by Angela Ellis
Many professionals are finding themselves unemployed or underemployed during these turbulent times. Layoffs, furloughs, and job eliminations are more and more common place. Being prepared for such eventualities can set you a part for others. But, making these mistakes can cost you opportunities.
Skipping the cover letter. It’s true that cover letters are not always read by the hiring personnel. However, you may have noticed that more employers are making the cover letter a mandatory part of the application process. That’s because it’s an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from others. Your cover letter should highlight your top skills and tell the employer why you are the best candidate for the job. Your resume alone won’t do that. Your resume only shows what you done for others. Help your future employer see how your past experiences will translate to results for them. The employer has goals they are trying to reach. In your cover letter, tell them how you can help them reach those goals.
Underestimating social media. Many Fortune 500 companies use social media as a part of their selection and vetting process. It’s important to have an active presence on LinkedIn—including an up-to-date profile—but don’t stop there. Make sure you are reading and commenting on posts that are relevant to your field. Follow companies where you would like to work and engage with them. This will also help you learn more about those organizations. Post articles or information that might be useful and meaningful to someone in your industry. Make sure your Facebook or other social media reflect positively on you as a person as well. You may consider your social media pages to be your own private business. However, once you post something, it’s no longer private. Even with privacy settings, it possible that your information will get shared, copied, and forwarded to others. Don’t post anything that might be seen as divisive, overly critical, hostile, or vulgar.
Having a generic objective statement. As a former recruiter and career coach I have seen many objective statements that look something like this: “Seeking a fast-paced career in a stable company with opportunities to grow.” Translation: “I want a job, any job.” You won’t increase your appeal by seeming indifferent about where you land. Employers are looking for the right fit for them and you should be doing the same. Ditch the objective statement completely. Instead, create a summary statement that mentions two or three areas of expertise and at least one unique skill or accomplishment.
Neglecting interview practice. Your resume is designed to get recruiters’ attention and land you an interview. Once you get that far, you need to nail it. Practice the interview questions you feel are toughest for you. Be prepared to answer questions about tough subjects like dealing with irate customers or resolving conflicts with teammates. Be ready to share a mistake you have made and a weakness you recognize in yourself. The best athletes in the world practice. The greatest performers practice. Shouldn’t you practice too? Prepare succinct and specific answers to these questions. Being well prepared will help you be more relaxed and polished in the interview too.
Disappearing after transition. When you leave a job, don’t leave the relationships you have made. Connect with key individuals on LinkedIn and other social media. Stay in touch with them via email and occasionally invite some of them to lunch or coffee. You can’t just call on people when you need something. Relationships need to be ongoing and reciprocal. Therefore, ask your former colleagues (and former boss) if there is any way you can help them. Make a note of when birthdays and special occasions are; and follow up with a card or message. If you forget to reach out for a few months, it’s ok. The holidays are a great time to reconnect. Send messages wishing your associates a Happy Independence Day, Happy Birthday and/or Happy New Year. This will show that you are not only reaching out when you need something.
Angela is a business and leadership coach, speaker, and corporate facilitator. She is also the award-winning author of Breaking Broke. She’s based in Nashville Tennessee.