Finding a Job 101: The Best Way to Job Search

Kern Carter

January 7, 2022

10 Minutes

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Finding a job is hard work, there’s no way around that. But that’s OK. Our job at Prepped is to get you ready for your job search, so you can find the right jobs and prepare yourself to be hired. We recognize that as a university student or someone early in their career, you likely don’t have much experience. That can be a real challenge that sometimes leads to frustration. Don’t get too down on yourself, though. Just because you don’t have much working experience doesn’t mean you can’t add value to a company. You’ve still accumulated skills and experiences that can help you stand out from other candidates. 

In this article you’ll learn strategies to identify what career and job are right for you, the right way to search for a job, how to write a stand-out resume and cover letter, and tactics to nail your interview. 

Pre-job search: Identifying what career, job, and company is right for you 

This step seems like it should be simple. You’re studying courses in a specific field and that should technically translate into a career you’re passionate about. However, it’s often not that straightforward. Deciding on a career path is a major step, and although studying in a specific field narrows down your options, it doesn’t necessarily point you in a clear direction when it comes to choosing a career. 

There’s a way to combat this uncertainty. Following these steps can help you develop a clear picture about what job you want and what career path you want to pursue. 

List your skills (soft skills and hard or technical skills) 

Before doing anything, list out all of your skills and separate them into two buckets: hard or technical skills and soft skills. 

Hard/technical skills are skills that relate directly to your job. Editing, coding, designing, and performance marketing are all examples of hard skills. Soft skills are companion skills you bring that aren’t necessarily related to you performing your job, but can be useful in a working environment. Skills like collaboration, being able to network, organizing, and communicating clearly and effectively are all examples of soft skills. 

Identify the skills employers are looking for

According to a Future Of Jobs report,by the year 2025, half of the current employees will need to reskill to keep up with the growth and change of technology. That’s half the workforce. You are in a bit of a different position because you’re building the skills needed for 2025, but it’s still important to know what those skills are. As you can imagine, many of those skills are related to tech. Here are some of the most in-demand skills you’ll need to consider: 

  • Cloud computing
  • Cybersecurity 
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Big data analytics 
  • Blockchain 
  • Virtual and augmented reality 

Just because these skills are in-demand doesn’t mean you need to change course. If none of these technical skills are part of your skillset, consider these in-demand soft skills: 

  • Critical thinking 
  • Digital literacy 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Self-management skills
  • Leadership skills 

All of these skills are super important as you identify which career, job, and company are right for you. 

Take career/personality quizzes to identify your strengths and values

A big part of understanding what career path to follow is understanding who you are. A career aptitude test (or personality test) provides insight into your strengths and weaknesses, along with identifying things you really value. It also acts as a guide by letting you know which careers you might best be suited for. 

There are seven personality/career tests you can take. The most popular are: 

  1. Myers Briggs  
  2. The Big Five
  3. MAPP

Check out our list of the top career and personality tests you can take to help with your career search. Remember, these tests are just a guide. It’s up to you to make a decision that feels right.  

Identify companies you want to work for 

Once you’ve listed out your skills and have a better understanding of who you are and what careers you’re best suited for, it’s time to start thinking about what companies you want to work for. But before we get there, let’s take a small step back. 

We get that you really want a job and to jumpstart your career, but you don’t want just any job and you certainly don’t want to work for just any company. So before writing down all the companies you’d like to work for, write a list of what’s important to you in the company you want to work for. Your list can include: 

1. What is the size of the company? 

Maybe you like working with large corporations, or maybe you prefer a smaller company with far fewer employees. This can change as you go, but write how you feel right now. 

2. What is the company culture? 

You’ll likely have to do a bit of research for this, but knowing a company’s culture is important to knowing if you’ll fit in there. 

3. Do the company’s values align with yours? 

The environment might be at the top of the list of your values. If caring for the environment and taking active steps to reduce their carbon footprint isn’t important to a company, then that’s probably not where you want to be. 

4. Is there room for growth within the company? 

Even though research today shows that Canadians will switch jobs up to 15 times in their career, you still want the opportunity to learn and grow within the company you’re working for. 

5. Does the company offer stability? 

Everyone has different risk tolerance when it comes to stability. Maybe you enjoy the uncertainty of a startup, or maybe you prefer the security of working for a bank. Wherever you are on that scale, this is an important criteria to consider when making your decision. 

Once you’ve put this list together, start researching companies you want to work for. When you’re first starting out, don’t worry about anything other than your interest in the organization. Once you come up with a list of 15-20 companies, then you can start narrowing them down based on some of the criteria listed above. 

Here’s a pro-tip you should try: Once you narrow down the list of companies you want to work for, follow them on LinkedIn and turn on alerts. You’ll get notified every time that company posts a job opening. 

What entry-level roles match your skills? 

Patience is important while going through the job search process, and your next step will certainly require some patience. You have big dreams and are confident in what you bring to the table, but you need to get your foot in the door. More than likely, entry-level jobs are where you’ll want to get started. 

This is your chance to prove yourself and  show your managers and bosses that you’re worth every dollar they pay you. Before we even get there, though, you need to look for and apply for jobs that fit where you are in your career––in this case, the very early stages.

Most job postings identify the level of candidate they are looking for. Senior manager, junior editor, intermediate marketer—these are all cues and indications that tell  you where in your career they expect a candidate  to be. Postings marked “junior” or “entry level” are typically where you want to start, but don’t ignore postings labelled “intermediate,” especially if you have considerable internship or volunteer experience. 

Searching for Jobs 

While jobs and industries continue to shift and transform as time passes, the way you search for a job remains consistent. There are two approaches you can take towards your job search: 

  • Job postings: scrolling through somewhere like LinkedIn or your college/university job board. 
  • Networking: connecting with mentors and others in your industry to help get you in the door.   

What is networking? 

Networking is all about building relationships. It’s about finding ways to connect with people in your industry (or related to your industry), so you can form a mutually beneficial relationship. Note that the relationship should be mutually beneficial, meaning you also need to bring something to the table. You can’t just be taking. 

Read more about networking 101

Navigating career fairs 

Career fairs are great because you get the chance to connect with multiple companies on the same day. Similar to job interviews, you want to stand out from everyone else trying to build their network and get an inside track to a job. So when you attend your next career fair, keep these points in mind: 

  • Keep your hands free: You don’t want to have a heavy briefcase or bag in your hand. You want your hands free for shaking when you meet someone. 
  • Apply your elevator pitch: Career fairs are the perfect place to apply your elevator pitch. When you meet a potential employer and shake their hand, give them that elevator pitch you’ve been practicing in front of your mirror. 
  • Try your best to speak confidently: We know so many people are introverts and the thought of dozens of booths and hundreds of people feels intimidating, but you need to stand out and that takes speaking up. You don’t have to be the loudest person, but you need to articulate yourself well enough to be understood and remembered. 

It’s also a good idea to dress comfortably at these events. You’ll be moving around a lot, so you don’t want to get too warm. Keep it professional, of course, but don’t be afraid to wear something a bit more casual if it means you’ll feel more comfortable. 

Building your network 

Building your network is a lot more strategic than you may think. It’s not just about connecting with people in your industry. It’s about creating a team of people with different “positions” who can help elevate your career. 

There are key roles you need to be filled in your network. Here are some to consider: 

  • A mentor: A role model that will be your career guide. 
  • The super connector: Someone who knows everyone and everyone knows them. 
  • The industry insider: This person is important because they have expert-level knowledge of the industry you’re trying to get into and can share that knowledge. 

These three people are crucial to have in your corner and can go a long way to determining your success. There are five more positions you need to complete your networking team. 

Coffee chats 

Coffee chats are short, pick-your-brain sessions with someone in your industry that can give you insights you wouldn’t be able to google. The toughest part of a coffee chat is finding the right person. Start by asking friends and family if they have any connections. If that doesn’t work, LinkedIn is your best bet. Search through employees of companies you’re interested in and let them know why you’re reaching out. 

Virtual coffee chats are becoming more popular for obvious reasons. Nothing changes in your approach and, when you do schedule a meeting, it’s important to maintain professionalism, even if you’re at home. With both virtual and in-person coffee chats, what you’re trying to do is build trust, establish a solid relationship with this person, and hopefully add them to your network. Have questions prepared, remain professional at all times, and if you’re doing a virtual coffee chat, make sure you’re in a quiet space where your internet connection is strong. 

Create a standout resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile 

Every part of your job search plays a vital role in getting you hired. However, a resume is usually the first time a potential employer sees your qualifications. The value of making a memorable first impression with your resume can’t be overstated. 

With that said, here are some simple tips to keep in mind when creating your resume: 

  • Tailor your resume to the job posting. No two resumes should be exactly the same. Review the job posting closely and curate your resume accordingly. 
  • Use simple fonts, list your accomplishments and not your job duties, and follow this list of dos and don’ts for your resume.  
  • List your top skills and make sure they’re in line with the skills the posting is looking for. 

Tools to build and write your resume

Writing a resume takes some know-how. Understanding how to curate your resume so it fits the job description, knowing what to include and what to leave out, and getting the layout right are all steps you need to consider. Luckily, Prepped has developed tools to help make this process more simple and effective. 

  • Prepped Resume TemplatesBuilder: Our resume builder templates help get you past the AI systems that filter your resume and into the hands of hiring managers and decision-makers.  
  • Prepped Resume Optimizer: We give you real-time feedback on your resume with suggestions on how to make it better.  
  • Blog posts on building your resume: We know how important your resume is, so we’ve put together several posts that detail  different aspects of writing resumes. If you visit our blog page, you’ll also find content about networking and how to nail your interview.

Writing a cover letter

So many job seekers skip out on the cover letter, but that would be a mistake. A cover letter is your chance to get a bit more personal, show off your personality, and explain why you would make the ideal candidate for the position. Don’t skip the cover letter, especially if a posting specifically asks for one. 

Tips for writing a cover letter

The key to writing a cover letter is knowing what to include. You only have a page, maybe less, to get your point across and express something that won’t be in your resume. Here’s what should you absolutely be include in your cover letter: 

  • Your name and contact info
  • The hiring manager’s name and contact info 
  • Elaborating on your your experience accomplishments (choose one and go deep) 
  • Your personality and passion 
  • A call to action to end the letter 

This is where Prepped can also help. We provide templates to help you craft your cover letter. These cover letter templates are designed to increase your chances of getting an interview. All you need to do is choose the template you prefer and start typing. 

Updating your LinkedIn profile 

LinkedIn has become the de facto space for job seekers to look for opportunities and employers to get a glimpse of who you are. Because of this, keeping your profile up to date is a must when you’re job searching. Keeping outdated or incorrect information says something about your commitment to getting hired, so be sure to update your profile every time you add a job, internship, volunteer opportunity, or skill to your repertoire. 

Tips to get your LinkedIn on point 

LinkedIn tells you exactly what you need to do to keep your profile fresh and ready for opportunities. We’ll go over some of their top suggestions: 

  1. Use a strong profile pic 
  2. Your headline should be more than your job title 
  3. Don’t leave your summary blank 
  4. List your relevant skills 
  5. Highlight your services 

In addition to these tips, it’s a good idea to engage with other people’s posts. Liking, sharing, and commenting with thoughtful responses gets noticed and hopefully reciprocated. It’s also worth it to start blogging directly on Medium. Thought leadership is a great way to show employers what you know about the industry. You don’t need to go viral, but sharing your knowledge from your perspective can be valuable and give you an advantage in the eyes of employers. 

Preparing for Interviews

You did a solid job with your resume and cover letter, and now it’s time for the final challenge. There’s only one thing standing (they’re usually sitting, actually) in the way of you and that job you’ve been searching for, and that’s the interview. At this point, candidates have been narrowed down and a lot rides on how you perform during the interview. This will be the determiner for whether or not you get hired. That’s a lot of pressure, but that’s why you need to prepare. 

How to prepare for a job interview

Elevator pitch

One of the first steps in preparing for your interview is to practice your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short summary of your experience and accomplishments, along with some of your goals. At the beginning of a job interview, there’s usually an opportunity to share your elevator pitch. You need to be clear, confident, and efficient (keep it to under one minute). 

Answering common questions

No two interviewers will be alike, but there are some common questions you should be prepared to answer. Some common interview questions include “tell me about a time you had an uncomfortable conversation with a colleague,” or “tell me about a time you didn’t meet the client’s expectations.” We have a full list of common questions you can anticipate. 

Prepare for industry-specific questions

Get ready to answer questions specifically about your industry and the company’s role in the industry. You should have done research on the company long before applying, and definitely before your interview, so you should be prepared to answer whatever question they throw at you. 

Follow up after your interview 

This is an underrated piece of advice that can mean the difference between you starting next week and still searching for a job. Employers get busy and have looked at dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes. They aren’t going to remember the specifics of everyone they spoke to, but if you follow up after your interview, you immediately become top of mind. And if an employer is choosing between you and someone else who didn’t follow up, guess who’s getting the job? 

A follow-up can be done with a simple thank you note. Let the interviewer know you appreciate them taking the time to interview you, then recap some of the key points discussed during the interview. This should be done within 24 hours of your interview. 

Keep the momentum 

This is a lot. We know. That’s why it’s important you don’t get discouraged. Finding a job is a challenge, and finding a good job is even more challenging. But you’ll get there. You’ve got the skills, the talent, and the knowledge. It’s about showcasing all of your attributes to the right employers in a way that highlights your value. 

Dealing with rejection 

Part of anyone’s job search is getting rejected. What you need to keep in mind is that rejection isn’t always a bad thing. It simply means that the opportunity wasn’t right for you, or you have to work a little harder or wait a little bit longer for that right opportunity. Dealing with rejection doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel disappointed. You can be upset, but you need to harness those emotions and let them drive you to keep going, improve your skills, and find more ways to gain experience.  

Learn from your mistakes

Every rejection is an opportunity to learn. Each “no” you receive should prompt you to revisit every part of your process. Did you start out with a defined strategy like we explain in this post? Have you been leveraging your network? What about your resume? Is it optimized the way it’s supposed to be? Think through all of these questions before getting back to your job search. 

Identify further goals 

Your career is just part of who you are and part of your personal journey. You likely have several passions, hobbies, and things you just enjoy doing. Make sure you keep some perspective and find time to enjoy the things you truly love. Also, when applying for jobs, make sure you’re looking for jobs aligned with your purpose. Job searching is a lot more fulfilling when there’s something you’re passionate about beyond getting paid. 

Let Prepped help you find that dream job 

You probably need a break after reading all of that. We don’t blame you. There’s a lot involved in trying to find the right job, but what we do at Prepped is help make your job search more simple and effective. Our resume templates help you craft a resume to get you noticed and our AI interview tool helps you walk into that interview like you’re already hired. 

Sign up for Prepped today and get one step closer to your dream job.