After years of being in and out of school and then at home with my infant daughter, I finally decided it was time to return to the workforce.
With a big smile and an optimistic attitude I hauled out my old resume, dusted it off, and gave it a good polish. I figured that potential employers would be lining up to hire me. After all, I have marketable skills, valuable work-related experience and I’m a friendly and outgoing person. I thought: who wouldn’t want to hire me? In a few short weeks I’ll be sitting in the backyard on my lounge chair sipping wine and eating chocolates while I peruse all the job offers I’ll have by then.
It’s been almost a year since that particular job search and, hindsight being what it is, I realize now how naïve I was. I had no idea that looking for work could be such hard work.
Nowadays, when most resumes and job applications can be emailed, it’s possible to apply for multiple jobs before finishing your morning coffee. In fact, in my first week of looking for a job I practically smirked every time I pressed the ‘send’ button on my email, applying for yet another job that I’d no doubt be offered. I began to wonder how I’d find the time the following week to attend all those job interviews. I confidently set my day planner and pen next to and waited for it to ring.
The first response I received came via email. Excited, I clicked on the message. I was politely thanked for my interest, but due to the "very high quality of applicants" they received they were going to pass on me this time. The rejection stung, but I tried to look on the bright side: I just had the bad luck this time of competing against other highly qualified job-seekers. I managed to maintain my optimism until the next day, when I saw that the very same job position had been reposted. Ouch.
About a month later, having had only a single phone interview, I figured it was time to reassess my approach.
Finally admitting that I needed some help, I asked a friend who works in human resources to critically evaluate my resume. I learned that just because I knew that my skills were transferable to a particular occupation didn’t mean that a potential employer would know too.
"You have to connect the dots for them," my friend told me. "Don’t assume they can figure it out on their own."
And so I went back to the drawing board. I tailored my cover letters and resumes specifically for the particular position and company I was applying for. I honed my computer skills. I researched companies so that I would know exactly what I was going to say if a prospective employer called. I highlighted exactly how my skills and experience matched or even exceeded what a prospective employer was looking for.
Yes, it was a lot more work. But guess what? The phone finally rang, my hard work paid off, and I was offered a great position.
I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s been tough out there in the job market these past few years. But I did learn a valuable lesson about job hunting: it’s just as much work as the job itself.
But the reward is definitely worth it.
Heather Tiede is a community correspondent for Windsor Park. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.