Recommitting to the Job Search

Written By: Paulette Risher

President & CEO Still Serving Veterans, Major General, US Army Reserve, Retired

Are you unemployed, underemployed, miserably-employed, or transitioning military and feel that you have lost your way in the job search?  If so, here are seven concrete actions you can take to refresh and re-energize your job search as well as to take care of yourself during this often stressful time.

Action 1: Re-Frame Your Job Search In Terms Of Your Life

As you think about where are you in life, take some time to reconsider your job search in terms of your life, not just a paycheck. Several years ago I developed a framework that I and others call the “Six C’s” to guide this reflection.

  • Content. What kind of work do you want to do and do you not want to do?
  • Context. What kind of work setting do you prefer and what kind do you wish to avoid?
  • Culture. What kind of organizational culture do you prefer and what kind doesn’t fit with who you are?
  • Colleagues. What kind of people do you like to work with? You’ll never love everyone at work, but you have some choice.
  • Constraints. What are the constraints that are influencing your job search? (physical, emotional, geographic, family, etc.)? The reality is that we all live constrained lives. Making these constraints explicit to yourself will help focus your job search.
  • Compensation. What kind of money do you need to make? What kind of money do you want to make? These are two different things.

Also, consider what are your best skills. What are the skills you are good at but don’t want to do? What are the skills that you aren’t good at, but might want to learn?

Action 2: Refresh Your Resume

Everyone has an opinion on resumes and there is no “one size fits all” template. However, there are a couple of principles that I believe apply to all resumes.

  • Keep them short. No resume, no matter the length of career and amount of experience should be more than 2 1/2 pages.
  • Be employer-centric. Put the important qualifications on the top of the first page, don’t make the prospective employer hunt for the details (hint: they won’t!).
  • Show don’t tell. Take out anything that is just self-proclamation and chest-thumping. No visionary, great leader, excellent communicator, insightful, team player, blah-blah-blah. Demonstrate these traits in the experience sections and later in the interview.
  • Bulletize and add metrics. Make it easy to understand what you have done. Add meaningful metrics. Do not use paragraphs because resume reviewers will not read a “wall of words.” They are busy, typically overwhelmed with resumes, and with a mindset for elimination, not inclusion.
  • Tailor the resume. Show that you are really interested in the position for which you are applying. Use the language of the employer’s job description. For example, if management experience is important, use “management” not “leadership.” Many/most employers use applicant tracking systems which are set to look for keywords.

Action 3: Re-Post Your Resume

Post your refreshed resume on Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and if you are transitioning military, a Veteran, or a member of the Guard or Reserves, on RecruitMilitary. If you have an active security clearance, I recommend you also post your resume on Cleared Jobs. Go through and check/tweak your resume periodically and repost it since many of these sites have HR/recruiter tools that will highlight “new” resumes.

Action 4: Refresh LinkedIn And Other Social Media

LinkedIn is the social network for working professionals (or those who would like to be). It has become a critical venue for those who are looking for a job or a better job. Please don’t roll your eyes. Talent acquisition and recruiters spend a lot of time (and money) on LinkedIn. Even if you are seeking an entry-level or a position that you might not consider “professional,” take the time to set up a basic LinkedIn profile. It will set you apart and hiring managers do look.

There are countless blogs and articles on setting up LinkedIn profiles, but here are three items I think are particularly important.

LinkedIn Picture. Think carefully about the image you are portraying with your LinkedIn profile picture. Make sure the picture is consistent with the kind of work you want to do. Don’t overdress and don’t dress too casually. Avoid selfies – you can do better. Avoid anything that might be considered a “come on” or too sexy; the mug-shot stance; anything with pets or other people; and any hobby or interest shot. If you are transitioning military or a Veteran, no pictures in uniform. LinkedIn is a professional, business network.

LinkedIn Backdrop. If your LinkedIn backdrop is the plain gray LinkedIn default, you are hurting yourself! The lack of a relevant or interesting background image may be seen as your not caring, just going through the motions, or not being technology-savvy (a particular negative for older workers).

LinkedIn is a place to let people gain some insight into you as a person and hobbies, interests, nature, local landmarks (especially valuable when you are new to an area) are all potentially suitable background content. If you must, you can just Google LinkedIn background images and you will find something you can use.

Profile Update. Start with your updated resume, “cut n’ paste” the basic content into your profile, and then edit it. It is OK to attach your latest resume, however, it is not searchable and doesn’t make it easy for potential employers/recruiters to find you. Also, a generic resume doesn’t necessarily showcase the experience and skills the recruiter is looking for and that you may have.

Following. Follow groups, companies, organizations, or industries you are interested in. This is an easy way to show connectivity to the greater world and to highlight your interests and background.

Certifications. If you have certifications, be sure that they are listed.

Connections. Once you have a good picture, background image, and profile posted, it is time to “connect.” Your goal is to have “500+” connections. Start with your “friends and family,” business, community, church, club, or others that you know. Include your Mayor or other civic leaders that make sense. As you focus on a particular kind of work or employer, you can search for key people in that arena and ask to connect with them.

LinkedIn is not Facebook, if you ask to connect with someone and they don’t respond, it is not (usually) a personal rejection. Some people have accounts but aren’t real LinkedIn users and others have certain criteria for accepting a connection. For example, I connect with almost any Veteran, a friend of a friend, or a potential Veteran employer. I do not usually connect with people trying to sell me something, anything that sets off my “sleaze alarm,” or someone who doesn’t have a picture.

Other Social Media. Beyond LinkedIn, you should review your other social media accounts and look at them through the eyes of a potential employer. If you might be seen as political, angry, mean-spirited, discriminatory, foul-mouthed, or socially inept, employers will reject you and you won’t even know it. I have had people whine about this, but it is a reality. Looking through public social media accounts is what 98% of employers do to make a judgment about whether you are the kind of person they want to work with.

Google. Finally, before leaving the virtual world, take the time to search for your name on Google and see what comes up. Hopefully, something positive like your LinkedIn profile will be first. However, if a child molester with your same name lives in the same neighborhood – you need to know that!

Action 5: Master Zoom And Video Tools

Undoubtedly one of the major social and cultural changes attributable to COVID-19 is the move to “virtual” meetings and interviews. You must become comfortable with these tools. These are four steps you should take now and not on the day of your interview:

Zoom. Download Zoom to your computer or the computer you would use for an interview. While there are a variety of applications such as Webex, Google Meets, Windows Teams, etc., Zoom is the most widely used and if you have the setting correct for Zoom, the others will work as well. While there were initial concerns about Zoom security, they have made rapid improvements and no place on the Internet is really “safe.”

Setting. Carefully orchestrate the area visible from your computer’s camera. It should be clean, neat, quiet, private, well-lit (from the front), and reflective of who you are as a person. While Zoom and other tools offer virtual backdrops they usually do not project well and create distracting halos as you move. Use them only if you have to.

Computer/Camera Location. The goal is to put yourself at eye level with the person you are speaking with. If you are using a laptop, set it on something so you are not hunched down and squinting into the camera. Make it so you can sit with a good upright, but not uptight, posture.

Prepare and Rehearse. Do a dry run with Zoom. Be sure that you are comfortable with the video and audio settings. Remember that the interviewer won’t see your “cheat sheets” and notes.

Action 6: Reconnect Socially And Personally

When you are unemployed, it is easy to become socially isolated. In the Veteran’s world, we call this “living in your mama’s basement.” However, the reality is that only a small portion of jobs are found online. Most are found through networking and referral. You need to get out of your house and engage with your personal and professional community.

If you are not working, let people know that you are actively looking for work. If you are working and looking for a better job, let trusted people know you are looking so that the timing of the move to a new position is yours, not your current employer’s.

There are three specific pieces of advice for reconnecting:

1. Take pride in your appearance. Anytime you go out of the house, be sure to look presentable. You never know when a casual conversation waiting in line or running into a casual acquaintance may result in a job lead.

2. Volunteer. Research shows that those who volunteer in their communities have shorter periods of unemployment.

3. Participate in the life of your community. Virtually every community has free or low-cost events and activities. These can include social get-togethers, job clubs, faith-based activities, sporting events, and special-interest meetings.

Action 7: Recommit To Yourself and Your Job Search

When you are in the midst of a job search, it is easy to neglect your own health and well-being. Without regular hours and a routine to add structure to your life, it is easy to over-eat and become a “couch potato.” Over time, these factors can contribute to depression, social withdrawal, and a loss of sense of identity and self.

However, these are not inevitable. Start with a commitment to regular physical activity to clear your head and help protect your body from the long-term effects of stress. Second, treat job hunting as a job. Maintain a routine for the search and create a calendar of networking and social events. Be deliberate and systematic in your approach.

There is, however, a caution here. Don’t confuse activity with impact. I had a client who talked about the hundreds of applications he was submitting and bemoaned that he had not gotten a single inquiry. I had to remind him of Einstein’s definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. His resume was generic and poorly written, his search was unfocused, and he was unrealistic about his value in the marketplace. Staying on this same path would never yield a job, let alone a career.

Finally, take care of yourself emotionally and spiritually. Being unemployed, underemployed, or miserably employed can make you vulnerable to depression and self-destructive addictions or behaviors. Seek support. Turn to your God and your spiritual community. Turn to your friends, family, and tribe. Turn to your community service providers. Remember that seeking help is a sign of personal strength and self-awareness, not weakness or a character flaw. All of us need the loving support of others.

By Paulette Risher
Paulette Risher