Whether searching for entry-level or more senior work, follow these simple tactics for a more effective job hunt:
1. Don’t rely solely on popular job or internship sites. These are great resources that should certainly be used. However, some of the best jobs or internships aren’t posted. If there is an industry or company that appeals to you, pinpoint these companies. Apply directly to that organization and the decision maker, regardless of apparent openings. Your ability to illustrate how/why you would make an immediate impact on the organization is your way in the door.
2. Are you a recent or soon-to-be college graduate? If you didn’t begin informational interviews, start now. Many fiscal budgets may start in January or July, so companies might be amping up staffing during these months. Keep an eye on agency job sites, and offer to come for exploratory interviews now.
3. Small businesses might be eager for your expertise and assistance, and you might be able to create and build a new position (social media director, anyone?) within that organization. Volunteering at a nonprofit is also a great way to fill résumé gaps with meaningful work and help you build a professional portfolio of work. (Bonus: Many board members are senior executives at their businesses.)
4. Experience at a smaller organization may be more meaningful than a first job at a more prestigious place of employment. You might fetch coffee at a major network or global company, but at a lower-profile organization you can get more significant assignments.
5. Get a name and send your résumé via snail mail. Yes, you should follow the procedure outlined by job sites or company career pages, which usually require you to apply online to careers@companyX. However, your best bet may be to use LinkedIn or even call the receptionist at an organization and get the real name of the person responsible for making hiring decisions and send them an actual print out of your materials.
6. Proofread. Verify spelling. In addition to the human resources professional’s name, you should send your job query to your potential boss. This person’s name is likely on the company website in the press room. Just be sure to let HR and that boss know you have copied their colleague.
7. Spread the word. Anyone you know or meet could become a professional contact or lead. Let people know your career aspirations. An uncle, professor, friend, employer, gym members, or the receptionist at the doctor’s office might know someone in the business that could help you find a job or internship. Don’t be afraid to strike up friendly conversations with casual acquaintances, as these could turn out to be a career lead.
8. Network. Most colleges, businesses, and professions have LinkedIn groups, alumni associations and mentoring programs. Join these professional or collegial organizations, attend their events, and go to their seminars and workshops. When there, talk with guest speakers, association members, and organizers. Some or all of these could become professional contacts and references.
9. Read the business press and industry trade publications. New client wins will probably indicate an upcoming hiring push; executive appointments (or departures) may mean staffing changes. Be sure to reference your research and insights in your customized cover letter.
10. Customize your résumé for every position, and be resourceful and creative with how you approach the job search. Include keywords that are in the specific job description. Including keywords ensures your résumé will come up on computerized scan systems when you apply online.
There are hundreds of thriving firms and companies who are eager to hire rising-star professionals. It is your job to take the time and initiative to find them.
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations and Weber Shandwick. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter.