Things have definitely changed since I was a job seeker a couple of decades ago. When it comes to this Rip-Van-Winkle experience, I’m not alone.
When I last actively engaged in a full-on job search, I was — how shall I say — in a decidedly different demographic. I've been blessed over the years with a freelance career that I have enjoyed while raising my family. Now, as an empty nester, I have decided to explore the new, current job market.
I've got plenty of job-seeking company
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three million long-tenured workers joined the employment market last year. That's a lot of us folks new to the modern job-search world.
Some aspects of being a job applicant today clearly showcased how long it had been since my last rodeo, so to speak. This is not surprising when you consider that the last time I put together my resume for a job search, I didn't store the file on this:
I didn't store the file on one of these, either:
I didn't even store it on one of these:
In my last serious job search, ladies and gentlemen, my resume was saved on one of these:
For all you millenials and Gen-Z readers out there, one of those bad-boy floppy disks held 1.44 MB of data — that's right, ALMOST 1 1/2 megabytes of premium, grade-A storage space. So, maybe the size of your basic Instagram pic, if you go easy on the filters.
5 things about the modern job search that surprised me
Rather than worry about how much things have changed, I decided to embrace all the new ways in which job searching has evolved. Besides, I figured this was an opportunity to show employers how adaptable and ready to meet challenges I am. So, onward and upward I went. Here are a few interesting things I discovered along the way:
1. Job seekers cannot escape AI
Nor should they! Artificial intelligence (AI) has made it possible for more employers to connect with more employees — and with less paperwork in less time. It works, for the most part, and it is here to stay.
When it comes to AI, I'm a fan. Back when “Friends” was on the air, I had to mail, fax, or email my resume and cover letter to a recruiter or hiring manager directly. But today's job sites and other recruiting technologies allow me to input or upload information one time to create a profile, after which it is all saved and searchable. Once my applicant profile is loaded up to a job site, I can pick and choose from a steady stream of job opportunities tailored to me.
So much time saved! So many viable opportunities found! Yes, it takes some getting used to if you are new to this way of job searching, but this technology also helps employers find you faster. No more getting lost in a pile of papers or forgotten email correspondences. Instead, you have a chance to constantly massage, update, and improve your online resume in these systems and actively keep your name in the game.
To make sure I wasn't just speaking for myself, I reached out to Barbara Berger, owner of Career Wellness Partners Inc. and a certified career coach and professional growth coach in Northeast Pennsylvania. She clued me in on what may give some people new to the modern ways of job seeking more anxiety than I felt:
“Technology can sometimes make those who have been out of the process for a long time feel a bit helpless, with no sense of control over their outcomes,” Berger explains. The right mindset can help you land a job much faster, simply because you don't hold back. “If you believe you're a victim, you're a victim,” she continued. “If you believe that you have some amount of control over your outcome, you will find innovative ways to make things happen.”
If the new job-seeking tools and recruiting methods make you uncomfortable, do some homework and reach out to local and online resources that can help you get up to speed and build confidence.
2. Don't play the keyword game like you're playing Whack-a-Mole
Every digital recruiting tool and ATS seeks out keywords on your resume, in your cover letter, and in the online forms you fill out … nearly every single one of them. These words and phrases are often an important key to getting past the first gatekeepers the applicant-vetting process, so blow them off at your own peril. At the same time, don't fall into the keyword-cramming trap and throw together word salad for the initial screening.
“Eventually, human eyeballs are going to see your resume and cover letter,” says Berger. She also says that bogging down a resume with a mish-mash of jargon you think the hiring manager wants to hear can make you look:
Like you have poor writing skills
Unfamiliar with how the process works
Instead of cramming keywords into your application, be more mindful and pull what you feel are the most important phrases and terms from the posted job description, Berger suggests. Make sure you hit those notes with a concise, strong argument about how they apply to you. “Make them part of your career story, not items to check off a list,” she says.
Recruiters don't expect to find someone with every single keyword they plug into their software. They are looking for applicants who have a good number of the ones most important to them. They review your resume and letter to learn more about who you are.
3. Ghosting happens — a lot
Recruiters, hiring managers, my kids — people just don't get back to me like they used to.
With the speed of technology and the volume of positions and people moving through the job market on any given day, those looking to hire just don't have the bandwidth to follow up all the time with personal emails or phone calls. It's not you, though. So don't take it personally.
That doesn't mean it's a fine idea to ghost recruiters and hiring managers, however. Like it or not, your business etiquette reflects on you. “Leave people with a good impression, even if you don't want the job they are trying to fill. Think of them as a new connection that can help you network for future opportunities,” says Berger. That's an excellent point, which leads me to my next observation about the job market today.
4. You have to market yourself
If you are simply relying on your resume to tell your story to employers, you will be missing the boat in most cases. Your cover letter, your LinkedIn profile and activity, your professional website or blog — they all are the new marketing tools for today's job seekers. If you don't set yourself apart with a personal brand message that lets recruiters and employers know you've got what they are searching for, you might not be selected for a screening call or interview.
“We all have a brand image that precedes and follows us,” says Berger. “It's in your social media, your resume, your interview, everything.” This is the new normal, with the exception of jobs that are so hard to fill right now that employers are basically happy to just get warm bodies in the seats. If that is the kind of job you are looking for, that's great. Otherwise, marketing yourself is important.
5. You are what you tweet
Social media accounts can become a job seeker's nightmare — even when you use private or semi-private settings. Nothing is really screenshot- or shared-account proof.
“Assume nothing is truly private on your social media,” warns Berger. I understand where she is coming from. I have had hiring managers ask me how to pronounce “Mukkulainen.” That is my kids' last name; it is not on my resume or on my online profiles. But the internet is quite capable of over-sharing, so there I was on two separate occasions, explaining how to say my ex-husband's last name during interviews.
Not. Awkward. At all.
I think I am pretty careful with my social media exposure, but apparently, data was collected on me that possibly included old profile URLs, social media links to articles I wrote years ago — who even knows what else. That's why I say follow Berger's simple rule: If you don't want potential employers to see or know something about you, keep it off Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest of your social accounts.
5 aspects of the job search that haven't changed with time
“Some of the most important aspects of job searching haven't changed much over time,” says Berger. “These are things people tend to have more control over than they probably realize.”
1. Networking and connections are some of your most powerful tools
“People who you know are some of your best resources when looking for a job,” says Berger. They are familiar with you professionally and personally, which means they can vouch for your reputation. They can be extra sets of eyes and ears for you as you search for new opportunities, and even introduce you to important gatekeepers and decision makers. “You don't have to start from square one with people who already know you. These people are usually rooting for you too, which is nice,” Berger explains.
If you are more of an introvert, you don't have to miss out on the benefits of using your connections to help with your job search. See our 10 networking tips for introverts for advice and ideas.
2. Elevator pitches are still important
You should always be ready to tell a synopsis of how your career path has led you to where you are right now. Have a 60-second-or-less compelling story that opens up further discussion. Think it through and practice it; make it genuine.
“Taking the time to consciously process and develop your elevator speech for hiring managers is a great way to build confidence and figure out what you really want to do,” says Berger. “It's a way to refocus yourself on the things that make you a great candidate, too.”
3. Making stuff up will come back to bite you
Stretching the truth to pump up your resume or lump some more keywords into your application is a bad idea. The truth always comes out in the end, and having to explain to an employer why you lied or greatly exaggerated is way worse than talking honestly about things like your work history or missing skill sets.
“Once trust is broken, it can be near impossible to restore,” says Berger.
4. There's a difference between being confident and boastful
Most employers are looking to strengthen their workforce and expand their success with new talent. If they were a rock band, they would be looking for a drummer, lead singer, or a bassist — not a soloist. You're auditioning to join the band, not gain a fan club.
Of course, you want people to know what a great candidate you are. The problem comes when you talk about yourself more than you talk about what you can bring to the organization. Remember, you aren't just explaining what you can do. You are telling employers what you can do for their company.
“It is easy to fall into the trap of talking about yourself when you are sitting in the job-applicant seat. You are being interviewed about yourself, after all,” says Berger. “But when you neglect to work in the goals and needs of the employer to your end of the conversation, it's a big mistake.” Employers have to be able to envision how you would bring value to their business.
5. You should not count your chickens before they hatch
It is tempting to put aside the job-search routine when you are called in for an interview or two with an employer you are really excited about. But, please resist that urge.
“Have confidence and optimism about the interviews, of course, but keep moving your job search forward,” says Amanda Augustine, TopResume resident career expert, “Ask Amanda” career-advice columnist, and certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW).
“Apply for at least a job or two every day, like you were before the interview process started. That way, if things don't pan out like you want them to, you can pick up right where you left off,” she explains. Having a plan B like that can also help keep your spirits up and your mind focused on the next opportunity.
As you can see, the more things change, the more some things stay the same. Really knowing your audience (the employers), your assets (your talents, network, etc.), and yourself never becomes obsolete. And adaptability is a key to success, whether you have been off the job market for a few years or a couple of decades.
So, put that in your floppy disk and save it.
Now that you know what you need to change (and keep the same), does your resume fit the bill? Check with a free resume review today!