Tuesday, February 3, 2015

21 Tips for Job Hunting - A Comprehensive Strategy

Hello New & Returning Readers,

TheLadders.com is currently doing a project where they are looking for people to provide tips to new college grads about to enter the working world.   I had always meant to do a post on job searching and so I figured, why not now?

However, here are my 21 tips on entering the workforce, whether for the very first time or not. AKA – Kiyomi’s 21-Step Job Hunt Strategy

1)      Contact everyone you know in a personalized, positive, fun email

When I first graduated college and whenever I am seeking new opportunities, I will literally email everyone I know.  And when I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE.  This includes my landlord, my accountant, non-profits I volunteered with, college professors, old and current classmates, old co-workers, I told my dentist when I saw him at my teeth cleaning, my foreign exchange student that I tutored as a volunteer, and obviously my friends and family knew.  The list can go on. 

The point of the email is to check in with that person - ask how they are and ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS.  Ask by name how their spouse, kids, pets, certain hobby, or anything personal about them is doing/coming along.  Remind them about the last time you saw them or communicated with them.  And then share 3 things about yourself.  First, what you have been up to recently that is exciting, fun or new, why and what sort of job you are looking for, and your contact information and an online link to your resume or a social media profile (more on this later). 

The email should be to continue or further establish a “relationship” you already have with them.  It should be written in a tone that is upbeat, gracious, and grateful.  You are re-connecting with people and encouraging them to keep you posted on their lives too in case you would be able to help out at some point as well.

2)      Ask to meet for fun and to conduct informational interviews

When you send out an email as mentioned above, those who are happy to hear from you and want to help you will respond.  Those who are too busy will probably just read it and delete.  That’s okay.  When they write back, they may just update you on what’s new.  That’s great.  It is a way to catch up and keep the doors of communication open.  Others will suggest to meet up for coffee or a meal.  That’s great too.  You can hang out with your friend and informally conduct an informational interview.  Whenever I meet people for coffee or a meal, I am always interested to learn about them as a person and their work.  It must be my journalist background and curious nature.  The casual informational interview is to just hang out with them socially and to catch up.  At some point, you’ll update them on how you are and you can gather information, advice, insight about what they do, their company, or general advice where you should look for leads.  The goal is to get INFORMATION and ADVICE which almost anyone can provide, not ask for an interview, a favor, or a job.   Perhaps they will offer to critique your resume or introduce you to someone else to do an informational interview with.  You will get a general sense how willing they are able to help you.  Since they are helping you, don’t ask for or expect them to do a ton of favors for you.  I love doing informationals because I like learning about what people do, even if I am not in that industry, and perhaps get an office tour down the line, and make a new friend if they introduce me to someone else.

3)      Work with temping and recruiting agencies – all of them

When you are looking for a job, contact every temp and recruiting agency in town.  Send your cover letter and resume to a specific person, their general email address, or fill out their online form/application.  They all have different clients and cater to different parts of the city or industries.  Sure, some of them might have the same jobs, but you will soon find that sometimes a company will only work with one specific agency.  And all you need is ONE lead, ONE job interview, or that ONE contact that can change everything for you.  Job hunting is a numbers and timing game.  Google for all the agencies in town, look on Yelp, or look on LinkedIn.  Talk to people you know and see which ones were their favorites.  At each company, I may reach out to more than one person, maybe 3, just to increase my odds of someone reading it and responding.

4)      Meet new people

The best time to look for a job is when you don’t need one.  Fostering relationships continuously is key here.  I try to be very active in my personal life, with my community, and in general.  I ran a book club for 2 years.  I ran a MeetUp group for 2 years.  I was a big sister for 2 years.  I raised money and walked shelter dogs for 2 years.  I volunteer A LOT with other organizations seasonally.  If I am able, I give informational interviews myself, sometimes to complete strangers.  I should cultivate my online presence a bit more, but I tend to focus more on what is local/in real life.  Still, I do have 7+ online avenues to engage with people, whether acquaintances or strangers (again, more on this later).    

I actively grow my LinkedIn network every week, if not every day.  If I read a business article about someone in Los Angeles, I look them up and add them.  Any time at work I am cc’d on a email, I add those people that I am or will be working with soon.  When I hear about a company that interests me for any reason, I look for people who work there to add to my network.

Find methods that work best for your personality and schedule – whether in person, online, or if you are standing in line at the grocery store. 

5)      Explore for leads everywhere & be creative

You would be surprised where and how you can find new friends or leads.  One time I was interviewing in a building that had one set of restrooms for the whole floor.  I arrived a little too early so instead of going to the interview, I decided to go to the restrooms, but it was locked.  On a whim, I decided to go to a random company’s door I saw where the door was cracked open.  I knocked and asked if I could use the restroom key since I had an interview down the hall.  I was dressed up in a suit so it was pretty obvious.  The kind lady asked me what I did for work so I gave her my resume.  She gave me her business card.  I used the restroom, returned the key, and thanked her profusely.  When I got home I looked up the company.  Apparently, I had just walked into an A-list celebrity’s production office and befriended the Director of Development.  I still keep in touch with them today.  

Another time, I was in the bathroom, again before an interview.  LOL  And I noticed someone had forgotten their ID badge and I was the only one in the restroom.  So, instead of giving it to security, I decided to go up to the floor and return it myself to reception.  And since I was there, I dropped off my resume and cover letter.  Did it help that I was in a business suit and looked like I belonged at first?  Yes.  Did the receptionist throw it away?  Probably.  Did I lose much in time and effort?  No, maybe 1 minute.  As of now, I can’t tell if it worked or not, but at least I tried.

In college, I sat next to this girl and I overheard she interned at a very prominent radio station.  I boldly asked her if I could get a tour one day.  So she asked her office and I got to go.  And when I got there, I got to meet the morning disc jockey, see the offices, meet another radio DJ who put me on the air to introduce a song, and I got to stay for the whole shift and watch how it all worked and ask questions in between.   Fun fact – the traffic person doesn’t even sit there and it’s the same one or two traffic people that give the traffic report for the entire city for all the different radio stations, except they change their name.  One station they might be Bob from WXYZ, another Bill from ABCD.  About a year later, I ended up blindly submitting my resume there even though they had no openings.  I secured a position as an intern for the drive home radio DJ who is a celebrity now too.  Yes, it was bold of me to ask my classmate that I barely knew.  The worst they could say was no.

This also means applying for jobs online through Monster, Craigslist, company websites, or sending your cover letter and resume via snail mail, which has also worked for me.  

6)      Have a list of references

I assume you’ve interned, had a part time job, a full time job, or volunteered at some point in your life.  Anywhere you are working, when people compliment you and enjoy working with you, you should ask for a reference.  This reference could be in the form of 3 sentences on LinkedIn, a recommendation letter, or to get their personal email and cell phone number (in case they leave the company).  It’s great to ask for this when you go above and beyond the call of duty, did a major project, or achievement or spent a good chunk of time helping out.  When you ask, phrase it so they understand only if they feel comfortable and can speak to great qualities you may have, they would endorse you.  Also, ask in a manner so they know you would love the rec sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, not ASAP.  This way they don’t feel the need to make it a priority, but it does go on their to-do list instead of forgetting about it to never be done.  I also urge you to get more than one rec from a role or company.  Why?  People die, some are better writers than others, or worked on different projects with you, people go on vacation, you might lose touch with them somehow, etc.  You can get references from a boss, co-worker, vendor, or client.  Continue getting references at every role and of course whenever you job hunt remind them in a personal email that they may get calls and attach the reference letter they wrote for you to refresh their memory. 

7)      Have a professional online and a social media presence

Remember that tagline, “If it’s not in the Yellow Pages, maybe it doesn’t exist?”  If you can’t be found online, you may as well not exist.  Recruiters do look for candidates online and cultivate in person relationships.  Your professional online presence should include a profile at LinkedIn, even if you are in high school or college.  Your Facebook should be private.  You can have a free online landing page like about.me or other similar ones.  You should have a Twitter account, or maybe even a blog.  And you can post your resume online with a personalized link at Indeed.  Have all this in your email signature for every email you write.  I even go so far as to post my resume to job sites just in case that ONE recruiter who can change everything finds me there.  And, it’s actually happened. 

8)      Be responsive

I have a personal policy to respond to all emails within 24 hours if not if within 7 hours at most.  Typically, I am pretty successful at this.  During business hours, depending on if I am in meetings or not, I try to respond within minutes or 2-3 hours.  When it comes to phone calls, when I return a call, I won’t leave a voicemail, but will email them that I just tried them and would try again later that day.  Voicemail is a bit outdated to me.  It’s easier for someone to discreetly check their emails while in a mtg, but holding a phone up to their ear is hard to hide.  Business moves at a rapid pace so being responsive shows you are considerate of other people’s time.  As the saying goes, you snooze you lose.  

9)      Know what you are seeking, however vague

When you job hunt, have SOME idea of what you are looking for or what you want.  If you have NO IDEA then any decision you make is just on a whim and you are lacking a focus.  Your parameters can be as vague as I have no idea what I want to do, but I want to test the waters to learn more about what I do or don’t like.  Or you will stay away from jobs or things you know you don’t like instead of repeating history.  It could be you are willing to relocate or know you must only stay in warm climates.  If you give it some thought, you know a little of who you are or what you want.  You will be able to come up with some parameters and lines to draw on why you will say yes to one opportunity versus another. 

For those who know what they want, write everything down that you want in your dream job.  That list can be a long as you want it to be.  This brings me to my next point.

10)   Know your must haves and can’t stand

Life is not 100% anything.  It’s not 100% fair, happy, or perfect.  The most we can hope for is 80% satisfaction and 20% will always be annoying, unpleasant, or out of your control.  Knowing this, you must draw a line with what you can live with and what you can’t.  And statistically speaking, you can probably only have the Top 3 of what you want and not much more.  What happens after that is what you are looking for literally doesn’t exist.  So to be hopeful, maybe aim for 3 things you must have and 3 things you can’t live with.  Let this list be your litmus test and pro/con list you use to compare jobs and interview opportunities.

11)   Do your research

Through all this outreach, you are hopefully getting interviews and introductory meetings booked.  Points 11 and 12 tend happen simultaneously. 

Now is the time to do your research to help yourself make better, more informed decisions.  An introductory meeting with a recruiter will more or less be them interviewing you about your career history, what you’re looking for and them vetting you.  If they ask if you have any questions for them, especially when a specific role is not open for your background, a good question to ask is how long they have been a recruiter, what they did before, and what do they enjoy about recruiting.  This way you can get to know them a little better as a person.  If you have an introductory meeting at a company (that is not a recruiting or headhunting agency) or an actual interview for a specific job, here are places that I do research – whether some or all. 

-Their website
-Wikipedia page
-Recent news articles
-Salary dot com
-Glassdoors dot com
-Anyone you know who worked there or currently does
-Social media outlets
-Job description

I typically print all these out a couple of days before a call or meeting.  I highlight important information.  I craft a ton of questions on what I want to know about the role, the team, the company, the near future, immediate goals, and challenges and enjoyable aspects.

12)   Say yes until you must say no

Be curious and always seek more information before making a decision.  Once you say no, all communication and possibilities halt.  So instead of making assumptions, see where a conversation takes you or what could unfold.  If you must say no, for instance, if a job means you must relocate and you know 100% you won’t, decline very politely in an upbeat way.  How?  You can say something along the lines of, “This role sounds very exciting.  I only wish it was located in Houston as I am unable to relocate.  Should anything change or other roles in Houston come up, I’d love to be kept in mind.”    

The point of a job hunt is to get as many quality interviews as you can.  The point of the job interview is not to get the job.  The point of the interview is two fold.  One, is to see if you and the role are a good match.  And two, always sell yourself to the job and company so you can go on the second and third interviews.  You want to be one of the final candidates.  The end goal is to get a job offer, but first you must be invited to an interview.  Then you can always say no if you have time to job hunt more, have other interviews, or other offers to consider.

13)   Send cards / be grateful & be humble

I am a big fan of thank you cards vs thank you emails.  I try to send these out the same day I went on the interview or had a phone call as it will take a day or two to get delivered.  I always have tons of stamps, thank you cards, blank cards, and stationary on hand along with pre-printed address labels.  I also include my personal business card with my name, cell number, email address, and city, state, and USA printed on it since I do travel overseas sometimes.  The cards and stationary are from Target and the business cards were bought from Vista Print. 

In instances where people have directly helped me get a job by making an important introduction or went out of their way for me, I will give a gift, if appropriate.  The timing of the gift is also crucial.  For example, I got promoted after being at a company fairly quickly.  When I got promoted, I actually gave a gift to the person who got me my first job at the company.  Rather than thank them when I first got hired (I did send a thank you card), I thanked them when I got promoted.  If that person didn’t give me a chance, I wouldn’t have started working there, and I wouldn’t have been up for the promotion.  It may have been a few months for me to properly thank that person, but since they weren’t expecting a gift, they were very grateful.  And the gift doesn’t need to be big, it can be worth $20 whether a Starbucks or iTunes gift card or something else. 

14)   Unique selling point/know yourself

A large part of job hunting is knowing what you can offer to companies.  Think about what you are good at, who  you are as a person, and why people enjoy knowing you.  What is your unique selling point?  It could be that you are good at organizing, or have a lot of ideas, or have good visual design skills, or are very nice, or funny, or know a lot about Photoshop.  There are 3-5 things that you make you, you.  Figure those out and also figure out what your weaknesses are.  That is a question that will come up and have 3 in mind.  Everyone has faults, no one is perfect so you can’t answer, “nothing.”  Pick a trait or skill that you know most people in your field have and you haven’t fully mastered yet or had the chance to utilize at work, or something you want to learn more about, or a misconception about your skill set you may want to address.  To use myself as an example, I have worked for a couple of Executive Producers, however, I have no script reading nor notes coverage experience.  It was something I never had to do as by the time the script got to the Executive Producer, we had already bought the script and were actively working on that production.  My boss was not hired to look for good scripts; my boss was making films the CEO already purchased, which is a rare role. 

15)   Create your own luck

A large part of a successful job hunt is staying positive and keeping the faith.  As I mentioned before, job hunting, like with dating, is a numbers game.  One has to send out a lot of resumes, meet people, apply to jobs, and try a lot to be successful.  If you are sitting at home, watching tv, people have no idea you are looking for a job, that you need help they may be able to offer, that you are even alive and exist.  Creating your own luck means doing a lot of actions that may seem pointless AT THE TIME, but in fact, come to fruition, days or weeks later.  Everyone is busy and so they may not read your email until after they get back from Hawaii 3 weeks after you sent it.  Perhaps someone in their family died and they haven’t checked any personal emails for a month.  Many times for all you know, they got your email and saved it in their file for a job they know will open up in 3 months when someone is getting promoted or moving across the country.  In reaching out to everyone you know and hustling, the goal is for you to be the first person they think of WHEN THERE IS AN OPENING.  You want to plant a lot of seeds now so that come harvest time, your resume gets plucked from the pile and they call you.  Create your own luck and allow fate, destiny, good fortune, and the stars aligning to greet you as if to say, "Woohoo!"

16)   Pass it on

When I first started looking for a job, I was really surprised how many people helped me out of the kindness of their hearts when they had nothing to gain, and really did not gain anything.  There was no referral bonus or the like.  I would send my resume to a total stranger, they would read it and send it to another total stranger.  I really think it has to do with the fact that someone had also helped them out and they were told to pass it on.  I try to help others when I can.  I will fwd a job posting if it seems up their alley, I will re-write their resume, I will introduce them to someone on LinkedIn, I will suggest agencies they can reach out to.  I introduce my friends to other friends.  So help someone out every now and then and return the favor.  It can even be a tid bit of advice or a blog like mine.

17)   Treat yourself as a company with a grass roots marketing campaign

You are a person who has inherent worth and value.  You should view yourself as human capital, a unique commodity, and a person who was put on this earth to do good.  Any thing of value should be presented as such, which means you should treat yourself as its own small company and have a grass roots marketing campaign. What I mean by this is, just like every company selling an idea or a product, they have a message and a way of distributing it.  They buy ads on tv, have posters, and make money.  You will do the same except you will advertise you are looking for a job through friends, a free landing page, use your resume, cover letter, social media profiles, business cards, thank you cards, and every tool at your disposal to help you get a job to make money.  You are doing whatever every business does, but for a company of one.  Go full blast on all cylinders.  Run your life as a for profit company, which leads me to my next point.

18)   Collect unemployment

If you are offered unemployment, use it.  When I first graduated college and got laid off in a merger, I was offered unemployment, but never filed for it.  In my immature little mind, I equated it with being on welfare, enough though my tax dollars paid for unemployment so I was really just getting my money back, sorta like a refund.  However, I had too much pride and didn’t realize my taxes paid for unemployment.  Looking back, I am not sure what I was thinking.  Obviously, I was not thinking at all, much less educating myself to a higher degree about finances and such.  Not cool.  Companies get bailed out and can file for bankruptcy.  So you can cash an unemployment check too.  Don't make the same mistake I did.  

19)   Save money

One of the best strategies for conducting a job hunt is having the peace of mind that you don’t need to panic once your last paycheck is cashed.  Not having a savings account is equivalent to saying, “I will take any job because I have to.”  Having a savings account means you can find the right job, not just any job.  So once you land that job, think of ways you can save a little bit each paycheck.  Take advantage of a matching 401k plan, a flexible spending account, and buy the best health insurance you can afford.  Having a retirement savings account, an emergency savings account, a rainy day savings account, and a checking account to pay your bills is paramount to running the successful company that is YOU.  Read more about finances and slowly build a nest egg.  Having money stashed away is like buying insurance, you have it in hopes that you don't need it, but when you do need it you are damn happy to have it.  :)

20)   Don’t  hold out forever

Also keep in mind, at some point you will have to take a job as your money will run out.  You can’t look for the perfect job for 5 years.  Timing plays a large role in a job hunt.  You will be pulled in a lot of directions for what you want, what’s available, what is a fair compromise, and if you will temp, do contract work, or job hunt while you still have a job.  Weigh how much time you have to comfortably look for a job and where in the job hunt process you are at.  Sometimes, as you are finishing up a round of interviews with one company you may be starting the process with a new company that you like more.  You have to weigh the risks and rewards of saying yes to a job too early or say no to a job too late in your search.   If you say yes too early, for example, by taking the very first job offered to you because you need the money, you’ve cut yourself short.  If you say no to a job offer very late in your search, you may be stuck with no interviews if it’s right around Thanksgiving & all the major holidays.  Nothing is set in stone, yet think long term about where you are now and where you want to be and weigh decisions carefully. 

21)   Rinse and repeat

And my final tip is, do all 20 steps above repeatedly during your job hunt and anytime you start a brand new job hunt.  Learn from your mistakes, make improvements, tweak your strategy as new information or technology becomes available.  Learn what works for you, improvise, and throw in your own suggestions and tips too!

I invite all of your feedback in the comments section!  Good luck, have fun, enjoy the journey, and while competition is fierce out there, there is a role just for YOU!  It is just waiting patiently for you to find it.  Carpe Diem!

 ***New “rule” - when you ask me a question for anonymous advice and I answer it, could you write an anonymous comment so I know you're the one who ASKED and read the post?   :)  

As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. 

I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant. 



  1. do you need a temp/intern/let me follow you around and learn your ways?
    taking full advantage of the steps / blog post :)

    -- Jaci

    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.February 18, 2015 at 5:49 PM


      LOL Thank you for the message! :) I admire your courage! I am go glad you liked the post too.

  2. I discovered your blog a few months ago and have been regularly checking it and reading posts ever since! I'm only an admin but I hope to grow in my career and your blog is the perfect thing to read whenever I need some tips or just as encouragement to be more excellent. I love the wealth of wisdom and information I find here!! I'm very much looking forward to your next post!
    - Jessica

    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstMay 25, 2015 at 11:32 AM

      Jessica - Thank you so much for the nice email! I am so glad you are enjoying all the old posts! I really need to write a new one. I have a few ideas brewing, but I want whatever I write to be of help and impactful vs just fluff. Hope you are having a great weekend.