I belong to a few groups on LinkedIn and was surprised to find a brilliant discussion on finding employment/re-entering the workforce in one of the biggest that is not primarily about employment. I think I saw the discussion in my ‘Pulse’ feed which was lucky to say the least.
It was lucky because I hardly ever visit the discussion stream in this group (Global Public Health). That’s because it is just so HUGE that it is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack to get to content that interests me (this is especially the case since LinkedIn stopped offering the ability to search discussions within a group). The group has over 115,000 members – a number that increased by over 80 members in the 24 hours from when I first thought about writing this piece until I got going (and today some two days later it has increased by another 165). Not surprisingly it is impossible to keep up with the flow (torrent!) so it was very fortuitous that I saw these two great posts from Leonard Peruski (LP) (who I have been in contact with and who has given me permission to use his posts as the basis for the article).
LP is a Director with the CDC and his comments were in response to a question from someone who is re-entering the Public Health workforce after an absence of five years. In his preamble he told the questioner that they’d need to be “patient, persistent, and flexible” – already we know we’re off to a good start – he’s placing the ball firmly in the jobseeker’s court and simultaneously not suggesting anything devious or spammy.
I’ll paraphrase a bit but here are his five recommendations – none of which will sound unfamiliar to jobseekers who’ve been searching for more than 10 minutes – but he expressed them so concisely yet understandably I wanted to pass them on to you.
LP suggests that you “Renew your old contacts in your field” which is good advice and something we sometimes forget in our hurry to make new connections. The ‘in your field’ is important too – although it is good to have a wide diversity of contacts I would guess that job leads that suit you best are most likely to come from those in your chosen field. Getting in touch with these people will also allow you to get up to speed on what is happening in the field right now which makes it a double win.
2) Arrange Informational Interviews
Once you’ve renewed old contacts in your field (or discovered and established new ones) it’s time to get out from behind the computer and arrange some informational interviews. This resource from the University of Victoria Career website gives good tips on how to arrange, conduct and follow-up on an informational interviews.
3) Revise and update your resume/CV to make sure it matches LinkedIn
No matter how you feel about LinkedIn you’re probably going to find that employers and recruiters (which may be the same people or not) are going to be looking at your LinkedIn profile as well as the resume you’ve submitted – so make sure they match in substantive details. Also make sure that your LinkedIn profile is snappy, letter perfect and coherent (just like your resume – right!). This is an important step and LP reinforces this by saying “In my case, every staff member that I’ve hired for my team in the past 3 years is extensively checked out on LinkedIn and other resources BEFORE generating a “short list” of candidates that MIGHT be interviewed”. ‘nough said.
Yes, I know that you may have both a desperate need and desire to get back to paid work but don’t underestimate the impact of devoting time to volunteering. Participating as a volunteer in your field can not only give you valuable experience to put on your CV but can help you come up to speed on what is currently happening as well as help you network naturally and demonstrate your strengths and skills to those that can help you connect with potential employers. Plus don’t underestimate how the feel-good consequences of volunteering can help you cope with the often lonely and rather depressing experience of being unemployed and looking for work.
5) Develop and Practice an ‘Elevator Pitch’
I think this is an especially good piece of advice because not only is it wonderful to have this kind of a statement internalized and ready to share with potential employers that you meet in unexpected places (the grocery store, the coffee shop, an elevator) but it can help you clarify for yourself whether potential job opportunities really are a good fit. Just as writers are told to read their work aloud to more clearly ‘see’ where it needs improvement practicing your ‘elevator pitch’ (maybe try recording it and playing it back) can help you tease out what is true and what you are doing or saying for other less than completely true reasons (because you think that people with your education should want this type of job, because your parents/spouse/friends think this is what you should do etc.).
In closing I’d like to add that another reason that I love these five pieces of advice is that they are mostly ACTIVE and require you to actually do something with other people in real life rather than continuing to sit behind your computer. Yes, I know that it can be scary to contemplate taking your less than perfect resume/transcript/work experience out there and exposing it to the harsh light of day but it is the only way you are likely to get a job. Last time I checked nobody was randomly choosing from the millions of people sitting at home surfing Facebook or lurking in the Twittersphere (or is it Twitterverse?) and sending them job offers. In Part 2 of this article I will talk about LP’s second post where he talks about how he ‘e-assesses’ potential candidates. Look for that later this week.