Job search tips that work

You may have noticed that, since last September, many of my posts here at Get Rich Slowly have focused on the job search. Some of you may have wondered why I would write about such a topic at all, since my job tenure was over seven years.

Well, it's because I have been job-hunting. And I succeeded! As I write this, I just wrapped up my first week at a new job.

So I thought it would be helpful to revisit some of the posts I wrote during that time to see what job search tips actually worked for me as I went through the process. Here's an overview of how I approached my job search and what made it successful.

Curating my online presence

One of the first aspects of the job hunt I talked about was how to curate your social media presence when job-hunting. This was step one for me. I have always had the privacy settings on my Facebook account pretty high and avoided talking about work there (positive or negative). So I wasn't terribly concerned about my online presence. However, I did beef up my LinkedIn account, and I signed up for their premium service for a (free) test month too.

Searching outside my current industry

I have a PhD, and almost all of my jobs have been in the field of higher education. However, as most of you probably know, most jobs in higher education (with the exception of upper administration) don't pay as well as comparable jobs outside of academia. I have been trying unsuccessfully to advance in my current industry for years, so this time I decided to broaden my search and consider regular jobs, for lack of a better term — and it worked.

Interviewing my prospective employer

I already had a job when I was asked for an interview, so I felt comfortable enough to interview my prospective employer in the process. I asked a lot of questions about what the job would entail because I had never worked in this industry before — and I'm glad I did.

What I learned by asking questions was that, while the industry was different, I had experience that aligned with the actual job duties. It helped me realize which of my transferable skills — primarily that I enjoy collaboration and consider myself a fast learner — I should highlight in the interview.

There was more to consider than salary

I was offered the job after an in-person interview and some phone conversations. (The business operates out of multiple locations, and some of the people I needed to talk to were in remote offices.) I was drawn to the fact that the company had a laid-back atmosphere and offered things not easily available at my current employer, such as, the ability to set my own schedule and work remotely. However, the vacation/sick time wasn't as generous and the insurance wasn't as good.

I still considered salary

The sticking point, however, did end up being salary. The salary I was eventually offered was lower than that mentioned earlier in the process. Additionally, while it was higher than my current salary, it wasn't high enough to make leaving an extremely stable job that I knew I excelled at an attractive option. Finally, once I took into consideration the fact that they didn't offer a 401(k) match, it was actually a (tiny) pay cut. I even tried to negotiate the salary with them — but they were firm, so I turned down the job.

I moved on, but I didn't give up

I was sorry that things didn't work out, but I didn't dwell on it. In fact, I didn't have time to dwell on it because, shortly after I turned down the job offer, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. I ended up undergoing numerous procedures and seeing a physical therapist. During this time, I used my annual performance evaluation process at my current employer to try and negotiate a promotion since my duties had also increased significantly. That didn't work out either.

Staying open to opportunity

Several months after I declined their job offer, the company I interviewed with renewed contact with me. They said that they had revisited the budget and could now pay a significantly higher salary for the position for which I had originally applied. Additionally, they anticipated promotional opportunities for me within six months of hire. I did have to go through the interview process again; but since I had proven I was capable of the job the first time, the second time was more their attempt to woo me into accepting. They ended up offering me the position for even more than I had tried to negotiate for previously. Wahoo!

Negotiating for a smooth transition

Because I wanted to resign my job gracefully, I negotiated for a month's notice at my current employer. My new employer said, “I hope you give us this much consideration if you ever leave,” and granted my request. This gave me time to complete some major projects and catch my supervisor up on time-sensitive actions that would need to be completed after I left. I don't think two weeks would have been long enough; however, in retrospect, I think a month was too long. I didn't anticipate how quickly I would emotionally detach from my investment in my job, and I was a little offended that they didn't even try to retain me given my stellar performance over the last seven years. However, that did cement my belief that, ultimately, I had made the right call in deciding to leave.

Starting my new job!

I've been at my new job a week and am really enjoying it so far. My gross salary is over 25 percent more than I was making before, and they upgraded their insurance since I first interviewed too. As far as the work, it seems manageable in terms of what I have to do, and I am excited to work on a team where several of us do the same thing. This means I have more resources if I have questions, and I think it will also make scheduling vacations easier. (In my previous job, I was the only person in my department who did what I did, so there were certain times of year when taking a vacation or even a sick day was out of the question.)

Final thoughts

The biggest takeaway for me was that it was literally six months between when I applied for my new job and my first day at work (an argument in favor of keeping a high-yield savings account that serves as an emergency fund)! If I had been unemployed, I probably wouldn't have walked away after my original attempt at negotiation failed, which means I would have found a job in three months instead of six, but I would be making much less money in the long run.

How long does a successful job search take you (from application to first day)? Which job-search strategies worked best for you? Share your job-search stories in the comments below!

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Paul
Paul
5 years ago

Since I retired from the Air Force in 2010, I have been doing government contract work related to my Air Force specialty. The pay is generally much better than what I was getting as a Senior NCO, but contracts end and are not always renewed. My first job was in the DC area. I hated living in the DC area and I found out I was underpaid, so I started looking for another job about 3-4 months into that one. It took about 6 months to find a better job and start the interview process. When I saw the job… Read more »

HFUW
HFUW
5 years ago

While I agree social media should be tightened up for job searching, I disagree with locking Facebook and other platforms so heavily, and relying on LinkedIn only. Companies know you’re a real person, and having no visible voice on Facebook or Twitter can be a red flag you’re hiding something.

Instead, use social media as a launch pad to highlight your strengths. Show pictures from volunteer events, post articles you found useful to your industry, post milestones at work. Appropriate updates can strengthen your case.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  HFUW

I think Facebook depends a bit. If you have a business, your business should certainly have a Facebook page. And social media that is inherently public/professional (Twitter, LinkedIn for sure, maybe others depending on your industry) should be leveraged for professional purposes. However, Facebook is by its nature not a professional site. I only add people I actually know, and my default setting is to have only friends be able to view my stuff. I never send friend requests to people I work with, but I *accept* friend requests from anyone I work with. And anyone that I currently work… Read more »

KT
KT
5 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

I think it depends on your industry. In mine, not being active on social media would definitely mean the end of your candidacy. For where I work, being on social means being on point of new technology and trends, and to have a small presence would be seen as out-of-touch.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  KT

In that case, I’d have a personal FB and a private, friends-and-family own FB. I doubt my dad would be very interested in work-related information, he wants to know what I’m up to!

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  KT

Sorry, I meant a professional FB and a private FB.

Beth
Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  KT

I agree it depends on your industry. In the industries I’ve worked in, having a social media account isn’t as impressive as it used to be because everyone has one these days. (You can’t claim social media marketing expertise because you use social media anymore than you can claim email marketing expertise just because you use email.) Besides, people come and go from various social networks all the time. Is a lack of a publicly available Facebook account a sign that you’re a paranoid luddite, or that you’re already exploring newer, niche social networks? (Younger generations are leaving Facebook or… Read more »

Carla
Carla
5 years ago
Reply to  HFUW

Interesting you say that. My husband doesn’t use social media other than Linked In. Sad not using social media would be considered a “red flag” these days.

Dee
Dee
5 years ago
Reply to  HFUW

I have seen so many success stories from facebook that I would never, ever lock it down in a job search. It can be a great way to get word out quickly that you are looking for a job, and an informal way to stay in touch with colleagues from previous jobs over the years. Over the weekend I sent links to job postings to two former colleagues on facebook, both of whom had posted within the last month that they were looking for jobs. In both cases they are in fairly narrow fields that don’t tend to have many… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Dee

I guess I always assume everyone is job hunting to the extent that I’d pass on an obviously relevant job ad. I’d never publicly admit to job hunting if I already had a full-time job, though!

Beth
Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Dee

It depends on what you mean by “locked down”. I’ve done the same things — received and sent job postings — and my account is set to visible to “friends of friends”. Social media can be a useful tool for networking, but it doesn’t mean you have to make everything public.

I think people forget that recruiters are often looking for ways to narrow down the candidate pool — in other words, they’re on the lookout for negatives rather than positives. Open access to social media lets them find out information they can’t legal ask in an interview, sadly.

Rosa
Rosa
5 years ago

Two things: I am in academe as well, and many hiring processes take avery long time. We posted an ad for a faculty position in October 2014; I just offered the position to our selected candidate last week. She starts in Aigust. That is a normal cycle for academe, slow as it is in comparison to the corporate world. Secondly, yes, indeed, I have separate Facebook accounts – 3 in fact. One is professional, one is for my side gig – photography at rock music shows under a pseudonym – and one is personal, for friends, family, and hobbies. I… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
5 years ago

Congratulations on the new gig. Your willingness to walk away the first time is a good lesson to those looking for better jobs. Consider ALL the details, from commute to retirement plan, and then ask yourself a version of the old Ann Landers question: “Am I better off with (the new job) or without it?”
Good for you for sticking to your guns.

Jenny
Jenny
5 years ago

I have heard of a case where all candidates who had tight security on their Facebook accounts were immediately rejected–the hiring committee wanted to use Facebook to evaluate what kind of personal/cultural fit people would be before deciding whom to interview. I don’t think I’d want to work there anyway, but that sort of thing does seem to be out there.

Carla
Carla
5 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

I guess its an easy way of immediately discriminating against people they may not want to hire anyway such as women with children, pregnant women, the disabled, person of color, LGBT, someone over a certain age, etc.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Yeah, my first thought when I read that comment was that while what they’re doing probably isn’t illegal, it violates the spirit of a lot of EEE laws…

Karen
Karen
5 years ago

Honey, how exactly did you apply for jobs during your hunt? Did you use LinkedIn or other job Websites (Indeed.com, etc.), or apply directly to corporate Websites? What I’m finding frustrating is getting through the filters. On LinkedIn you’re often asked to go through the company Website (usually a dead end); if a recruiter is listed, she or he may again ask you to go through the company Website. Any tips on how to penetrate the filters and get your resume in front of the person that matters (if you don’t know anyone currently working at that company)?

Beth
Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Karen

I can answer the part about filters. Pay very close attention to the wording in the job description and use the same keywords in your resume and cover letter. Obviously don’t lie or pad your resume, but if you have a skill they’re looking for use similar language to what’s in the post.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Agreed on using keywords. I found the job posting for my new position on LinkedIn, and then applied right on the company site using a resume I’d tailored to the ad. That said, if you’re having trouble, maybe you need to network a bit more and meet someone at the company? Lots of companies pay referral bonuses to their employees, so it benefits everyone.

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