Smile Your Way into a Job

As a professional writer, I've rewritten the resumes of many veterans over the years. Below are my job finding tips for Vets and others, too. Smile: When I was 6 years old and got my first job selling newspapers on the intersection of Broad Street and Cheltenham Avenue in Philadelphia, several qualities were required: smile, provide excellent customer service, and move quickly to make change for a dollar for the dime Philadelphia Inquirer, Bulletin, or nickel Daily News, and get along with the old guy who owned the stand. Not much has changed over the subsequent decades of work.

I got the job because my 8 year old brother did it before me. I kept the job because I performed as aggressively and politely as he did.

We both moved onto large city paper routes in our grade school years, as well as collecting bottles for redemption fees, shoveling sidewalks when it snowed and cutting grass in the summer.

Starting there, I’ve worked many jobs over the intervening 54 years, but I think the basic rules for finding a job have stayed the same.  These days, most people will look for work multiple times in their working lives. Everyone’s basic job finding rules are different, but here are a few of mine.

Even when you’re nervous, scared, or uncertain, be sure to smile. Everyone loves to see a smile. When a recruiter or hiring manager sees a smile, they now you are confident, friendly, outgoing, and positive. These are all qualities they are looking for. A smile costs you nothing, but it does a long way toward making it easier for that hiring decision maker to choose you.

As most hiring decisions are made within the first five minutes of the interview, dramatically increase your chances by smiling. Keep it in perspective. You have an hour or less to interview. Be friendly. See it as a chance to get to know someone and spend an interesting few minutes. Don’t think the future of civilization and your whole future relies on your performance. Enjoy it. Enjoy it. Enjoy it.

Use Keywords: Companies, especially large companies, receive too many resumes to have a human view them. Like so much work, the process or reading and reviewing resumes, on the first pass anyway, is automated, that is, done by software.

The software looks for keywords and matches them to their keywords. So the company needs a mechanical engineer. If you are a mechanical engineer and you put those words at the top of your resume, you will be identified by the software as a potential candidate and perhaps invited in for an interview. Many of these software packages only read the first top third of your resume, so make sure you list your keywords there.

Use the Correct Job Search Engines: Every job seeker knows Google search and hopefully has set up job alerts in it, but there are many other worthwhile search engines. Glassdoor (http://www.glassdoor.com/Job/index.htm) lists jobs and employee comments about the companies offering their jobs AND salaries. 

Dice (http://www.dice.com/) and) offer listings of highly technical jobs. Indeed (http://www.indeed.com/ offers a broad range of jobs in varied fields. All offer job alert capabilities. Register with them and you can have daily job listings of available jobs appear in your mail box.

Know Your Resume: This sounds basic, but it is a critical task that many overlook. The person you sent that resume to, if they called you in for an interview, deserves your best effort to be able to discuss your fit for the job from your resume. You wrote it. You should have it down cold. Frankly, you should have it memorized. You must be able to talk to any task, fact or accomplishment on it. This is your chance to shine...humbly, and factually.

Be Truthful: On both your resume and in the interview, always, always, always tell the truth. When you tell the truth you confirm that you are honest, trustworthy, and dependable. 

Most companies conduct extensive background checks (reference checks, consumer credit report, criminal records, social security number trace, motor vehicle report, and education verification...even Office of Inspector General Sanctions for higher level jobs) these days, so they will catch a lie anyway. Just be truthful. It’s easier.

Be Motivated, Be Positive: Figure out what motives you and makes you positive (happy). This sounds simple, but it is not. For example, if you are subject to a “reduction in force” with thousands of others at your company, and you begin to look for another job, you can be “unemployed” or you can be “between jobs.” Both terms are loaded. The first has implications that go back to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

You can be unemployed a long time. But if you insist that you are between jobs, you know that losing a job is not permanent or near permanent. It is not death, or terminal cancer. It is a temporary affair most of us find ourselves in at one time or another. And that includes the hiring manager sitting across the desk. Be sure that you will find something and that confidence will bring that result.

Exercise: No one can look for a job continuously. I’ve heard the line about “Your full-time job is to get a job!” but that ignores the human condition. No one can apply for job after job and get rejected for most. Exercise will help keep you healthy, balanced, positive, coordinated, and clear thinking before, during and after the interview.

Use Your Time Productively: As when you work from home, there are many opportunities for distraction. Once, I got way too involved in a home improvement project when I should have spent that time doing the detailed tasks required of finding another job. So, know your distractions and avoid them.

Volunteer One of the worst things about being between jobs is that you lack a routine and are cut off from your peers. Volunteering is one of the best things you can do to mitigate that reality. It will help you maintain a positive attitude, interact with people to maintain your social skills, learn something new, stretch your brain, and do good. I have done volunteer civil defense for years, often when between jobs. I learned how to blog that way. (http://poetslife.blogspot.com/2015/02/social-media-as-force-multiplier.html).

And I  learned enough that I now serve on the board of directors of the American Civil Defense Association (http://www.tacda.org/). I was just let go in a “reduction in force.” I am interviewing with a disaster recovery company. My first love, civil defense, may soon become my career field. So, volunteer. It will take you into fields and paths you cannot imagine.

Don’t Depend on Digital Technology Alone:  The Internet, instant messaging, email, cell phones, etc. are critical tools to find a job. But they are not the ONLY things required. Finding a job is still a very human game that requires much human interaction. You really never know where that opportunity will present itself. So don’t be shy about telling others you are in between jobs.

Pray: In my last in between seven years ago, which lasted four months, I was at my wits end. I tried everything and it seemed like nothing worked. I fell to my knees and begged Christ for help. The very next day, out of nowhere, a recruiter called. She had an excellent relationship with a large company and got me the interview that got me the job. So, yes, Divine intervention and opportunities are there if we but ask.

Speak Up: A year ago my HVAC guy was having a terrible time getting my NEW heat pump to work. He had several assistants out to run diagnostics. One was his older brother who, when putting in a thermostat explained to me he worked on the marine amphibious project for General Dynamics for 17 years.

He was let go with many others. Point blank he said to me, “Do you have any jobs where you are?”I said, “Yes. We’re looking for technical writers. Have you done that?”“I’ve been an engineer for 24 years. I’ve done lots of technical writing.” I passed along his resume and he was hired as a technical writer.

Within a month, he got to know the director of engineering, explained he was an aeronautical engineer, and talked his way into solving a difficult hacking problem they were having with a product. He's on his way.

What I’ve written here is distilled from 46 years of working, getting and losing jobs, working them, being downsized and going back repeatedly into the job finding battle. Some job searches have required me to reach down deeper than others, but all, in retrospect, all have helped me be a more understanding person of others who are in the same situation. And you must remember that when you are looking to find a job. The person interviewing you has been there, too.

Eventually, you will interview other job seekers. You will influence who should be hired. Even if you can’t hire, help whoever you encounter looking for a job. When recruiters call me when I work, I refer them to someone else if I know who is a potential candidate. If I can't think of anyone, I refer them to organizations that may help them find a good candidate, like the Society for Technical Communication (http://www.stc.org/) for technical writers.

When finding a job, as with PTSD, the worst thing you can do is go quiet. You must talk to strangers, circulate and communicate with many, many others. You must move. You must act. You must do.

There is so much goodness in others. I have seen that goodness in emergency situations, but I have seen it more often in routine tasks performed well. Perform the routine job finding tasks well. The spectacular will follow.

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