Avraham Avinu was also known as Avraham Ha-Ivri—the contrarian. He was willing to go against what everyone else at the time was doing. If you are job seeking, I strongly recommend taking a leaf from our forebear and at times sacrificing what’s easy and convenient to reach your dream destination.
Here are a few contrarian tips to help you along the way:
1) Abandon the “spray and pray” method. It’s easy to click and apply to dozens of jobs each day. In the short run, it will make you feel very accomplished. However, in the long run when you get little to no response, it will lead to despondency. Instead, shortlist 10-20 companies that you would ideally like to work for and use LinkedIn, their websites and/or your alma mater’s career center to see if you can develop connections at those companies whether or not they currently have vacancies.
2) Use a spreadsheet to keep track of your networking efforts. Minimally, you’ll want columns with the company name, contact name, position(s) that interest you (hyperlink to job descriptions where applicable), contact number, contact email, date of outreach #1, date of outreach #2, date of planned follow-up, notes from conversation.
3) Didn’t hear back from the person you reached out to after a week? Follow up! If you reached out via LinkedIn, try emailing or calling, before you try LinkedIn once again. Still don’t hear back? Time to…
4) Go old school. Remember the days we used to send letters and postcards? How did you feel last time you received one? Buy yourself a pack of notecards and a book of stamps. Introduce yourself using the mighty pen and see if they can resist calling you back. And don’t forget to thank people for sharing their time and expertise using snail mail too.
5) For every hour you spend online, spend at least an hour on the phone broadening and deepening your network and/or writing emails/cards expressing thanks. LinkedIn, internships.com, indeed.com etc. are all great…but be careful of the digital rabbit hole. Your goal is to speak to people on the phone or ideally Zoom if not in person. They’ll become your allies in the search. Prepare well for your meetings, follow up immediately with their recommendations and provide them with a brief update a month or so down the road.
6) Write a cover letter—especially when the application says this is optional. When it comes to T-shirts, medications etc. I find generics are fabulous. Just avoid this when it comes to your cover letter. Spend at least 10-20 minutes tailoring each one to convey your passion for that specific role and that particular company. Otherwise, don’t bother writing one.
7) Meshane makom, meshane mazal. Always looking for the same role with the same types of companies? Start thinking outside the box. For example, finance isn’t only practiced on Wall Street. Consider Main Street too. Retail, healthcare and every industry needs finance-savvy personnel, so look there instead. Don’t get too stuck on what you majored in or what you’ve always done (or thought you wanted to do). Surveys have shown that employers are far more interested in you demonstrating core competencies such as critical thinking, teamwork and professionalism than what you majored in.
8) Remember that networking doesn’t end when you are hired. If this is your first full-time job—or even your fourth—the chances that it will be your last are infinitesimally small. Don’t wait till you want to move jobs to restart the search process. Keep your resume updated with your accomplishments and keep networking. In the COVID/Zoom era, there’s an incredible opportunity to participate (often for free) in webinars within and beyond your industry. I use the chat to start side conversations with participants and note my appreciation for a comment they’ve shared. While in the meeting, I note the names of the facilitators and other participants and connect with them on LinkedIn during or immediately following the meeting.
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We’d love to hear from you if you have:
1) additional tips that worked for you
2) a career-related question
3) meaningful shadowing/internship opportunities or special projects this Fall/Spring to provide our talented students with a flavor of a professional environment (and can potentially be done remotely)
4) A small amount of time every month or two to speak with a student or recent alum about your career path and your profession
Daniel Coleman, MBA is a sought-after career coach, passionate about helping people identify their values, find meaning and achieve their career goals. At Yeshiva University, his primary focus is providing coaching, programming and resource development for the growing and diverse multiethnic graduate student population. A former motorcyclist, he’s also a registered organ donor, left-handed and a patent holder. You can reach him on LinkedIn with questions or suggestions for future columns.