It’s a tough world out there.

4. Ask Questions

Picture this. You’ve impeccably just answered your last interview question. It was so eloquent it sounded like someone else’s voice was coming out of your mouth. But you don’t mind, because you feel like a million bucks. ’Cause you killed it, baby! The interviewer plainly asks whether you have any questions for them, to which you respond no, because everything seems clear. Crickets. You are sorely mistaken, my friend. Nothing is clear, except for the fact that you just screwed up.

This is your chance to show genuine interest in the company. What are the next plans for growth? What has been their biggest challenge? Maybe all these things are google-able. Well, then this is an opportunity to learn about a person who is in fact employed by the company. How did they get there? What have they learned? What has shocked them? How would they describe the company’s culture? Perhaps, you’re even speaking to the founder (very likely in these startup days). Don’t you want to know how they came up with this awesome idea? At the very least, don’t you want them to think you want to know? Yes. You do. You really, really do.

5. Follow Up Actively

Excuse me for bursting your bubble, but you’re probably not the only one applying for this position. Chances are, there’s a big enough number that whoever is in charge of hiring can’t remember each individual name. To increase your chances of being remembered, write your interviewer an email ASAP to thank them for their time. More importantly, it gives you a chance to mend anything you screwed up. Did you not highlight a specific experience enough? Or are re-thinking an answer to a tricky question? Stay away from generic thank-yous and hope-to-hear-from-you-soons and include something you two may have bonded on. Anything to remind them that you are a person with a personality, not just a brilliant CV! (See what I did there?)

I have no doubt there is far more to be learned on my end, so please, do share your Getting A Job suggestions. I’m all ears (/eyes).

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