I attended a professional meeting of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) a few years back and was offered a permanent position in a completely new field for me after only TWO meetings.
Yep, it’s true.
I had left my position in banking and was ready to embark on a new path in human resources. I turned up at a SHRM special-interest group meeting for recruiters, which was FREE and took place at a snazzy location downtown. I had no idea what to expect, zero experience with recruiting and little exposure to the human resources field per se. Yet there at this association meeting I found myself sitting with experienced personnel from top-notch organizations. When it was my turn to introduce myself, I stammered out a bit about my intention to become a recruiter, and at the end of my second bi-weekly meeting, I was approached by one of those experienced attendees and asked if I would be interested in a position! She hadn’t yet posted the job because her budget wouldn’t be approved for two weeks, but she thought I would be a good fit.
Professional associations are typically non-profit organizations with a mission of furthering the advancement of a particular profession or industry. Many of these are national or international organizations with area chapters, such as the Association for Women in Communications, and others are strictly local such as Young Professionals of Seattle.
Even when membership dues are charged, you can often attend a meeting once or twice for free, or pay just for a one-time visit. It’s a great way to check out a field of interest. Say you are wondering if working in affordable housing is right for you. Show up at the Housing Development Consortium to hear about day-to-day issues faced in the workplace, find out what skills and qualities are needed to do the work, and gain insight into what life is like in that career. Enthralled with website SEO and hankering after a possible career in search engine marketing? Try out Seattle Search Network’s community of digital marketing experts.
If you attend meetings on a regular basis, you are likely to learn about industry trends and become more knowledgeable in the field. Just by being interested enough in the topic to show up, you will find there will be opportunities to develop strong professional relationships. Face to face introductions for networking that did not have to be requested or arranged – what could be easier!
Many of you interested in finding a job or changing your work have heard me talk about not spending too much of your time applying to positions posted online. As little as 20% of all hiring comes from job seekers applying to jobs that are advertised or published online. However it can still be a useful part of a solid overall and diverse strategy.
In most cases when you apply, you will be required to upload a resume in addition to completing the application. Most large employers use an Applicant Tracking System to assist them in their review process. These are software programs that filter applications automatically based on given criteria such as keywords, skills, years of experience, etc. The software mathematically scores for relevance and sends only the most qualified ones through for human review.
There is help for ensuring your resume can get past these robots. First, keep the formatting very simple (no fancy font, shading, logo) and use Word rather than a PDF. Next, make sure to include the key phrases and skills as written in the job description. This is where it’s important to have a Qualifications Summary section rather than a Career Objective statement on your resume—you can stuff in more keywords in a summary paragraph. And then the last step is the super-secret sauce on top—run it through a scan before you send it.
JobScan is a tool that gives you an instant analysis of how well your resume is tailored to a particular job. Cut and paste both your resume and the job description in their software, and it will give you a thorough analysis and suggestions for better optimization. Keep in mind that you will not likely be able to make all the changes they suggest and still maintain the integrity of your resume’s content. However this site can help you see if there are large areas you have missed addressing in your resume. And the best news is that it’s free! You can get a few free scans before being asked to create an account. Create an account, and you are allowed five scans a month, still at no cost.
My own story can help illustrate how important it is to make a vigorous effort when applying online. I was working as a temporary contractor at an environmental consulting firm, when a permanent position came open. I was invited to apply and did so quickly, knowing that I was a shoe-in to get the job. When my application did not show up in the Human Resource Applicant Tracking System queue, it had to be tracked down and it was learned that instead of checking the “advanced” box for Excel skills, I had checked the “intermediate” box. That was enough for the robots to prevent me from getting to the humans, and a whole new job posting had to be created for me to re-apply to!
If you are going to use your valuable job search time by applying online, do it thoughtfully and thoroughly, and try JobScan to give yourself the best possible chance of coming to the attention of a hiring manager.