The job hunting experience is as unique and special as those who go through it. For some, it represents the excitement and pride of contributing something productive to our shared experience in this region. For others, it is a process born of frustration with a stagnant and unenjoyable work environment, seeking out the promise of a better fit. For far too many, it is a race against the clock to find stability before drowning in a sea of incoming bills with no money to meet them.
No matter what your motivation for going through it, however, the most successful job hunts do follow a pretty standard process. This area of the site will attempt to guide you through that process and offer tips and shortcuts obtained from multiple lifetimes of collective job searching, as well as some insights from the equally challenging experience of being the employer searching for the right match among potential candidates.
Step 1. Identify the Right Types of Jobs to Apply For
No matter who you are, there are some jobs in this world that are simply better for you than others. The demands of a call center representative, for example, are far different from the demands of someone working as part of a road crew. One person might consider the call center representative job to be the “better” one; sitting in an air conditioned office all day and staring at computer screens while the road crew worker is out in the hot sun frequently lifting heavy objects. Another person, conversely, might argue that the road crew worker has the more attractive duties; enjoying the outdoors, getting exercise, and experiencing more variety in their day, while the call center representative is stuck in the same small box repeating the same words over and over that they’ve probably said a dozen times that day already.
Evaluation Is An Important Part of the Process
At the beginning of your job search, take some time to evaluate the jobs that best fit your lifestyle. Our Market and Industry Data section contains a comprehensive listing of potential fields, including fields that are in high demand in this area. The Center for Workforce Research and Information in Maine also maintains a website with statewide employment data and trends. Learn about the typical daily duties of jobs that interest you. If you have the time, find someone doing that kind of job and ask them for their insights, or even if you can “job shadow” them for a day (job shadowing is exactly what it sounds like, following the person around like their shadow and watching them perform the job for a day). Most people will be flattered that you asked, so don’t be shy!
If you’ve been in the workforce for awhile, you may be tempted to just stick to what you know and skip this step. Don’t. It is never too late in life to change careers! You might find that after twenty years of doing the same thing, a sudden shift is just what you need to make you feel excited and motivated to go back to work. Or you may decide that continuing with your current career is what you want, and that’s fine, too. The important thing is that you decide that, rather than just assume it.
If you’re racing the clock to get a job before your bills pile up, you may feel like anything will do and be tempted to skip this step. Don’t. Taking “any job” just to make sure you meet your financial obligations may seem like the mature, adult thing to do. In some ways it may be, but it fails to take into account the realities of being human. One of those realities is that if you hate what you’re doing, you’re eventually going to either quit (because you couldn’t stand it anymore) or get fired (because your heart wasn’t in your work and your employer noticed). Then you’ll be right back at the beginning of this process again. Don’t let yourself get caught in that kind of a cycle; dedicate just one day to identifying ten different jobs that you would actually enjoy doing, and move yourself in that direction.
Every Career Ladder Starts With a First Step
When first starting out in any career, the jobs you’ll seek are called “entry level” jobs. As the name implies, it means that no direct experience doing that sort of job is required. When the job you most want to do is not an entry level job, then it is important to identify what entry level jobs best fit the job you eventually want and pursue those. If your dream job is to be a bank manager, for example, then your first step in that direction will probably be a job as a front line teller.
Bluntly, you may not like those jobs as much. You will have to decide whether you are willing to push through your “time in the trenches” in those jobs in order to get to the job that you DO want. If you can’t imagine putting that kind of effort into the lesser job, then you probably don’t want the higher job as much as you think you do. That’s okay! It’s good to figure that out before wasting your time and energy; knowing that, you can put that idea aside and pick a different career path.
Sometimes, your first step won’t be an entry level position, but rather a training program that can help qualify you for the job you want. There are many high quality training programs available in Maine, and depending on the industry and your circumstances, our service provider might be able to provide the funding for your training! Take a look at the career and training programs that are certified by the state.
Step 2. Make a “Standard” Resumé and Cover Letter
Once you have identified the career path you want to take, it is time to make a generic resumé and cover letter tailored to that kind of job. While there is some room for creativity, it is important that any resumé cover some key data. In the modern age, the majority of employers don’t even look at submissions until they’ve been through a keyword search!
This is such an important step that it has its own dedicated page on our site, with lots of advice, tips, tricks and tutorials. Keep in mind, if you have identifies two or three different job titles that you intend to go for, then you should have two or three resumés in your arsenal – one for each specific job being pursued.
Step 3. Seek Out Job Openings
Once you know what type of job you’re searching for and you have a layout of how your skills and qualifications make you a good fit for that type of job, it is time to actually seek out potential employers. There are many potential channels through which you can become aware of an opportunity:
- There are a number of generalized online sites that employers use to advertise openings. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most popular ones.
- Most medium- and large-sized company websites will have a “Careers” page if they frequently have open positions.
- Traditional advertising via newspaper classified sections and community bulletin boards still exist.
- The value of networking can’t be overstated. Spread the word to every group you’re a part of and every friend you have that you’re looking for a job and specifically what kind of job you’re looking for. Attend job fairs hosted by your local CareerCenter and attend any free seminars you can find related to your chosen industry.
Step 4. Apply for the Best Matches ONLY
Have you ever wondered why the Maine Department of Labor asks for very few job search records when filing a weekly certification for unemployment? If you aren’t working, you have 40 hours a week to devote to the task of applying for jobs, right?
One of the reasons is because they recognize that quality, not quantity, is the driving factor when it comes to long-term employment success. They want you to be incredibly selective about where you choose to apply, because they want you to be highly motivated and excited to work at the places that you apply to.
When applying for the job, remember two important things your math teacher always told you in grade school: show your work, and homework matters. Before you contact the employer, go to the company website and look around. Cite the HR Director or owner by name when you email them your resumé. Include a cover letter that casually drops in facts that you learned from their website. For example, if the site says their company was founded in 1963, include a line that says, “the quality of my skills will be consistent with the proud tradition that the company has put forward for more than fifty years now.” If they’ve just announced that they’re going to begin making widgets, say, “My experience will be invaluable as you proceed with your new widget initiative.” Make them interested in you by showing how interested you are in them.
Step 5. Follow Up and Log
It is often said that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”. This is especially true in the job-hunting world, where employers can never be sure which applications are serious about wanting to work there and which are just mass applying to everything.
The way to make sure they understand you’re serious, then is with follow up communication. About 2-3 business days after you first apply, call or email them requesting an update on the status of your application. If they give you a very specific timeline or next step, follow their instructions. If they don’t, then call back on that day of the week next week for another update.
Keep a record for yourself of who you called and when. Not only is that required for unemployment (and therefore good practice even if you’re not receiving unemployment), it will help give you a sense of accomplishment for the rough work of job hunting you’ve been doing.
A properly conducted job search is, at the very least, a part-time job on its own. Like all work, the more effort you put into it, the more others will notice your work and the more that it will reap benefits for you. If you have any questions or need help with any parts of this process, there are resources available through this entire section of the website to assist you. Make sure you also reach out to the people at your local CareerCenter(https://www.mainecareercenter.gov) and Western Maine Community Action for further help if needed.