I scroll through my Instagram feed as the latest drama of The Bachelor plays out on the iPad in front of me. My laptop sits to the right with about a million tabs open showing off Tumblr, Facebook, blog posts, Pinterest, and oh, yeah… the job description that I’m applying to along with a half-finished email to that woman I met at the career fair.
I pause my double-tapping Instagram duties to stare at the partially composed email. I really should finish it. But then there’s a buzzing in my hand and I look down to see a text from Ryan, “What u doing?”
“Nuthin,” I respond, because finding a job so that I can pay for food and, I dunno, live in an apartment instead of on the streets constitutes “nuthin,” right?
… And I can’t understand why I don’t have a job.
As twentysomethings, we sometimes feel like the job search is getting in the way of our lives. There are so many better things to be doing! Not only do we have access to a constant flow of social media and all ten seasons of our favorite shows on Netflix, but there’s also flirting to do on the phone, craft beers, and basically anything that does not include the mundane work of creating customized cover letters.
While in the process of searching for and applying to jobs, it can be tempting to rush through the process so that you can do “fun stuff” instead. But just as you were taught in preschool (hopefully we all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood), taking shortcuts can sometimes get you in trouble. Though you won’t be gobbled up by the big bad wolf, there are still consequences for rushing through your job search.
Here are four reasons it’s important for twentysomethings to stay focused while searching for a job.
Generic Doesn’t Work
Here’s a little tip: Don’t ever send out a generic cover letter and/or résumé to multiple job postings.
First, there are these things called applicant tracking systems (ATS). These bits of computer programming can really make or break your chances of getting seen by the hiring manager. If they don’t spot enough relevant information on your résumé, they knock you out of the running before you ever even get seen by a human being!
Second, employers are looking to hire people who actually know what the job is going to be like and who want to do that particular job. If you’re sending a generic résumé and/or cover letter, it seems like you either don’t really know what you’re applying for or you don’t really care.
You need to tailor both of these documents to fit the job descriptions you’re applying to. Better yet, having an in-depth knowledge of the company and position will help you write a pain-spotting cover letter which touches upon how, exactly, you’ll benefit the organization.
So that means you can’t get away with sending snaps of your cat while sending out mass emails with your résumé and cover letter attached. You have to stay focused, organized, and really figure out what needs to go into each tailored cover letter and résumé.
Networking Means Nothing If You Don’t Follow Up
Picture this: you’re a communications major with big marketing dreams. At a career fair, you meet an executive at an advertising agency who is impressed with your internship experience and interested in taking a closer look at your book.
You go home and you’re giddy with excitement. You’ll totally follow up the next day. But then the next day comes along and… nothing happens. You never follow up. You forget or push it off just twenty four more hours. Or you do follow up but you get her name wrong and can’t remember exactly what you two discussed. Either way, that great contact you could have had is not going to remember you and nothing is going to come from that meeting.
Yikes! Talk about a missed opportunity. You cannot let things like this happen. You have to approach every meeting and networking situation with a plan of action. I don’t necessarily mean during the actual conversation. You don’t want to be too intense or demanding when talking with someone. You want to be conversational rather than salesy. But, afterwards, you should be ready and focused.
Keep a notebook with you at all times or jot info into your smartphone. Write down key points from your conversation. Keep all new contact information in one place. Whether that means creating a spreadsheet like this young man [ed. note: ditch the spreadsheets, use JobHero] or having a dedicated box for business cards, create a system to keep track of who you meet.
And don’t let yourself get distracted with everything else in your life. Make sure that you follow up with everyone that you meet. Thank them for their time! Mention the key points from your conversation.
Remember: It isn’t really about who you know. It’s about who knows you. Networking without following up is basically not networking at all. So, stay focused and be sure to follow through.
You’re Doing Them a Solid, NOT The Other Way Around
Yes, once you get an offer, you can start to think about negotiating or checking to make sure that it really is the right fit for you, but while applying and interviewing for a job, you’re really trying to sell yourself. Especially if you're a recent graduate without much experience -- you’re in an uphill battle trying to prove to employers that you’re a worthy investment.
Sure, you may not have 45 years of experience as a marketing manager, but boy did you market the heck out of that hypothetical product in your Marketing 202 class. And you’re ready to market the heck out of whatever else is thrown at you.
Basically, you’re trying to convince employers that you won’t be a huge pain to train (show that you can learn on the job) and that you’ll be able to jump in headfirst and help your department thrive.
Want to know how not to convince employers that you'll be an effective employee?
Show up late to an interview. Have no idea what the company’s mission statement is. Don’t have any questions for your interviewer or during an informational interview.
You need to be able to put your best self forward during all aspects of the job search and that means you need to stay focused. Prepare questions for those informational interviews and make sure they can’t be easily answered with a Google search. Map out your route to the company a couple of days before your job interview. Practice your elevator pitch. Know what the company cares about and find ways to show that you care about it, too.
Finally, why do you really need to stay focused while searching for a job?
Homework time! You don’t have to say goodbye to Instagram and Snapchat forever. That would be cray. Afterall, we are twentysomethings. Make it easy to focus by designating job search-only times in your schedule. During those times, put your phone on airplane mode. Close out of all your extra tabs. Pause whatever show you’re bingewatching and really focus on what you’re doing.
Want more advice about all aspects of twentysomething life? Check out this brand new ebook that covers everything from the job search to relationships to figuring out what a 401(k) really is, courtesy of AfterCollege.