Back to School: Four ways to start your first day on the job search

Oh the simple days, when back-to-school preparation meant gathering all your pencils, papers and that timeless Lisa Frank notebook to head into the first day of class.

Well, bad news – summer’s over.

In today’s professional (and digital) environment, much more preparation is needed if you are hoping to land that perfect gig. You can’t expect to send out the same ol’ resume and dust off the same ol’ portfolio to get a brand new job. No – job hunting in the digital age requires special attention.

This is an intentionally broad topic that we could spend hours (and pages) discussing, but for the sake of time and sanity, here are a few key elements you can reference for job search success.

Avoid the spray and pray

A job hunter’s worst nightmare, the ol’ click to apply website application is loathed by most, successful for a select few. When you see the “apply now” button on a company website or job posting, run! Ok, maybe that is a bit extreme. You can certainly give it a shot, but please don’t take it personally and instead take it for what it is. Many of these fast-apply options have algorithms created to catch key words or phrases, so even if your experience fits the bill, it may be passed over due to your resume not being “SEO friendly,” if you will.

If you do pursue this route, make sure to tailor your resume with key words from the posting (while of course maintaining the accuracy and authenticity of your experience). Even if you do make it through, please keep in mind your resume/information may be viewed by an HR professional who may or may not have experience in the digital/creative space. Case in point, this approach should only be used as one of many tools in your job-hunting tool belt.

Be friendly, be bold

One of my absolute favorite methods for finding a job is networking. No, not the “awkward handshakes and forced small talk” type of networking. In this digital age, we must take to the online with our pursuits! We must seek out the people most relevant to our job search – our potential supervisors and peers – then *gasp* reach out to them directly using this newfangled technology.

There are multiple ways to go about this, but in my experience one of the most effective is to begin engaging with a company/individual even before they have a job posted online. The purpose here is threefold:

  1. It shows your genuine interest in the company and the people in it
  2. It sets you up perfectly to broach the conversation if/when a job becomes available
  3. It helps you organically expand your professional network (you never know where that next opportunity might come from)

This is accomplished by reaching out on a site like LinkedIn with valuable information or simply a kind word. The key here is remembering the “it’s not about me” principal. Make sure to do your research, try to understand your audience and find out what is important to them. A specific example would be you reaching out to a creative director with a message along the lines of:

“Really enjoyed the campaign you all launched for Nike, specifically the focus on allowing the audience to see the world through the athlete’s perspective. Based on that I thought you might enjoy this article on some of the world’s best athletes and their daily routines.”

In doing this, you may catch their attention, demonstrate your interest and knowledge in the space, and set yourself up to push for a call and/or face to face meeting.

Talking to strangers? Terrifying, I know. #squadgoals

Would you add you?

Back in the days of yore, one would compose their resume, line-by-line and page-by-page. No longer! Now we are able to not only talk the talk with a physical resume, but truly walk the walk with our entire online presence and brand. The digital world is our oyster, as we can create content, generate discussion and share relevant information. LinkedIn gives you a great ‘how-to’ starting point here.

A couple of my favorites from this are: be authentic and be consistent. Picture this, you receive a LinkedIn invitation to connect with someone who you don’t know directly, but appears to be in your industry. Their profile has all their professional info, but also includes some fun tidbits about their life, from winning the “came from a smaller hometown than you award” (thanks, Chad) to a blurb about what really drives them personally and professionally. You accept. You then discover that this approach is mirrored throughout their personal website, Twitter account etc. This is someone who has put in the time, you say to yourself. This is personal branding in the digital age.

Practice makes progress

Always. Be. Learning. This is about as common sense as they come, but also easier said than done. With new technologies, methods and tactics being thrown at you from every direction it can be difficult to make sense of it all. Let’s take new technologies for instance. The questions I like to ask myself when I hear about a new technology are:

  • Is this technology solving a new problem or solving an old problem in a new way?
  • Will this be something I use directly in my job?
  • Will this be something my colleagues/clients/customers might use?
  • Will this be something our competitors are using?
    Does this technology have staying power?

If the answer is even on the scale of maybe to yes I dive in head first to learn all I can.

The crux of this is to always be moving forward, aggressively, learning every step of the way. Never lose that childlike sense of wonder and curiosity. It may not be as easy as a kid preparing for back to school, but hey, it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

Nick is a former Creative Circle Account Executive. His background is in recruiting, sales, PR and marketing.