Does anyone actually like applying for jobs? No. Myself included.
Although career talk is a big part of my own blog, I’ll be honest, I don’t like putting together job applications. I never have, and I probably never will. While I like redesigning my resume and inquisitively browsing through job listings, my enthusiasm pretty much ends there. While the first few applications and the prospect of finding a new or better career may be thrilling, the excitement can quickly dissipate. Very shortly after, I start to realize that I’m spending all this time filling out job applications only to send them off into this black void, never to be heard from again.
Obviously, when you are first applying to a job posting, you will not get an immediate response. But then weeks pass, and it gets more and more discouraging, especially when you’ve put in a lot of work to these applications. Personally, I’ve had to do everything from submitting specific writing samples to going through multiple stages of testing, and it can seem like a waste of time and effort when it goes nowhere. Job applications are tough for anyone at any career level because you are being evaluated by someone else. But I’ve found ways to make the job application process not only easier but more successful, and with the least amount of stress possible.
1. Start Early
This may vary a bit depending on what industry you work in, but I work in the (Canadian) government, and the application process can take up to a year. I’m not exaggerating — it’s very common to have application processes and pools take up to a year before you are even offered a job. And that’s on the condition that you already have your clearance and testing completed. However, even if you are not in an industry that can take up to a year to place a job, once you’ve decided you want to leave your job, or are even unhappy and looking for a change, you have to start looking right away. It does not mean you have to apply right away, or immediately embark on this lengthy search — but you need to look at what types of positions are available in the first place.
If you’re waiting until you’re overwhelmed with frustration at your current job, you’ll be more likely to take a job that you won’t love and may end up having the same problems as your current workplace. Avoiding that desperation to leave quickly by giving yourself time to leave to your previous/current job and find one that you truly enjoy. Chances are that your “dream job” probably won’t be posted at that perfect moment when you decided to quit your old job. So, do yourself a favor and evaluate whether you are happy or not in your job and career. And once you really decide that it’s no longer for you (it could even be a great job, just not for you), then start keeping your eye out for postings. You never know what will pop up.
2. Apply Often
During my time at university, I was also a part of the school’s co-op program. And that process taught me how to develop a true resilience for applying to jobs. As a part of the co-op program, I had to apply against other co-op students for placements and internships. So not only was I competing for jobs with students who went to the same school as I did, but I would actually see who was chosen over me, which was sometimes a very sucky feeling.
However, I had to learn how to keep going. Finding a job, to an extent, is really a numbers game. If you don’t apply, you will 100% not be offered the job. But if you do, even it’s in a sea of 100 resumes, there is still a chance that you are the candidate they are looking for.
Consistency is the key to job applications — keep searching and keep applying. But there is a caveat: be careful not to only be applying generically to 100 postings because quality will always outweigh quantity. However, if you only find a few openings here and there for your specific career, apply to all of them. And if your resume isn’t getting any responses? Maybe try refreshing it a bit. Sometimes it’s not you, it’s how your resume is representing you.
3. Reach Out
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is just how small certain industries actually are. When you enter into a career field, you’ll soon learn the real meaning of “six degrees of separation.” Everyone knows everyone. Especially when as you begin to find a specialization in your career, you’ll realize that a lot of people will know the same people in the industry. For instance, if you work in a start-up or hair salon, you’ll come to find that a lot of startup owners actually know each other and a lot of hair salon owners and stylists will have overlapped in their work — whether it was a class they took together or a photo shoot that they both worked on. This is not uncommon, so if you are currently seeking a job, even if it’s in another industry, let your friends and contacts know and they can be on the lookout for you as well.
Statistics show that an estimated 70-90% of jobs are not advertised. And finding a job doesn’t have to be a completely solo process! Ask around, and let others know. People are more than happy to help, and the recommendation of a friend can be invaluable when looking for a job.
I’ve had this benefit me quite a few times over the course of my career. The first time was when I was 19 years old, and my cousin’s roommate was leaving her job as a weekend receptionist for a travel company. Having just started university and working at a movie theater, an entry-level office job was a big jump for me at that time. I ended up getting the job and stayed with the company for seven years working part-time — not only as a receptionist, but in other departments, like customer care and marketing. It really opened the doors for me and gave me opportunities and experiences that allowed me to land jobs right after I graduated. Bonus: Because the schedule was so flexible and part-time, it really helped me pay down my school loans so I could graduate with no debt.
The next time this happened was when I was actually contacting an old manager of mine for a reference. I was looking for an additional part-time job (I already had a full-time 9-5) to help fund my travels in the next year. Little did I know this was considered by everyone as a “side hustle,” when I just saw it as “I need money to travel.” Anyway, when I emailed her, she said she actually had an opening for short-term contract work to launch a project and asked if I was interested in working remotely (she worked in Ottawa). It was perfect!
You don’t know the opportunities that are available if you don’t ask.
4. Have Multiple Cover Letter Templates/Resumes
This depends on what industry you are in or are looking to get into, but I always have different versions of my resume saved on my computer because I apply to different types of jobs. Some are more administrative based, some are more event-planning based, and some are more geared towards the government. Having different versions of my resume ensures that when I apply for a job, the most current and relevant information appears first. This takes a little work up front to make different versions, but it makes the process go much more smoothly. This also applies to cover letters. Every cover letter I submit highlights a very particular skill set that I base off the job posting and description.
For instance, if a job states that customer service and communication skills are very important in the role, I will ensure that I demonstrate clear examples of those skills based on my past experiences. If a role puts more emphasis on policy analysis and technical skills, I will gear my cover letter towards those types of skills. Likewise, I format and organize my resumes in different ways. When applying to government jobs, I list my citizenship and security clearance right away at the top. Having been a part of the hiring process for government positions, I know their processes are really detailed and strict when it comes to that type of information. Priority is given to Canadian citizens, and if the position requires a security clearance, it’s helpful for the hiring manager to know right away that I have it. I do not include this type of information when it comes to applying to private industry jobs, though, because it’s not relevant and does not affect the application in the same way. I’d rather fill that space with something more relevant. It’s always best to customize your resume to each individual application (trust me, employers can easily spot a copy and pasted cover letter/resume that’s not at all applicable to the job posting), but if you can’t customize it every single time, it’s great to have a variety of templates.
Pro tip: When crafting cover letters and resumes, pull words directly from the job posting to fill your resume. If the job posting says “must be flexible and adaptable,” I make sure that phrase is sprinkled somewhere in my resume or cover letter so the hiring manager can check it off right away. You don’t always have to be creative with finding the right words, as they are often given to you in the job posting.
5. Save Your Responses
You know those applications that require you to fill out a form on their website/job application portal (as opposed to just uploading a resume and cover letter)? Yes, I think we’ve all been there, and they can be so time-consuming. Because not only do you have to fill in all the basic information over and over again (name, contact info, address, etc.), but many times there will be short answer/specific questions you may need to answer as a part of the screening process. Again, this kind of task can be really time-consuming and exhausting after the third application.
For this type of application, I’ve learned to save my responses on a separate word doc/draft email/note taking application (I use Evernote). Anything will work. A lot of the time, these questions will be very similar, or you could be drawing on similar experiences to answer the questions, so I keep a word bank of all my responses to job applications so I can reference them at any time. Not all of them are applicable to every short answer question, but it also helps inspire me for what to write instead of just sitting there, staring at a blank white box, unsure of what to write.
6. Keep Track
Lastly, don’t be afraid to get some help. As an additional bonus, I’ve created a job tracker spreadsheet and to help me track my progress. The job application tracker is an excel sheet that I personally always use myself to track the number of job postings I look through. Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll need it.
When I’m applying for jobs, I’ll look through all these postings and then literally have a million tabs open. However, because the deadline may not be for a few weeks (or even a month), I leave the tabs open (telling myself I will apply to them) and then end up accidentally deleting all of it, forgetting to apply by the deadline, or having my laptop battery die and losing all of the applications I had looked up. As you can see, I’m a very responsible adult.
So I created a job application tracker. I personally use this to track the companies and postings I’m applying for and it’s made an enormous difference in how successful I am in a job search. It has not only helped me to organize my job search better, but it’s also helped me remember not to give up. Sometimes I think my job search isn’t going well and I feel down because I haven’t heard back. But when I look on my tracker and realize I’ve only applied to TWO jobs, then I feel a bit better because I realize, “Of course I’m not seeing the results, I’m not putting in the work!”
(To download the job application tracker click here!)
I hope this was helpful, and remember, the most important thing is to not get discouraged. I’ll be doing more freebies in conjunction with this topic, so look out for them on my site soon!
Kimberly is the writer behind www.millenniallifeadmin.com. MLA is a blog that helps break down the everyday adulthood tasks of growing up; one unavoidable responsibility at a time. You can also find her scrolling through memes and sassy posts on Instagram @millenniallifeadmin.
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