Getting a job can seem like an impossible task sometimes. Job searching is typically a stressful game of not just what you know but also who you know. More than anything, getting a job can come down to timing. While you might be a great fit for a position, they might just have an internal candidate that’s been loyal to them for years. If you are looking for a freelance job, it can seem even harder. Freelancing eliminates the barriers that come with location-specific positions. Suddenly, you’re battling for the same contract against dozens of experts across the globe, some who can submit bids well below your range. You can’t possibly control timing, so how should you try to stand out? Here are some tips to help you get past all of the complexities of job searching and back to doing great work.
1. Be Creative
Everyone is sending a standard PDF resume and hopeful cover letter to hiring managers. Creating an application that stands out can be really hard, so you need to be innovative. This suggestion is extremely field-dependent, and how you approach it will vary. If you’re freelancing or looking for full-time work, you’re going to need a way to make your skills pop. First, take a look at your resume and see if you can make improvements. Making a digital portfolio or an online resume can give your application some needed depth. More importantly, showcasing your skills will get you noticed, so think of ways to prove your skills to the company you want to work for in the future. Sometimes this can be really time consuming, so tailoring your application in a new and innovative way might need to be reserved for companies you think you’d match best with, and would likely appreciate your efforts.
Simple fix: Get noticed by giving them what they need. If the job description says you’ll be in charge of developing a new marketing program, give them a solid one page solutions overview. If you will need to design a new website, give them a sample homepage mockup. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll be able to hit the ground running when they hire you.
I’m always surprised when I hear someone say they haven’t prepared for an interview. While that makes me sound like the kid in class who asks for more homework, I’ll gladly fill that role in this case. An interview isn’t just to dazzle the employer, it’s to find out if you’re a good fit for the company as well. While the position description might seem to be a perfect match, the company itself might not be great for you. This mismatch might come out in an interview, but it’s better to know sooner rather than later.
Simple fix: Search the company online. It’s really that easy. Read their mission, vision, values. Read their Twitter feed and review posts on their Facebook page. Click on the “news” tab and read the last few stories or press releases that mention them. This knowledge will help you understand who they are and how you might fit in. It’s also a great thing to slip into interviews by saying, “Yes, I noticed in your latest press release that…” Showing you did your homework can go a long way.
3. Find a New Angle
If you’ve been in the working world for a while, you probably have a concrete job title and position that you are searching for when looking for a new job. Stop limiting your search and go back to your skills. Maybe you’re an executive assistant that should actually be an event planner or a graphic designer who should actually be an editor. We all tend to box ourselves in and focus on the jobs we’ve done in the past. If those roles seem to be packed full of applicants, it’s time to expand your search.
Simple fix: Make a list of your favorite parts of jobs you’ve had in the past. Pull out the keywords from this list and start your search over using those instead.
4. Learn About the Industry
One of the easiest ways to win a company over is knowing the competitive landscape. Nearly every position or project funnels up to a larger goal for the company. If you can prove you get the strategy behind the work, you’re more likely to get hired. I’ve encountered many job seekers who know their role but can’t look beyond it. While they might be amazing at what they do, so are 10 other people who are also applying. Give yourself the edge you need by showing you’ll be able to drive more sales, get more clicks, or earn more accolades for the company.
Simple fix: Look at what the company’s direct competitors focus on in their marketing materials. Then figure out what your desired company does to set themselves apart. If you can clearly articulate how you will be able to incorporate the unique brand into your work, you’ll definitely leave the interviewer impressed.
5. Take Notes and Bring Questions
This is a pretty standard interview tip, but it can’t be overstated. Ending an interview with an, “Ummmm…no, I don’t think so,” when they ask if you have questions just won’t cut it. The same goes for sitting through an interview without making any notes whatsoever. You’re trying to figure out if you will be a good fit for the company, and they’re trying to figure out the same thing. They are taking notes about your answers, and you need to take notes about theirs. Come in with a notepad, pen, and a part of the note sheet filled out with questions you have.
Simple fix: If your interviewer somehow manages to answer all of the questions during the general course of the interview, have some backups ready. I always like to ask about continuing education, the possibility of attending industry-specific conferences, and volunteer opportunities. These benefits rarely (at least in my case) come up during interviews and will keep you from ending the interview in awkward silence.
No, this tip isn’t about coming in at the lowest possible price. Instead, it’s about the work that you are going to do for a client or company. Note, this idea might not be the easiest to swing for fulltime positions. However, if you’re a freelancer or an internal candidate you have a lot of leverage when it comes to work negotiations. For an internal position, offer to shadow the current employee for a week while still completing your current job’s tasks. At the end of the week, provide the hiring manager with a summary of what you learned and how you think you can complete the work. If you’re a freelancer, offer to do a test portion of the work at a reduced rate. Clients are sometimes wary of going full-steam-ahead with a contract, and giving them something to evaluate your work by that applies to their company will help.
Simple fix: If a company or client seems hesitant, prove your worth and come up with a concrete idea. Tell them what work you will do, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. Try and do sample work as quickly as possible, as you don’t want to hold up their hiring process. I’ve gotten several jobs by doing a 48-hour turnaround on a sample document for clients who were having a tough time deciding which candidate to hire.
7. Be Social in the Best Way
Social media can be a great tool for getting noticed. If you’re trying to get a job but not having any luck, there are several ways to use social media as a professional tool. First, remember you may want to have a private account and a public account if you’re going to try and show off your skills to potential employers. They’re not going to care too much about the time you visited your 8th grade best friend, or whatever else you decide to post. But if you’ve got a great social media presence that shows your prowess in your field or a particular expertise in their industry, it can go a long way. This is especially true if you are looking to do marketing, blogging, or other outreach positions. Showing you can use the tools is critical.
Simple fix: Does setting up dedicated accounts to share with potential employers seem like a lot of effort? You can always try guest posting for a blog or submitting your work to a popular website. Getting your thoughts, research, or interviews posted on a reputable site is a great way to achieve the goal of getting noticed without taking a huge amount of your time.
8. Teach Yourself
Sometimes, I’ll assume I can’t apply for a position because they require a program I’ve never used. Eliminating an entire job from your search just because of one skill in the “required skills section” is not a good strategy. While I don’t think you should attempt to learn an entire coding language in a few nights, there are some required skills that you can teach yourself fairly simply. For example, I was required to know everything about SharePoint for a role once, so I sat down and forced myself to learn. Don’t sell yourself short, if you’re perfect for a job except for one seemingly tough skill, then buckle down and learn it. You’ll be glad you did.
Simple fix: There are a myriad of great online courses out there (and some not so wonderful ones). Do your research, and find one that lets you learn at your own pace.
9. Ask the Department Manager
Admittedly, this tip can be a bit intimidating. If you’ve checked the jobs board of your dream company and there’s nothing open in your field, you may assume they’re off your list. However, you might just be ahead of the game. If they have a simple contact form or a listing of the department heads and links to their email addresses, then check in. Do not stalk social media accounts and overstep privacy. But if you’re truly interested, a quick inquiry message can go a long way. That’s how I got one of my favorite contracts!
Simple fix: Put together a short and convincing job seeker message that shows why you’re asking this company in particular. If there’s nothing available, they might just keep you in mind the next time there is. Remember, approach this suggestion with tact and know that you’re not entitled to a response. These people are busy, and you’re going out on a limb.
10. Get Confident!
While a pep talk might not feel like a proactive solution, a lot of job seekers could use a boost. Think about how you’re coming across to potential employers. A fruitless job search can easily have you questioning your skills and that’s going to come across when you are looking for new work. Whether you’ve been turned down one time or one hundred times, the best job for you is likely still out there. Finding motivation to go out and find a job can be hard, but a good attitude can go a long way.
Simple fix: Keep a file on your computer of positive reviews and thank you notes that clients or employers have sent. I’ve even resorted to taking screenshots of “good job” messages I get on messenger. When things seem tough, you can review the praise you’ve received and remember that you have done good work before and you will do it again!
Good luck to all of you! Job searching takes a thick skin and a lot of persistence. Hopefully, these tips will help you to change up your routine approach to job searching, make you stand out, and get you hired!
What did I miss in this list? How did you go from job seeker to employed? Do you think there are specific things that freelancers can do to set themselves apart in the applicant pool? Let us all know your most creative solutions for getting hired in the comments below!