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Job Search Olympics

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In the spirit of the 2012 Olympic games taking place in London, England I wanted to provide you with a unique spin on the Olympic games…something we like to call Job Search Olympics. Similar to the multitude of athletes competing in a variety of events, all of these athletes have two things in common…extensive preparation and goal setting. No matter the sport, the athletes who are the most successful are those who prepare the most, build upon their strengths and set realistic goals.  Competition, like in the Olympics can be fierce. By following the steps below, as well as others suggested by your Career Services Office, you can separate yourself from the competition and become the Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt of Job Search Success.

1. “Bump…Set…Spike” (Volleyball): Similar to the offensive process of trying to earn a point for your team, the Job Search process has three main parts: Assess…Prepare…and Act. Start by assessing your values, skills, strengths, weaknesses, abilities and work criteria (e.g. who are you and what are you looking for). By knowing yourself, you will be able to approach the net (or the job search) with greater confident and clarity. Second, prepare yourself for a successful job search by knowing how, where and with whom to network. In addition, develop a resume and cover letter that is customized to each position and organization you are interested in (e.g. know your opponent). Lastly, apply and interview for positions that match your qualifications. We may not all be the best setter or striker, as long as you meet the “essential qualifications or skills” they are seeking you will be successful. The key to a successful “spike” is to be the aggressor and know how to work around the defense.  Think of the defense (or those trying to block your spike as the questions you will be asked in the interview). By knowing the position description, yourself, your resume and practicing with a career counselor or through Interview Stream you be able to adapt to any question and thus score that winning point we like to call a “job offer”.

2. “Pace Yourself” (Track): You may have heard the concept that the job search is a full-time job in itself. Well…it is true, but not in terms of putting in 40 hours a week or even 8 hours a day. Instead, it means approaching your job search with the same attitude you would if working a full-time position. If you go into a full-time job working 60-80 hours a week working your tail off to get as much done as possible…and as quickly as possible…you will burn out very quickly; similar to track runners who push too hard at the start of the race and run out of energy at the end. My recommendation would be to pace yourself. The average job search can take between 4-6 months (6-8 for government positions). Consider taking the “deck of cards” approach. Grab a deck of cards (including the jokers) and shuffle the deck. Once the deck is shuffled, choose a number between 1-10; this will be the value of all face cards (e.g. Jacks, Queens, Kings). For each day of your job search, flip over a single card – whatever value it reads is the number of positions or networking connections you will make that day (or week). If you happen to flip over a joker, you have earned yourself a day off! No matter the strategy…remember to pace yourself and avoid job search burnout; finish the race strong!

3. “Making a Big Splash in the Candidate Pool” (Swimming): If you have ever attended a career fair you most likely heard at least once (if not multiple times) the phrase “apply through our website.” Believe it or not, employers (or recruiters) tend to use this for traffic control…helping streamline candidates interested in their organization. So how do you become the Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte or Michael Phelps of the candidate pool? Here’s how! A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers asked employers for their advice on how to make an electronic application outstanding – here is what they recommended:

  • Follow directions. Be careful to enter the correct data in the correct field. (Don’t swim out of your lane)
  • Tailor your application information to the position. Don’t copy and paste text from your generic resume. Use keywords, buzz words, and industry verbiage. Use the verbiage in the job description as your model. Employers search on key words when they’re looking for people to fill specific positions. (if you’re swimming the 4-100 medley and are not strong in the butterfly…don’t offer to swim the leg of the race that is the butterfly just because you are a swimmer; swim the leg of the race that is your strongest).
  • Include numbers and statistics (quantify) your application if applicable. For example: counted five cash drawers daily; responsible for more than $10,000 per 8-hour shift. (Do you remember swimmers who won a gold medal or do you remember swimmers who won a gold medal and set a new world record?)
  • Make sure your resume can hold its own in a very simple format. Fancy bullets, text, italics, and bold do not convert well in an electronic application. Also, don’t forget to spell check and grammar check your application before submitting it. Have an error-free application because this application serves as the employer’s first impression of you. (It is less about the type of swim attire swimmers wear and more about how they swim).
  • Follow-up your electronic application with a personal e-mail to the recruiter. A follow-up phone call is acceptable if the job description does not say, “no phone calls.”

For additional tips, please visit: http://www.sph.umn.edu/careers/tipsheets/. Remember – stay focused, compete and know your competition…go for the gold!

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