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Treat job hunting like facebook!

YOUR profile picture on Facebook (FB) says a lot about who you are. If you see a person pulling a funny expression – it’s easy to deduce that the person is fun-loving. It’s all about the image, the social image. Your generation has set the rules for social media.

But what’s interesting is that a generation that believes in establishing its personal and social identity so strongly, can be hackneyed when it comes to the job search process. If you have ever been guilty of sending out the same résumé or cover letter copied out 50 times then this piece is for you.

Wall-to-wall posts
Just like you don’t put the same post on all your friends’ walls on FB, you should not send out the same cover letter or résumé to several employers. The content needs to be massaged and customised to make it appeal to the particular employer you are targeting and the specific job advertised.

Match the profiles
To atcareers360_cmst to know your friends on FB you check out their wall pictures, their updates and through that come to know their personality. A bit of research, a bit of self-introspection goes a long way in the job hunt, too.

Employers put out adverts for the job – there they embed the keywords they are looking for in the prospective employee – self-starter, motivated, goal oriented etc. Now, when you write your cover letter, tailor it to the keywords in the advertisement and information derived from the website. Not just by using their words verbatim but by articulating how you fulfil that requirement.

For example, if a company is looking for people with initiative and a willingness to learn, then Suraj’s cover letter can mention that he is involved in organising a computer games competition in his free time and he has developed the web-page for the competition, using Flash, which he learned on his own.

Similarly, Ashish can highlight his FB link showcasing his personal drawings, indicating that he learnt to draw, and  organises his paintings by topic, colour and perspective while applying for a job that needs organisation.

The more intimate the knowledge you demonstrate about the employer the more confident will be your approach to the interview and the whole job hunt in general. And the more impressed the prospective employer will be. It’s a tad like tagging somebody’s photo album with your name so that it shows on your wall as well; this helps both people feel better connected.

What is your work personality? 
When you receive a friend request – the first thing you think about is, what is the personality of this dude – nerdy, cool or fun? But your banal cover letter is like a FB friend request with no profile. Through years of practice, you know your social personality but what about your work personality? Is it a big black box with no user manual? Well that is where doing internships, voluntary work and even part-time jobs help. All these activities help you understand whether you are able to work under deadlines, work as a team and whether you enjoy the sector you have chosen.

A short stint in a law firm as a secretary made it clear to Hemant that law was not his thing. Whereas Aditi loved the work she did at a teaching centre and decided to change her track from hard finance to people-oriented professions as she loved to interact with people and help them. Portfolio management and/or marketing suddenly became more attractive rather than direct trading. The black box, after some work experience suddenly, began to have an identity and some colour splashes emerged as well. Do the job you love.

Spend time analysing your goals and vision such that you know what direction to take when the time comes to make that critical turn. There are no right or wrong answers but any of these experiences will help both an employer and you get clarity. That reduces the risk involved in hiring you and, yes, in turn increases your “hirability”.

Get your attitude
The ‘A’ word is the most sought after in life – not just in social image building but also in professional career development. We have to work towards getting the attitude right. If you think there are only three jobs and 10,000 applications – how will I get it – you are right you will not get that job. Because you have lost the battle before you have started.

Emma, a gold medalist from a prestigious university recently went to an interview and was unable to answer a very basic question about the company. Her approach was ‘I am not going to get this job, so why bother’. What do you think happened? She did not get the job. But Jessica with far less grades got the job, because she had researched the company, googled the director and tried to become familiar with their marketing techniques. She further tried to connect all that with her own experience at college when she was the leader of a fund raising campaign. Jessica had the attitude of a fighter and she won!

Make a list of all the things in your résumé, realistically, which make you right for the job. Then think everyday about those three jobs, find out as much about the companies as possible, dig out information, think creatively about your background and identify examples that will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are the right fit. In the job hunt world, that shows determination, perseverance and willingness to go out on a limb and strive for something. Every employer wants an employee who is a bundle of all these personality traits and can demonstrate the traits in the résumé, interview and finally in the job.

Money, Status, Power (MSP)
A common goal for all, everyone wants MSP as quickly as possible. But the path to success requires a good work ethic. Even celebrities who are like “shooting stars” in the world of success need good work ethics to sustain themselves in the chosen field. So when you are given a responsibility, a job or an opportunity, put in your best so that you can excel. This attitude towards learning and excellence is what will propel you towards MSP if that is what you desire.

Unless you are a social climber and are looking for celebrity friends most of us are not strategic about accepting friends.

But the job hunt requires strategy, in view of your larger goal and vision, pick the opportunities well. Picking the first well-paid job, may take you further away from your dream job.  Fortunately, there are abundant opportunities today to create a balance between successes defined by money on one hand and/or job satisfaction on the other.

Your company defines you
Once your vision is clear, and have worked hard at developing and demonstrating the apt work ethic, you will then find that you also need to weigh the opportunities that come your way. Just like in FB you don’t accept anyone who sends you an invite as each person brings their own vibe. Similarly, every job brings with it a prospect to blossom in a particular direction. For instance working for a large company gives you an opportunity to be a cog in a wheel and to learn how to follow instructions or be a small part of a whole. A large company, on the other hand, offers very little scope for creativity because for a huge organisation to function everybody needs to follow a system and have standard operating systems.

A smaller company or a start-up on the other hand gives you a chance to explore unchartered territory, take responsibility, multi-task, learn fast and implement some of your own ideas. The enriching experience a small company offers sometimes may have to be traded off against the glamour of working for a large firm. It is worth analysing what a break is offering. In the short term a few thousand rupees can seem attractive but if you have a vision and a plan you may well think out of the box and define the next role that you need to play to further refine your career path to success. 

Shivani Manchanda is Director, Careertrack and a career counsellor based in Mumbai.

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