The Black Hole. If you are actively searching for a job, you know all about the resume black hole. You’ve applied online and sent your resume in to so many companies that you’ve lost track.
If you are lucky, the company’s online application process will send you a computer-generated email thanking you for your submission. And that’s it. Days, weeks, and sometimes even months go by with no communication.
So what are you to do?
First, step back and consider your job search strategy. Getting a job, a good job, is a full-time endeavor and requires effort — lots of effort, and a plan. Winging it won’t work.
If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, nor a solid job search strategy, it’s the equivalent of taking a shotgun and shooting at the sky, hoping that something will fall out. It won’t work.
A good job search strategy starts with narrowing your focus. In addition to targeting an industry, you’ll need to specify what roles you are interested in and qualified for. This is often where job searchers get stuck. Not only is networking the best tool to help you get un-stuck, it is arguably the most critical step of any job search.
You must develop your personal network to avoid falling into the resume black hole. Any job you find online can be found by anyone else who is searching. (That is, if the job is even listed.)
Companies now get so many online applications that they use software programs to screen resumes. Only a very small percentage of applicants, the ones who appear to be most qualified on paper, get through to an interview.
To improve your odds, you need to network. The reality is that 80 percent of job searchers still find their jobs through networking.
Networking and informational interviewing are two key steps to developing your connections.
Networking is not as scary as it sounds. It can be as simple as having a cup of coffee with a “friend of a friend.” Most people have been in your shoes at some point in their lives and are generally willing to meet or speak with you if approached properly.
Start by creating a list of family and friends who work in areas that interest you. Research your college’s alumni database, and use the alumni search tool on LinkedIn. From this, expand your list of potential contacts.
Next, call or email these people and ask for a half an hour of their time to learn more about them, their career and their company (i.e. an informational interview). If you can meet in person, it’s preferable, but, if not, a phone conversation is a good place to start.
Be sure to prepare a series of well-thought-out questions for your meeting. In an informational interview, you may spend as much time asking questions as answering them. But rather than thinking of it as an interview, think of it as a conversation where the goal is to get to know the other person, and what they do, better. Just don’t forget to treat it with the importance of a real interview.
Remember that the goal of an informational interview is not to get in the door so you can give a sales pitch and ask for a job. Rather, the goal is to learn more about the person, the company and the industry, and perhaps get some valuable advice. Informational interviews can help you determine if you have skills and talents that can help the employer. It can also help confirm for you whether you are interested in pursuing this line of work.
Strive to make a genuine connection, one that might provide you with a tip, an introduction, or maybe even lead to an opportunity to interview. You only get a chance to make a first impression once, so make it a good one.
Do well, and not only will your resume not be lost in the black hole, you may find that a great job opportunity magically presents itself.
Lisa R. Miller is founder and chief career catalyst at C2C, College to Career, where she helps college students, recent graduates and young professionals navigate the transition from college to career.