Are you a recent graduate looking for the perfect role after college?
Do you dread going into your dead-end job day after day?
We have all been there. You look at everyone smiling, talking about how fulfilling their job is. And you wonder, “What do I have to do to be like them?”
As a career coach and former Fortune 500 recruiter, I have helped over 600 professionals land their dream careers. My clients have ranged from long-time employees looking to make a major career change, to recent college graduates searching for their first job. No matter what your situation is, finding your perfect job always comes down to 6 simple steps. Follow these and you will be walking in for your first day before you know it.
Step #1: Visualize your Dream Job
This should come as no surprise. The first step to landing your dream job is to identify exactly what your dream role is. You will end up nowhere unless you start with a solid end goal in mind, so take some serious time to consider how you want to spend 40+ hours of each week.
Deciding on your ideal day-to-day activities is the first step. Don’t focus too much on job titles, but rather on what you want your responsibilities to be on a daily basis. Too many people get caught up with the titles. Sure, being a flight attendant might sound awesome at first. But when you dive deeper and realize that your job is to recite the same instructions, clean up spilled beverages (or worse), and hand out food, over and over again, then you might realize that that’s not exactly what you want to do.
If coming up with a specific position is difficult, then you can try considering what industry you want to work in. Let’s say you are a people person, then hospitality might be a good bet. Or maybe you are more introverted and analytical. Then finance or information technology might be a perfect fit.
Next, consider the type of company that you want to work for. Do you see yourself going into work with jeans and a tee shirt? Or do you want to go into work every day suited up? Now think about how many co-workers you see yourself having. Do you crave a large multi-national organization with peers all over the globe? Or do you see yourself in a close tight-knit group with a fast-moving startup vibe? Once you have an idea of what your ideal company looks like, do some research to identify specific organizations that fit within your criteria. At the end of this exercise, you should aim to have a list of 5-10 specific companies in mind.
Last, but not least, identify the compensation you are aiming to earn. But please be realistic. I’m sure everyone would love to make $150k+, but depending on where you are in your career, that might not be attainable. An easy rule of thumb is to first establish if you are a junior (0-3 years), mid-level (3-6 years), or senior professional (6 years+). Depending on your industry and location, juniors typically make $30-50k, mid-levels make $50-80k, and seniors make $80k+ in a standard white-collar job. Keep in mind that this is just a ballpark. I have seen professionals with 2 years of experience making $80k and seniors with 8+ years making $60k. Compensation varies greatly depending on your company, city, and skills. To get a more realistic idea, you can look up average salaries for certain roles in your area.
Step #2: Craft Your Personal Branding Material
I won’t be the first to tell you that you will never land your dream role without an outstanding resume. And creating a killer resume is both an art and a science. Although I could write an entire book on resume writing, there are a few basics you should follow.
Your resume should be one or two pages (max) and written in Times New Roman 10 or 11pt font. The text should always be black, with an option to use dark blue for your headings. The top of your resume should include your contact information, followed by a professional summary. In modern times, we use a professional summary, not an objective statement. Your professional experience section should stay relevant to the jobs you are applying for. This means you don’t need to include irrelevant past experience, like working in a retail shop or restaurant, if you are applying for a corporate white-collar position. Finally, your professional experience should include as many metrics and numbers as possible. Each job should also include a list of notable achievements.
The Cover Letter
The resume’s partner in crime, the cover letter, is the second key component to your personal branding package. Your cover letter should be customized to each job you are applying for and needs to be memorable and impactful. When writing a cover letter, don’t use the boring ‘To Whom It May Concern’ templates that you find online. Unless your cover letter starts with an attention grabber, like a fun fact about yourself or a personal story, no one will read past the first paragraph. Instead, set yourself apart by letting your personality shine through. Directly correlate your past experience to the position you are applying for and make sure to sell why you are the best and only candidate for the open position.
The LinkedIn Profile
Arguably the most important piece of your personal branding portfolio- your LinkedIn profile. In today’s age of technology, 70% of recruiting is done on LinkedIn. And even if you apply to a job using your resume, I can guarantee that a recruiter will look you up on LinkedIn before giving you a call. When crafting your LinkedIn profile, never copy and paste from your resume. Your LinkedIn profile needs to be personable, showing your experience and personality, while also leaving some information for your resume. For LinkedIn, one of the number one mistakes people make is leaving off a profile picture. Profiles with pictures are 80% more likely to be contacted by recruiters. So if you don’t have a professional headshot on hand, it’s time to get one.
Step #3: Leverage The Job Boards
Now it’s time to put your personal branding package to work! The three main job boards used by recruiters are CareerBuilder, Monster, and Indeed. And although it’s more of a professional social network, let’s not forget about LinkedIn. Before you start applying to positions, post your resume on all four of the platforms above. Although you will be actively applying to positions, you never know if your dream job might be the one to find you. After you have posted your resume, start searching the job boards for positions and companies that match the dream job that you have been visualizing. Try to be selective about where you apply, but also remember that it never hurts to try. Each time you apply, cater your resume and cover letter to the position you are applying for. This includes adding in relevant job description key words so your application in applicant tracking system (ATS) optimized.
Tip #4: Get Insider Information
Here is where you can really give yourself a leg up. As you can imagine, with so many people applying to each position, it is hard to set yourself apart from a resume alone.
Once you have narrowed down a few job postings that match your dream role 110%, it’s time to focus on those and get some insider information. The first step is to do a simple Google search for the company online. See if you can find news articles on current or upcoming projects, company milestones, or internal changes.
The next step is to find current employees that work in or with the department that is hiring. The best way to find these people are by asking people in your professional network or searching on LinkedIn. Once you have found some employees, send a message introducing yourself and ask if they are open to a quick phone conversation so you can learn more about their role, department, and business. Be transparent that your goal is to work for the company but that you want to talk to people that work there first. Most professionals won’t hesitate to share what they do and will be happy to hear that you are doing some research.
Once you have talked to a few employees, it’s time to reach out to the hiring manager directly. You can usually figure out who the hiring manager is through the employees or through HR and then find their contact information on the company website or LinkedIn. When you reach out to the hiring manager, write a thoughtful note incorporating some of the insider information that you learned about their company. They will be impressed that you took the time to research and are taking the initiative, rather than just submitting your resume and letting luck handle the rest.
Tip #5: Ace The Interview
Creating your personal branding material is just the first step in the process. Once you get an interview scheduled, the real work begins.
To ace the interview, make sure you calm your nerves. Remember that the hiring manager is a human being, just like you, and they have their own lives and personal issues. The sooner you remember this, the sooner you will form a personal connection, which is key to acing your interview. Hiring someone for a job is 40% about their skills and the other 60% is all personality and cultural fit.
Do your homework before attending the interview. There is nothing worse than someone coming in without the slightest idea about the company or the job they would be doing. Make it your mission to learn everything possible about the company, department, and team. You can also go the extra mile by researching the hiring manager/interviewer to find out some personal information, like their favorite sports team or hobbies.
After the interview, immediately send a follow-up thank you note. This should be done via email and good ‘ole fashion snail mail. A thank you note could be a make or break. I have met three separate professionals who swear that they won their dream jobs simply because of the follow-up message. If the hiring managers is torn between you and another candidate, this small act of gratitude could be what makes them swing one way or the other.
Tip #6: Negotiate & Accept Your Offer
Congrats! You have made it through the final round of interviews and have been extended an offer. Now it’s time to negotiate your requirements and lock down your dream role.
When negotiating, remember to show gratitude first. Thank them for the offer and tell them how excited you are to join their team. Depending on your level, it’s okay to negotiate pay and perks slightly, especially if you have valid arguments behind it, like receiving a better offer. That being said, don’t push it too hard, as you could scare them away before your first day starts.
When negotiating, always have evidence to back your claim up. Don’t just say you want $20k more because you think you are worth it. Show them how you will make an impact at their company and how they will be able to quickly get a return on their investment.
After locking down your perks and pay, send an email and mail a letter officially accepting your offer, making sure to state your agreed upon pay and start date.
Now it’s time to celebrate! You have landed your dream job. Soak it up and get ready for your first day.