My previous (and first!) article detailed the demolition of my childhood home, letting go of the past, and making room for the future. Well, this “out with the old, in with the new” philosophy has manifested itself in my career as well.
I was recently laid off for lack of work. It had nothing to do with my performance, there was simply not enough new business coming in for me to have a full-time position. I was devastated. I had finally managed to land my first full-time job, now this. And as a recent college graduate with little professional experience, the offers were hardly pouring in. I cried for days. Not knowing if I’d even be able to make next month’s rent. Feeling panicked. Helpless. Worthless. But its not getting laid off that would have killed me. It’s this mindset. It’s poisonous, and I needed a new one quick if I was going to survive this.
1. The first step to recovery is acceptance. I began to replace negative thoughts about my job loss with positive thoughts about the future. I realized that I had gotten all I could out of this position, and that it wasn’t right for me in the first place. I was underpaid, underutilized, and unsatisfied. This was exactly the motivation I needed to go out and find the next stepping-stone to my dream job. So I made a plan, and began to see a dim light at the end of this dark tunnel.
2. First (or second) things first I needed to file for unemployment, for the time being. I am still waiting to find out my benefits, which probably won’t be much considering how little I worked last year, but something’s better than nothing.
3. Next, I needed to completely overhaul my resume. I had been tweaking the same version for too long, it was time for a total reformat. A fresh new layout, new paragraph style experience, updated and upgraded. It’s amazing what overhauling your resume can do. Make sure you research resumes for your field, as employers in different industries may vary in what they are looking for. For example, I researched resumes for the Public Relations field, and here’s what I found – most experience seemed to be written paragraph style, most employers look for a good career summary at the top (1-2 sentences), make sure to use key words to draw attention (social media, blogging, content), it must grab the readers attention in the first few seconds, and the formatting must be neat, consistent, and easy to follow. Check, check, check. My resume looks immensely better, and that light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.
4. Now, this isn’t like, the 90’s – your online presence today may be equally, if not more important than your resume, especially for those like myself pursuing a PR / Social Media career. LinkedIn is huge. It’s like your resume on steroids, and it’s free! I updated my profile, using my spiffy new resume as a base. I updated my profile photo from one where I clearly looked like I was in college, to a fancier, more recent one that focused just on my face looking pretty. Your photo must be professional looking (not professional quality necessarily, but it must show you as a professional). Very important. Now go and do this to all your social media accounts. They are all available for potential employers to see. Make sure you are portraying yourself in the manner in which you wish to be perceived. Next I crafted a “tag line” like the set of key words I used in my resume, and included it in all my social media accounts. It’s a quick, easy way to let people know you mean business.
5. Your profile is a huge part of social media. But the other huge part is networking, and getting your pages out there for the world to see. If you’ve got a message you want people to hear, you must have fans. I began following other local Seattleites with similar interests, as well as companies, reporters, and others in my industry. They followed me back. I’m now gaining new followers every day. I joined more groups on LinkedIn, to use not only as a basis for daily research / news in my field, but as platforms to share my work. I can contribute to conversations and discussions, talk to real people in my industry, and let them know I’m serious about my career. Take advantage of this marvelous thing called the Internet that allows instant access to nearly everyone and everything. Simply by joining these discussion groups on LinkedIn, and following websites and blogs, I’ve gained access to more helpful information regarding my field than I did in my four years at university. Seriously.
6. Out of this research came one blinding realization that could be the difference between getting and not getting a job. I need my own personal website, an online portfolio / resume if you will. This is becoming more common every day; if you’re not online, you’re nowhere. Contemplating this new website idea, I began to think about my experience, or lack-there-of. Then it hit me. I need to create my own experience. If no one will give it to me, I’ve got to make it myself! Especially if I plan on using my writing as my strong suit, I’ve got to write! Enter the blog. I’ve been meaning to start one for some time now, but I just never had the motivation. Well here it is. I’m in the process of designing my shiny new WordPress site now. I hope you’re enjoying my second article!
7. I’ve got all my ducks of success in a row now – new resume, ramped up social media presence, personal website / blog, and gaggle of other tips and tricks I learned in the research process. Now I’ve got to make them all talk to each other. Most resumes today are sent / received via email. You can include direct links to your online resources to make it easy for your potential employer to check out who you are and what you can do. Badges also make it super easy to add your social media accounts to your website for quick links with a nice visual appeal. Everything you do should link to something else you’ve done. “It’s all about connections” takes on a whole new meaning in the digital age.
Now comes the fun part…actually applying for jobs. But looking at myself as a candidate now versus the last time I applied for jobs, I can’t help but feel confident. I know there’s an awesome job just waiting around the corner for me – one where I can write, one where I can be funny and creative and…myself! All I needed was a swift kick in the pants. I may not have the most professional experience yet, but you can be damn sure I’m going to work hard every day at creating experience for myself. I know there’s a boatload of young professionals with that same sinking feeling I had. But all it takes is some research, a plan of action, and a willingness to get out there and do the work you want to be doing. You must create your own experience. Wish me luck, I hope you enjoy and continue to follow. And good luck to you, friends!