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Career Chats Episode 1: Job Search Strategies and Techniques

By Academy Xi

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If you missed the Career Chats masterclass with our award-winning career coach Elizabeth Houghton, here are the highlights. Elizabeth will give you practical tips for networking on LinkedIn, preparing your career documents and landing the role you’re after.

I’m Elizabeth and I’m the career coach here at Academy Xi. It’s my mission to support our students and help them transition into new careers, ensuring they land their dream jobs once they’ve finished their studies. 

In today’s session we’re going to go through using LinkedIn to network, getting your career documentation ready for applications and preparing your 30-second elevator pitch, which you can use to introduce yourself at networking events and in interviews. I’m also going to explain what informational interviews are and how to follow-up with any connections you make. 

If you’ve made hundreds of applications and you’re still not landing the gig you want, you’re in the right place. During today’s masterclass, you’ll get exposed to five job search strategies which will help you tap into your professional networks and hopefully accelerate your career transition. 

LinkedIn

If you’re not already on LinkedIn, I strongly recommend you create a profile. It’s very different from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As a professional networking site, it’s there to help you develop in your career and can also be an extremely powerful tool when it comes to searching for jobs. 

Start by identifying the roles you’d like to apply for and then search on LinkedIn for people who already work for organisations that you’d like to work for. Come up with a list of your five dream companies, search for people working at those companies in the department you’d like to work in. Reach out to those people and let them know that you’re keen to work with the company. If you already know someone who works for that company, reach out to them and ask if they’re willing to put in a good word for you with their hiring manager or HR team. 

It’s also a good idea to use LinkedIn to follow companies you’re interested in. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date with what the company’s up to and will give you visibility over any new roles they advertise. If any positions become available, they’ll pop up in your newsfeed and you’ll be one of the first people to find out.   

Building new connections on LinkedIn

Establishing a new connection on LinkedIn can be quite an intimidating process. However, the worst thing that can happen is somebody doesn’t respond to you. The people who do respond could end up being really valuable in your job search process.

The first steps are to view someone’s profile, follow them and then interact with their content by liking and commenting on their posts. Once you’ve spent time engaging with them, you can submit a connection request. When you’re submitting the connection request, LinkedIn will ask you if you want to include a note. You could use a message like this to start a conversation:

Hi [insert name],

I recently discovered you are a Senior UX Designer at [insert company name]. I admire your company’s mission and values. I’m currently building my professional network and would love the opportunity for us to connect here on LinkedIn.

[insert your name].

When they’ve accepted your connection request, send them a short and sweet thank you. In the same message, you can also ask them a simple question about their career. You might want to ask them how they transitioned into their role, which can act as a conversation starter. 

Following this process, you can establish a connection on LinkedIn with someone you’ve never met before. This will help you start to build a meaningful professional network around you to support you with your career goals.

LinkedIn groups     

The second stage to using LinkedIn is to join groups and connect with others in your industry, which will really help to expedite your job search. LinkedIn groups are essentially virtual meeting rooms or forums where people with similar interests can hold conversations and share ideas. 

Participating in groups allows you to demonstrate your experience on a subject and grow relationships with like-minded people. These people could be colleagues, future colleagues or even future customers. They could offer solutions to job-related challenges you’re facing, or present opportunities for partnerships that grow your career. By contributing to group conversations and being a reliable source of information, you’ll build a valuable network of people who trust your expertise.  

LinkedIn makes it really easy to search for groups by keywords. There are two types of groups on LinkedIn, public and private. If the group is public, you just hit the ‘ask to join’ button and you can immediately start interacting. If the group’s private, you can ‘ask to join’ but permission will have to be approved by the group administrator. 

You can be a member of up to 100 groups, but keep in mind that the groups aren’t pre-managed. Try to dedicate your time to groups that are well managed and offer a strong level of interaction. Remember, you’re there for a reason – to build a network of professionals who can support you in your job search. I’d recommend that you find a handful of good groups and make sure you play a meaningful part in them. 

When you’ve joined a group, take the time to understand the content and the kinds of questions people are asking. If you share content that’s relevant to people, you’re more likely to build good connections. If you share a blog article, make sure you ask the group a question about it. You’re trying to create engagement, so don’t just post an article and leave it at that. 

Also, try not to over-promote yourself. Approach the groups like you would a face-to-face networking event. You don’t want to be too quiet, but you also don’t want to dominate the conversation. 

Finally, once you’ve established familiarity with people and you’re interested in their content, add them on LinkedIn. If they’re on Twitter or have a Facebook business page, connect with them on those platforms too. Most people are using the groups for the same reason, so they’ll probably be happy to connect.   

Getting your career documents ready

The next step is to get your career documents ready. Your career documents include your cover letter, resume, linkedIn profile and, depending on what industry you’re applying in, your portfolio.

It’s unlikely that your LinkedIn profile and portfolio will change when you apply for different roles, but you will need to tweak your cover letter and resume each time. The job description provides you with a criteria and you need to make sure that your cover letter and resume demonstrate that you meet that criteria. If the job description breaks down the key job responsibilities, as much as possible, make sure you provide examples of when you’ve completed those responsibilities in previous roles. 

Somebody’s just asked “is it necessary to make your portfolio public, even when you’re a beginner and have only one simple project to include?”. 

I think it’s sensible to make it as easy as possible for a hiring manager to view your portfolio. Some people include a URL and a password in the resume, but it just makes things unnecessarily complicated. Even if you make your portfolio public, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to find it through a Google search. 

The next question is “Where should I post my portfolio?”. 

Honestly, post it anywhere that works for you. You could use Squarespace, Figma or WordPress, or any other platform you’re comfortable with. You could also create a presentation showcasing your portfolio and pin it to the top of your LinkedIn page, which is a great way to catch people’s attention.

Elevator pitch 

Your elevator pitch is an essential resource in your job search. It’s the quickest way to let others know of your accomplishments and qualifications, as well as the kinds of problems you can solve for a company. Having a 30-second elevator pitch ready will give you more confidence when you’re networking and enquiring about job opportunities. 

Remember, the key to a great elevator pitch is to make sure it aligns perfectly with your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and portfolio. The aim is to make sure that they all authentically speak to who you are, and each piece will be consistent and add depth to your story. 

There are five easy steps to follow when it comes to planning your elevator pitch:

Step 1: Identify who you are and who you help. Your pitch shouldn’t be all about you. Instead, you’re trying to ignite a two-sided conversation about what you do. 

Step 2: Identify your why. Explaining why you do what you do will clarify your passion and sense of purpose, giving the listener a reason to take action after your pitch. 

Step 3: Explain what makes you unique. Be clear on what’s unique about your approach and talk about it with confidence. You might talk about an accomplishment or a major problem that you’ve solved in the past. 

Step 4: Include a ‘call to action’. This could involve an exchange of business cards, an agreement to connect on LinkedIn, or better yet, a follow-up meeting. 

Step 5: Practise and revise. Rehearse your pitch out loud so that you’re able to deliver it as comfortably as possible. 

If you put all those pieces together, you’ll have your 30-second elevator pitch. As you have more interactions with people during your job search, not only will you refine your pitch, you’ll also become more confident delivering it 

Informational interviews

An informational interview is a great way for you to get ahead in your job hunt. An informational interview is when you meet someone and you ask them for career and job search advice. That person could go on to become your ally, advocate or mentor. They may offer to pass your resume along to a hiring manager, or tell you about jobs before they’re advertised. They might even give you advice on specific details that you can weave into your cover letter and resume which will give you an advantage.   

To set up an informational interview, you should target 2-3 people who are working in the sector you’re targeting, possibly at companies you’re keen to work for. Next, reach out to them and ask to set up a brief chat. At this stage it’s important to be genuinely interested in that person’s experience – they need to believe that they have something to offer you.

Remember, don’t use the informal interview just as a chance to ask for a job. The purpose is to get to know that person and their story and to find out more about industry trends and hiring practices. 

Some of the questions you might ask include:

  • What does a typical day look like for you?
  • What do you enjoy about what you do?
  • What do you find most challenging about what you do?
  • What skills does the market value?
  • What skills do you see being in demand in the future and why?
  • What are the personal attributes an organisation like yours values?
  • Do you have any advice about looking for a role?
  • Do you know of anyone hiring?  

As well as helping you figure out if this is the right career for you, the answers to some of these questions will be really insightful when you’re framing your covering letter and resume. When it comes to asking your questions, make sure that you ask about job opportunities last!

Follow-up 

Following-up is one of the best ways to fast track your job search. We’re all inundated with emails, connection requests and texts, so it’s really easy to forget about a conversation we had last week. 

Keep yourself at the forefront of someone’s mind by following-up within a week or two. You don’t want to bombard them with text messages and emails every day, but you want to keep that natural flow and rhythm of communication going. 

When it comes to finding a reason to follow-up, you can thank them for their time with a meeting, or thank them for accepting a connection request. You should also continue to interact with their content on LikendIn. 

Don’t just ask them about job opportunities. instead, make your follow-up a meaningful conversation. You’re trying to build a professional network, which takes time, so be willing to put in the effort, be patient and nurture the relationships. The idea is that you get the support you need, with the people in your network also getting something back too.   

One final piece of advice – when you land the role you’re after, don’t just drop the people in your network. You want those relationships to stay alive. We don’t have jobs for life these days and your network is going to be a powerful tool throughout your whole career. Make sure you maintain meaningful long-term connections.  

Q&A

Now I’m going to spend a bit of time answering some of your questions. Hopefully the answers help.

The first question is, “How do I sell my skills as I transition into a new industry?”. 

The best way to do that is to connect with people, share your ideas and insights and comment on other people’s posts on LinkedIn.  

You should also brainstorm yourself and create a bit of a mind map about your skills. If you’re planning to move into a new industry, it’s important to figure out what transferable skills you have from your past experience.  Be really clear on what your skills are and how you can position them in a way that fits in with your new career narrative. 

The next question is. “Are cover letters necessary? I’ve heard lots of times that they’re not really relevant anymore”.

I would say cover letters are still relevant, especially if you’re transitioning careers. They are probably less relevant if you have five or ten years experience and are applying for a job in the same industry. 

However, a really well crafted cover letter can be your point of difference. It tells your story and gives you the space to explain how your past experience supports the role you’re applying for. You can use it to provide extra context for your application.

If you’re switching careers, your resume might not provide a huge amount of evidence that you’re suited to working in a new industry. The cover letter gives you an opportunity to provide details of why you’ll be a good fit. If you’re transitioning careers, it’s a good idea to always use a cover letter    

The next question is, “Should we remove past experience that is unrelated to our new career on LinkedIn?”. 

No, you don’t need to do that. You can have as much experience as you want on LinkedIn. We all have different chapters in our careers and we all do different things. I’ve moved from running HR teams into career coaching and mentoring, which is a really interesting transition. Your past experience gives context to your career, which people really want to know about. 

I would think about how you’re describing those past experiences on LinkedIn and be selective in what achievements you’re actively sharing, but you don’t need to take them off your LinkedIn. It will show everybody your full career journey and all the experience you’ve accumulated. 

The next question is, “How do you answer a behavioural question when you haven’t demonstrated the behaviour in the past?”.

When someone asks you a behavioural question, they want you to draw on real life past experiences. They don’t want hypotheticals. Instead, they’re looking for you to use the star interview technique. 

If you honestly believe you don’t have an example to offer, and you’ve never been in a position where you’ve needed to demonstrate that behaviour, be honest about it. What you can do instead is say, “if I was in that situation, this is what I would do…”. 

Okay, the next question is “How important is it to generate your own content on LinkedIn?”.

It really depends on what your intention is for creating the content. Very few people actually create content on LinkedIn. I read a stat that less than five percent of LinkedIn users create their own content, so it can be a huge point of difference. That said,  it can be quite time consuming. It’s definitely not a must to create your own content to get traction on LinkedIn.

If you’re engaging with other people’s content and you feel confident enough to create your own, I’d say go for it. You don’t have to post five times a week. You might post once a week and every Friday morning give yourself 20 minutes to write that post. 

You can use your content to be really transparent about your job search. I’ve seen people get lots of engagement and support by posting about their career transition on LinkedIn. 

Ultimately, if you decide to create content and think it will help, it’s your choice. It will definitely add value, but it’s not 100% necessary. 

The next question is, “Will connecting with the hiring manager directly once you have applied for a role give you a better chance of getting an interview?”. 

I don’t think it will give you a better chance of getting an interview. They’re going to look at your skills and experience and they’re going to weigh that up against other applicants. That said, it’s definitely good for them to remember your name when they see your application. It’s great if you’ve connected and you’re already familiar.  

If you can find the right person on LinkedIn, I recommend you reach out and start building a genuine connection. It’s all part of growing your professional network.

The next question is, “If I’m changing careers to a new field and my skills and past experiences are not matched with the requirements for a particular job, what can I add to my cover letter and resume?”.

Really, it depends on what job you’re applying for. In any field, there’s going to be a whole bunch of soft skills that are transferable. You need to highlight those skills and start building a new narrative about your experience. In your cover letter and resume, underline what it is about you that makes you good at what you’re going to do, and what your unique point of difference is. 

Also, think really carefully about how you can frame your past experiences. Maybe the employer is looking for someone who’s managed large projects before, but you’re not a project manager. However, you might have been part of a project team. You can discuss that and explain how that experience will enable you to do the job you’re applying for. 

Well, that’s all the time we’ve got for questions today. If you do have any questions that didn’t get answered, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’d love to keep this conversation going. 

Thanks so much for attending this session and spending the last hour with me. I hope you’ve got lots out of it and I wish you all the best of luck with your career transitions. 

If you’re keen to transition into a new career and need to add shine to your resume, Academy Xi offers flexible online courses covering the digital skills that employers are searching for. If you want to discuss your transferable skills and explore course options, speak to a course advisor today.   

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