Job hunting is supposed to be exciting. Those are fighting words, right? Job hunting isn’t exciting–it’s terrifying. It’s soul-sucking. It takes tremendous amounts of time and energy. Around every corner lies yet another rejection–if the recruiter or hiring manager bothers to get back to you at all. Job hunting is right up there with moving as one of the most stressful parts of an adult’s life.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You have control over that.
You don’t have control over whether or not you are hired. You can’t force recruiters and hiring managers to keep you abreast of how the process of going. These things have to be left up to the universe. But you do have control over how you approach the jobs you’re interested in. You do have choices that will make you more attractive, more interesting, and more competent than your competition.
Your options should excite you. Let them.
But you must stay focused. Sometimes when you’re applying for work, it can be tempting to apply for many different kinds of jobs, especially if you have a non-traditional or eclectic work history. “Here’s an opening for a web copywriter. This sounds cool. But here’s a job opening for a print designer–I’ve done that, too. And here’s a job opening for a marketing manager–this sounds like it combines my love for writing with business acumen; that sounds right up my alley!”
Sound like you?
That’s actually great. Keeping your options open is a good thing. But that’s not why this attitude is great. This attitude is great because it keeps you excited. It keeps you passionate about finding and doing the best work of your career. You should apply for all jobs that excite you, that you think you could grow into, and that are reasonable (for example, if a job explicitly says you must work onsite, make sure you can work onsite.)
So let’s explore how to keep this momentum and excitement going. Let’s chat about how to apply to different jobs at once.
Focus big, and focus hard.
Even if you’re applying to 6 different kinds of jobs (and if you are, kudos–you must have lived a very interesting life!), each type of job deserves your complete focus. When you’re applying to job #1, you cannot be thinking about jobs #2-6. They have different requirements, different logistics, and require you to be in a different headspace. So while you’re applying to job#1, you must completely absorb job #1.
Create a Folder When You Apply for Jobs
One way to do this is to create an inspiration folder. In her book, The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp encourages people to start a box at the beginning of a project. Into the box goes inspiration, research, and, importantly, goals. For our purposes, a folder on your computer is better than a physical box. Into this folder goes all the job descriptions that are the same type. For example, if you find multiple marketing manager jobs, put them in the same folder.
Next goes your research. What’s happening in these industries right now? Where’s the controversy? Where’s the innovation? Which companies are doing interesting things in this space? Keep articles, blog posts, even tweets in this folder.
And lastly, write down your goals and put them in the folder. And I don’t mean something flim-flam like, “Get job as marketing manager.” If you were to get a job as a marketing manager, what goals might you have?
“Goal: Lead a creative project that generates interest and enthusiasm in our target audience. Learn more about how to arrest attention. Understand and teach others the difference between being avant-garde and exploitative.” These goals should be unique to the type of job you’re applying to. You’ll refer back to these later during your interview.
By keeping all this information in one file, you can more easily move to the next step: creating your unique resume.
Write the Resume. Write Many Resumes.
This is the part where lots of folks get stuck because it’s the most time-consuming. I know how tempting it is to say, “Well, these jobs are pretty similar. I”ll just use the same resume.” NO. No, you will not. You will write a unique resume for every job you apply to. Every. single. one. Unless you happen across two job descriptions that are virtually identical (it does happen. You might be surprised how often hiring managers and recruiters pilfer each other’s job descriptions), you need to craft a new resume that addresses specifics mentioned in the posting.
Refer back to your inspiration folder. Why did you want to apply for this job? What excited you about it? What uniquely qualifies you to bring life and profit into that role? Write the resume with that in mind. Let the recruiter see why you are a great candidate. And while you may not put your goals directly into your resume, they should inspire what you say.
Have a Point of View
One of my favorite tips for standing out in an interview is to pick a fight. Not with the interviewer, but with an imaginary foe in your field. The reason is to state a point of view and defend it. For example, one of my clients works in software development, where the saying, “Move fast and break things” is a very common aphorism. But he didn’t agree with it. In his interview, he said that he believed that the adage encouraged a “one and done” philosophy–that the first thing you tried that works is good enough. But he said the world is a complicated place, and the people in it are complex, with varying needs, abilities, and desires. If we “move fast and break things”, we lose sight of the people who use the product. He said he prefers the idea, “Move deliberately and think through the problem.”
By picking a fight with a common truth in his field, he was able to craft a narrative that set him apart from other candidates. It allowed him to let his personality and philosophies shine through the interview. These are the golden moments you’re looking for.
Choose a point of view for every job type you’re applying for. Put the point of view in your folder. Review it often. Say it out loud. Record yourself, and listen back. Does it sound truthful? Is it impassioned? Do you sound believable?