The Senior Series: Ready, Aim, Fire.

The college seniors I’ve talked to lately all have one common question/concern that goes something like this:

This ridiculously Type A person I know at school said she has already applied to 37 jobs!  Am I behind because I haven’t done that yet? She has everything organized into a spreadsheet and is STILL applying…should I be doing this too?

No.  This person obviously needs to start reading my blog.  Why do I hate this girl’s “strategy”?

  • It’s obvious that this person has no clue what they want to do, so they are applying to anything that is available. Lack of focus in applications is (in my opinion) the #1 problem with recent grads.  Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, you need to make each application seem like you do know.  Otherwise, they will move on to someone who does know what they want to do.  Make sense?
  • This person is likely using huge impersonal online job boards.  99% of her applications will never be seen by a human.  Some of the positions she’s applying to probably don’t even exist because some snarky recruiter made them up.
  • Applying to 5 well-researched and fitting jobs is more effective than applying to 50 jobs you don’t really care about.
  • I assume if this person applied to 37 jobs, she uses a generic cover letter and resume.  Generic cover letters suck.  If I was a recruiter I’d throw these away. If the candidate isn’t willing to put effort into her application, than she probably won’t put effort into her work either.  It shows you are looking for a paycheck not a career.
  • If you have to write a cover letter, write individual cover letters for each job you apply to.  One time, I got an interview by spending a long ass time on my cover letter.  I knew I was a fit for the company, they saw that in my cover letter and all mentioned it in my 4 interviews.  I ended up working there for almost 3 years.

Before you start your job search, there is a lot of prep work.  You know that saying “Ready, Aim, Fire”?  Probably not a good idea to go out of order, right?  Same applies to your job search. 

You need to prep your “marketing materials” (resume/cv) along with your marketing message (who are you, what do you want, and what value do you bring to this job). 

Step 1- READY- is figuring out what you want to do.  This is a long and tedious journey for many.  Pick something and go with it.  Craft your job search campaign around it.  Everything happens for a reason- if you end up hating your job, you can always move on down the road.  It sure beats sitting on the couch.

Step 2-AIM- is talking to people about what you want to do.  Ideally you are talking to people you know, people in the industry, or contacts you’ve made from sending a great networking email.  Usually someone knows someone.  Keep talking, going to coffee, emailing, etc.  This is more effective than shooting fish in a barrel.

Step 3-FIRE- is crafting your materials and application around what you’ve learned.  Know that you’ve talked to 5 people in your industry, you probably have a better idea of what they’re looking for and the reality of the job.  This will help you separate yourself from those who have no clue what they want to do or what they are applying for.

Since you’ve done your prep work, the quality and potential success of your job search will be much greater.  Remember not to jump the gun before you get ready.

While I was researching for this article, I found several awesome resources that will help you get  Ready, Aim, then Fire.

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media team at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Nicole also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helped develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.