En español | If you’ve vowed to make 2019 the year to find a new job, here are eight ways you can get ready. Understanding the current trends in recruiting—from the rise of temporary positions to the importance of soft skills—can help you land the job you want.
Target, target, target
Get specific about the kind of job you’re seeking and how it syncs with your skills and ability. Do you really want to replicate your old job, just with higher pay or better benefits? Is it work from home opportunities you’re looking for? Do you want flexible, part-time, seasonal, or full-time work?
Importantly, is there a company or nonprofit in your town that has a mission or product you respect and value? One approach for finding a new job is to start with who you want to work for and why. Then look at those organizations’ websites to find opportunities through their job boards. Seek out specific people you know working at the firm, or who might know someone who works there.
It’s often who you know, not what you know, when it comes to getting that first interview. Sixty percent of job seekers have referred a friend or contact to a company they’ve worked for — and 35 percent of job seekers obtained their current or most recent job from a referral, according to a 2018 Jobvite report.
Consider temporary positions
This is the new reality. And it’s been coming for a while now. Employers are concerned about the possibility of a recession, the volatility of the stock market and other kinds of big picture economic events. As a result, they’re minimizing the risks and costs associated with hiring full-timers, who carry the additional expenses of benefits such as employer-sponsored retirement plans and health insurance. The result: Employers offer part-time and contract positions with the potential to transition to full time down the road.
It’s not just older workers who are facing this hiring jig. Millennials, too, are weaving together contract work and side gigs to pay the rent and student loans. This can play out in your favor. The upside is that it’s your chance to check the company out before you’re stuck in a job you don’t like. Even better, you’re keeping your résumé alive, your skills sharp and building new relationships.
Expect more tech
Expect the human touch to be harder to come by this year. The hiring process is growing frostier, with more requests for applicants to take online personality assessments and convene for “virtual” interviews by a recorded computer program. Employers are increasingly connecting with candidates via online rendezvous settings—texts, web chats, Zoom meetings, WhatsApp, Facebook and other cyber playing fields.
Employers also are browsing social media sites to learn more about you, sometimes before an interview is even scheduled. Seventy percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, while another 7 percent plan to start, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Of those that do social research, 57 percent have found content that caused them not to hire candidates. Understand how social media impacts your job hunting and learn how to ace your virtual interview.
Get serious about soft skills
Even with the increased use of computers in the workforce and the recruitment process, human skills are actually hotter than ever. According to an analysis of job postings, résumés and social profiles by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work, job seekers who want to be competitive should focus on their soft skills. “Human skills—like leadership, communication, and problem solving—are among the most in-demand skills in the labor market,” according to the findings. As the report concludes: “Automation will create an opportunity for those in work to make use of the innate human skills that machines have the hardest time replicating: social and emotional capabilities, providing expertise, coaching and developing others, and creativity.”
Employers look for skills in two categories: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills (also referred to as work skills) are those required to do the job, such as network security, accounting, marketing, data analysis or graphic design. These skills are typically learned and are quantifiable. For example, you can earn a degree or certification or at least point to a course on a transcript showing that you received training in a particular area. Or you can point to jobs you held that required those same skills.
Soft skills are more subjective and harder to quantify, such as an ability to communicate clearly, solve problems, manage your time and be a team player. In many ways, these skills, which include your outlook and attitude, are gauges of how well you’ll fit in. Employers want to be sure you’ll work effectively with your coworkers, your supervisor and the organization’s clients. They also want to be sure that you can think on your feet and can make smart decisions.
Take note of transferable skills. If you’re switching industries, you’re “redeploying” skills you already have in place. Most soft skills are transferable to a new industry. For a skill boost, you might check out your local community college for offerings, or look for courses accessible via Coursera, edX, LinkedIn's learning platform, and Udemy.com.
Focus on fitness
You don’t have to run fast miles or bench-press, but do develop a workout regime—walking, swimming, spin classes—that you stick to a couple of times a week, and eat with an eye to nutrition and health. When you’re physically fit, you can give off a positive vibe. You have energy and feel confident.
Financial fitness is a plus, too. Do a budget. Pare down debt. If you’re not trapped by needing a certain salary to pay the bills, you’re nimble and open to options where the pay may not be as high but the work is rewarding. And job hunting is stressful, so spiritual fitness can provide ballast. You might try mindful meditation, yoga or tai chi to help center you.
Cover letters count
Even though you’re sending your résumés electronically, your cover letter can set you apart, if it’s done right. This one-page greeting is where you tell employers straightaway how your skills can help them achieve their goals. One way to do that is to share a quick story of something in your life—personal or professional—that resonates with their mission and the work you would do for the company.
To write persuasively, you’ll need to research the prospective employer and the industry at large. Study the company’s website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter pages. Check up on employee reviews on Glassdoor.com. Find out who the hiring manager is, or who your supervisor might be if you landed the job, and look up the person on LinkedIn. Do you have any shared hobbies, volunteer interests, professional contacts, alma mater or hometown touch points? That could be rich fodder for your cover letter.
Recharge your résumé
An up-to-date LinkedIn profile remains essential for a myriad of positions. Your conversational summary page on that site can make the difference in getting in the door for an interview. Your résumé, however, is your hard-core calling card. It’s your stats sheet and quickly provides nitty-gritty details about your career performance. It’s not your biography, but an advertisement and teaser to get an employer’s attention. And, yes, it can be longer than a page, but don’t go too crazy.
You may even want to consider using a service that offers critiques and rewrites, such as AARP Resume Advisor.
Despite all the news about employers anxiously seeking helping hands, finding a great job can still be a slog, particularly for older workers.
There are a variety of factors that come into play when you’re job hunting, from whether a hiring manager thinks your personality will fit the company’s culture to your application making it through the hoops of the elusive online gateways. None of these things necessarily reflects your ability to do the job well. These potential roadblocks are beyond your control, so don’t beat yourself up. Turn your attention to those goals you’ve achieved in your career and personal life. Surround yourself with people who support and admire you. Feed off the positivity; it’s energizing.
Do one thing each day to push your job hunt to the next stage. Find a job-hunting partner to keep you accountable. Find a career coach for some unbiased advice. Have some moxie and tell everyone you meet you’re looking for a job. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills; Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies; Love Your Job; and What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.