I’ll let you in on a little secret: The act of looking for a new job hasn’t changed much over the past decade. Networking is still key and a well-crafted resume and cover letters are almost always required during the application process.
While the fundamentals remain, what has changed are attitudes, both of job seekers and employers. Thanks to the Great Recession, job seekers have become more creative with their resumes and networking, employers have become more understanding of fractured job histories and automated application systems have leveled the playing field.
Here’s how these shifting attitudes can affect your job search:
Gaps aren’t the “red flag” they once were. In the recent past, job seekers who worked for several years at one company were commended for their loyalty. Then the Great Recession hit, and with it came mass layoffs and the rise of the “gig economy.” In response, workers across the country took jobs wherever they could find them — including short-term gigs or in unrelated industries. Focus on showing how those experiences helped you, instead of trying to hide them.
Your resume doesn’t have to be a historical record. The classic chronological resume format typically goes like this: objective, job experience, education, skills — with a heavy emphasis on your work history. However, it’s totally okay to mix it up a bit. For example, for those with a wealth of seemingly unrelated jobs, gaps in employment, or relevant volunteer experience, a functional resume format highlights your skills acquired over time rather than the timeline itself.
Network smarter by informational interviewing. Networking is still one of the best ways to get your name out there when applying for new jobs. And while you should still take advantage of networking events and social media, be sure you’re being strategic. In addition, try informational interviewing, an informal conversation with someone in your industry of interest who can answer questions, give you tips for the application process, explain company culture, and potentially help you get your foot in the door.
Work within the system. No matter how well connected you may be, it’s important to play by the rules. In the old days, there were ways to circumvent the application system by sliding your resume to a friend, emailing a network connection, or talking directly with a recruiter. By applying online, you’ll not only be respecting the systems put in place, but the time and energy of the people involved in the process.
A polished resume and networking skills are still important to job searching, but remember, there is no “one size fits all” format. Instead, view it as an opportunity to tell your story. More often than not, you’ll find someone who is ready to listen.
Career Corner is a monthly feature written by UW-Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Elizabeth Schrimpf, a career counselor, can be reached at email@example.com.