A job search is like a marathon. And just like a runner in training, you need to develop a regimen, building new habits to help you toward your goal.
Whether you’re transitioning out of the military to your first civilian career or hunting for a new challenge, finding a new job — and the right job — is a long-term investment of your time and talent.
Know what you’re looking for
Runners set goals, even if it’s just finishing the race with a personal best time. The way you search for a job should be no different.
When applying for jobs, it’s tempting to apply for any and every job you can find, just throwing your resume out there and hoping something sticks. Instead, focus on the jobs that you really want, the roles that fill you with confidence and excitement.
“What type of job would be ideal for you?” asked Darren Kaltved, a career development expert who shared some job-hunting tips with LinkedIn. “What type of work environment would you thrive in the most? What type of culture and individuals do you see yourself wanting to work with?”
Kaltved noted that the answers to these questions can help you visualize where you want to go with your career and how you should get there.
Customize each application
Runners plan for the terrain they’re facing, and bring their best equipment to the race, so bring out the best version of yourself with your resume and cover letter.
It’s tempting to build generalized documents — something you can send out to any opening that crosses your path — just to make the application process easier on yourself. However, skimping on the extra effort can hinder your applications.
Indeed recommends that you evaluate your skills and tailor your resume updates to highlight accomplishments and experiences relevant to the application in front of you, and include the keywords from the posted job description in both your resume and cover letter.
“The more your resume reflects the [knowledge, skills, and abilities] being sought, the more likely you are to be qualified by the gatekeeper and referred to the hiring manager for consideration,” said James Marfield, associate director of VA’s National Recruitment Service. “Make it obvious you are qualified for the job.”
Build a community
On the day of the race, it all comes down to you, but runners build communities to help them train, sharing experiences and successes to motivate everyone.
Like running, applying for new jobs is ultimately a solitary endeavor, but knowing other people are going through the same thing can make it easier.
It can help to build a community around you, people who are facing the same challenges and frustrations that you might be experiencing in your search for a new job. With that in mind, many websites and recruiters recommend networking, building relationships with the people in the field you’re pursuing.
Connecting with people during the COVID-19 pandemic can be difficult, but career websites like LinkedIn offer options to find people in your field or at companies where you want to apply. Virtual job fairs, too, can be a great way to meet people in your industry and learn more about the jobs they have available.
You might not win the race the first time out, but that’s no reason to stop trying.
Only a lucky few won’t face rejection in their search for a new career, and you need to be ready to accept the frustrations that come with being passed over.
How you respond next, though, is as important a habit to develop as any other, and it will be the most personal decision you make. Whether you check your resume, check in with your community, or check out for a while, it pays to stay positive and revisit the habits that got you this far.
Remember, it’s a marathon, and you have all the tools you need to succeed.
Work at VA