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What Does It Take to Get a Job Today? Resume Writer Shares 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Coaching Job Seekers

diverse group of people with text "hire me" wondering what does it take to get a job today?What does it take to get a job today? This simple question has many answers.

As I reflect on my last decade of helping job seekers get not just any job, but a fulfilling job, I want to share 10 important lessons I’ve learned. Some of them may surprise you!

What Does It Take to Get a Job Today? 10 Lessons for Job Seekers

Lesson #1: Strategy remains critical.

Effective job seekers are focused, have a clear understanding of the types of companies they want to work for, view networking as an ongoing task and not a one-and-done exercise, and always have a list of companies that interest them on hand.

Lesson #2: Resumes haven’t died. 

For years now, people have been asking “Is the resume dead?,” and the answer is no for most employees and employers. From a pragmatic standpoint, companies still rely on this brief document to identify interviewees. Resumes not only help secure interviews but also energize job seekers to talk about their accomplishments. Make sure yours is rife with achievements and serves as a strategic marketing document rather than an archive of information.

Lesson #3: Cover letters challenge job seekers but are worthwhile.

Think of your cover letter as a way to show you are the solution to the employer’s problem. Whether a cover letter gets read by a human in an initial first-pass reading is hard to say. But they are almost always read when employers whittle down a list of 15 applicants to five. A well-written cover letter can help you stand out.

Lesson #4: LinkedIn can accelerate the pace of finding a fulfilling job.

Many people reluctantly and passively use LinkedIn. The world will, of course, keep spinning if you don’t use it at all. However, if you have a solid strategy for using LinkedIn, it can help you find a job more quickly (to that end, be sure to read my recent  LinkedIn blog miniseries). Accept that if you’re not on LinkedIn or using it effectively, you’re likely missing opportunities. This is true for fresh college graduates through C-suite executives.

Lesson #5: Your mindset will either propel you or hold you back.

You get what you focus on. For instance, if you’re convinced that age discrimination will hurt you—it will. A positive mindset will carry you far both professionally and in your overall health and life satisfaction. Johns Hopkins Medicine has reported that a positive outlook reduces the chance of having heart attacks in people predisposed to having them and “improves outcomes and life satisfaction.” Further, research published in Europe’s Journal of Psychology suggests that positivity fosters job and life satisfaction. Getting a grip on your mindset is imperative.

Lesson #6: Your storytelling skills will influence the job offers you receive.

How you talk about your work history reveals more than you realize. If you can recognize how fortunate you were to learn and grow in each role you’ve had, you will have an easier time landing your next role than you will if you can only describe negative parts of your previous work. If, in your experience, every workplace was toxic or had bad leadership—it’s not them, it’s you. Take time to self-reflect on why you feel like you’ve been a victim in each circumstance and seek guidance on how to see the good aspects rather than the bad ones.

Lesson #7: Lifelong learning keeps you sharp and marketable.

Job seekers who desire to transition to a new field or role, as well as those who want to progress in their existing field, can speed up that process by expanding their knowledge. Employers will notice if you take a course, join a professional organization, or earn a certificate. The global corporation BNI, a business referral organization with the mission of “changing the way the world does business,” even has lifelong learning as a core corporate value.

Lesson #8: Research companies you’re interviewing with and be prepared to ask or talk about what you learned.

Interviews will be dead in the water if a job seeker can’t ask intelligent questions or demonstrate their knowledge of a company. Far too many times, hiring managers have shared their frustration about interviewees who didn’t seem to know anything about the company. Impress interviewers with your knowledge of their company and you’ll be memorable.

Lesson #9: Interview enthusiastically.

Job seekers who show excitement about a role do better than those who can’t muster any enthusiasm. When you’re dating a person, you don’t want them to think you’re only dating them because they are available; the same goes for a job. Make the employer feel special, as if you can’t wait to be working there.

Lesson #10: Confidence matters.

If you’re not confident in your abilities to succeed in a role, you can’t expect someone else will believe in you. Remember that all employers have a goal: to solve a problem. You need to present yourself as the solution to that problem. Employers invest in you and your expertise; they don’t make job offers to people who lack confidence.

Takeaway

The question “What does it take to get a job today?” doesn’t have one simple answer.

However, resume writers and career coaches like me have a room with a view. We see trends, gain insights, and have revelations about what it takes to get a job that we often keep to ourselves because we’re busy working with clients. This year, as I celebrate the tenth anniversary of Career Path Writing Solutions, I wanted to share lessons I’ve learned from a decade of working with job seekers. These 10 lessons transcend any industry, any level of responsibility, and any type of role. Use this information to your advantage!

I’ll close with a fun bit of nostalgia: The notebook in the photo on the left is a notebook I purchased during my first year of business. Time flies when you’re having fun!


References

Johns Hopkins Medicine, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-power-of-positive-thinking, accessed March 12, 2023.

Orkibi, Hod and Brandt, Yaron Ilan, “How Positivity Links With Job Satisfaction: Preliminary Findings on the Mediating Role of Work-Life Balance,” Europe’s Journal of Psychology, August 2015 11(3): 406–418, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4873052/, accessed March 12, 2023.

BNI.com, accessed March 12, 2023.

Heidi owns and operates Career Path Writing Solutions, a communications consulting firm dedicated to helping individuals and businesses communicate when it matters most. She delights in helping job seekers navigate career change and guiding business owners to present their value proposition persuasively. Heidi earned her PhD in history from Duke University and teaches professional development for various university programs and organizations. She holds certifications in resume writing, interview preparation, and empowerment coaching, and sits on the Certification Committee of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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