Posted by Ellen Mehling
Today we have a guest contributor helping with a short list (in this case, three things) from a number of advisors (in this case, two). Eric Cohen is Job Training & Outreach Specialist at Brooklyn Public Library’s Business & Career Center.
What are three things that are very hard to get job seekers to understand and/or accept?
1) It’s going to take time for employers to get back to you.
Job seekers often come to the library discouraged that their resume and cover letter aren’t drawing a positive response, even when those documents are quite good. When I ask them how long they’ve been at their job search, sometimes the answer is as little as a week or two. [Employers can take a long time] to get back to applicants and, more often than not, won’t even acknowledge candidates who haven’t been selected for interview. If you’re without a job and soon will be in dire straits financially (or are there already!), this can be understandably hard to swallow.
2) Employers will most likely be quickly scanning your resume – in as little as 6-15 seconds – so it’s critical to convey the most important information about yourself quickly.
I’ve seen multitudes of resumes with a dozen or more bullet points for each job, summary sections that are rich with cliches and buzzwords (“self-starter”) but don’t list actual hard skills, or that focus excessively on positions held 15 or more years ago. Job seekers are often resistant to omit details or have trouble judging which ones are most important or relevant, so they include everything. (Other times, like an author who’s toiled away for years on a novel they’re trying to sell to a publisher, they can grow very attached to what they’ve written and become blind to how it may be received by others!) But a hiring manager really wants an applicant to quickly convey what skills, experience and accomplishments they have that directly relate to the specific job they’re recruiting for.
3) Having the appropriate technology skills for the job is really critical.
We’ve reached the point where being computer literate is mandatory for everyone, but so many of our patrons are resistant to typing a resume or filling out a job application on their own. That doesn’t portend well for their success on the job market, because even the most seemingly unskilled job today is probably going to require checking email, using a spreadsheet, typing a document, and (if nothing else) using an electronic timekeeping system at some point [and possibly Zoom too]. There are no shortcuts anymore.
Job seekers in all fields must keep their tech skills up to date, and what this means specifically for any type of work is going to differ depending on the job, even within the library profession.
1) Job seekers themselves have to write and customize* their resumes and cover letters, prepare for an interview, network, etc.
[ *customizing your documents each time you apply for a job is extremely important ]
SO MANY people just want someone to write their resume and/or cover letter for them or otherwise just get them a job. Or they’re unhappy and want out of their current position but won’t take any action towards that goal. I see this in all levels of experience, age and education.
They see people getting jobs and promotions and other career achievements and don’t seem to understand the effort that takes place and the competition involved, often behind the scenes, over time. There is an element of luck in the job search, to be sure, but some people seem to think it is all luck or kissing up, instead of actual hard work and integrity, mutually beneficial networking, acquiring the right skills, etc.
Your resume and cover letter represent you and therefore they need to be written by you. If your career is a car, you are the driver. Not your current or past employers, not your boss, not your network, not a recruiter, not your school or graduate advisor, not a career counselor or advisor or mentor, you.
2) Switching from one kind of work to another, whether within a field or between two different fields, takes time and preparation.
Just saying, “I don’t want to do that anymore, I want to do this” is not going to be enough to convince a hiring committee to give you a chance. You must have more to offer than that; you must have what the employer is looking for and you must convey those things specifically and clearly in your application documents and your interview.
Read job descriptions carefully for the kind of jobs you are interested in and make sure you have the required skills, experience, education, etc. before applying.
3) An interview is not a job offer.
It is a good sign and a necessary step in the hiring process, but getting an interview does not mean that the job is “yours to lose”. It means only that the employer wants to learn more about you, and they are still considering other applicants. You must prepare for the interview and do well in it to stay in the running.
Thank you, Eric!