Checklist for Finding a Job in Your Field

by Suzanne Taylor


There is nothing more frustrating than to work hard in your career field, only to hit a wall with job applications. This checklist will help you troubleshoot different issues, starting with the most basic, and moving toward the complex. We’ll talk about common issues and give solutions so that you can advance in your job search.

Issue: Your Search Strategy

This is your first step if you’re having trouble finding openings within your field. Job board powerhouses like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn are wonderful places to start your job search. But you’re likely missing out on great opportunities if you’re not looking at industry- or profession-specific job boards too. You also want to make sure you’re using the right terminology when searching.

Solution: To find smaller job boards, try searching the Internet for “[your career field] jobs.” You should also check out professional organizations related to your field for resources. Many have a job board that’s either free or accessible to members, or they’ll link to other helpful resources for jobseekers. Also, try different phrases and job titles when searching boards to see what produces the results most aligned with your goals.

Issue: Your Resume

Many candidates mistakenly create one resume that they use to apply to all jobs. To get to the interview stage, you really need to customize it to each specific job. Additionally, you want to carefully check for any errors, as that will automatically disqualify you for a job.

Solution: For the DIYers, your first step is to customize by analyzing the job posting, identifying keywords or important skills, and highlighting them on your resume. However, it is strongly recommended that you have someone else review your resume, whether that’s a professional resume writer, a supervisor in your desired industry, or even a trusted friend or relative. The first two can give you professional insight into best practices, while the latter can at least proofread it for clarity.

Issue: Your Other Application Materials

Just like your resume, it’s important to carefully proofread all application materials and email correspondences. Even one typo can hurt your chances of advancing in the hiring process. Additionally, if you work in a field where written communication is important, your application is essentially an audition for how well you write.

Solution: Put your best foot forward when writing to a potential employer. Common proofreading strategies include reading what you wrote aloud or printing the materials to read on paper. Again, it’s also a good strategy to have someone else read over your complete application package before hitting submit, if possible.

Issue: Your LinkedIn Profile and Other Social Media Accounts

If you’re having trouble finding jobs, LinkedIn is a great tool to bring the jobs to you. Many major employers use LinkedIn Recruiter to source candidates, and many others will check your profile after you’ve applied. Expect that potential employers will also search the broader internet, including social media sites, after you’ve applied.

Solution: In addition to optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you can turn on a feature on your profile that either shows recruiters or shows everyone that you’re open to job opportunities. Also, make sure to Google yourself to see what content comes up first, and clean up old social media accounts, blog posts, or community discussions linked to you.

Issue: Your Interview Skills

If, on more than one occasion, you make it through to a phone call, video interview, or in-person interview but don’t make it further, it’s time to critically evaluate your interview skills. Particularly if oral communication is a part of your job, you must articulate well, speak clearly, have good body language, and yes – calm those nerves.

Solution: Your first option is to reach out to those you interviewed with and ask for feedback. Most hiring managers are willing to tell you if you said or did something off-putting. As an alternative or in addition to that, practice, practice, practice. You can record yourself to review later, use a virtual interview tool, or even do a mock interview with a friend, colleague, or professional coach. Most importantly, ask for honest and critical feedback. It’s much better to hear it before you go into another interview!

Issue: Your Network

As you establish yourself in your field, it’s important to have a network of similar professionals. You can certainly land a job just by applying to job boards, but you’ll get an extra boost by getting well-connected in your field.

Solution: Networking is easier than ever with LinkedIn, where you can easily search for professionals you have something in common with, whether that’s an alma mater, hometown, current city, or desired career. Most people are really willing to talk about themselves and help others, so ask to conduct an informational interview with them. You can also attend events hosted by professional organizations or other groups to make new connections.

Issue: Your Qualifications

Even if you’ve already identified another issue listed above, it’s still a good idea to check your qualifications. If a job posting lists required experience, education, or certifications, then you MUST meet that minimum requirement. If the posting lists preferred requirements, you should meet most if not all of those. It’s also time to get real with yourself about how you might stack up against the competition. If you have a degree from a non-reputable institution, you may technically meet the requirements but still have difficulty getting through.

Solution: The easy solution is to only apply for jobs where you meet the qualifications. If it lists preferred 5-7 years of work experience and you have 4 years, that may be the reason you’re not making it through. There’s nothing wrong with you – they just likely have other candidates who do meet the preferred experience level. It’s also a good idea to try applying to jobs at a lower level just to test that it’s your qualifications that are hurting you in the job search.

Issue: Your Expectations

If you truly cannot find any jobs in your field that you’re qualified for, then it’s time to critically evaluate your career goals and chart a path to reach them. It is like banging your head against the wall to continue to apply to jobs where you don’t meet preferred or required qualifications.

Solution: Get qualified. Look at the job postings in your field and see if there is a preferred education or certification requirement that you can work toward. If you don’t meet preferred experience levels, try doing freelance work in your field, getting an internship, or even doing relevant volunteer experience. Alternatively, you can work at a lower level job than you anticipated or gain your experience in an adjacent field.

While the advice sounds trite, keeping your head up in the job search is one of the best things you can do. If you’ve maximized the topics listed above and still don’t get the job, just remember that the employers simply saw a candidate whose profile was more closely aligned with their ideal. Another one will come along!

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