By Alyse Kalish
Real talk: I’ve never gotten a job by submitting an application and crossing my fingers. My first internship I found through a friend of a friend who connected me to the hiring manager. And when I applied to the Muse, I landed the gig by reaching out via email to the editor-in-chief.
I’m not a rare case, either. I have friends who’ve received jobs through personal projects, by networking with college alumni, or from connections who liked their profiles on LinkedIn. In fact, I can count on one hand people I know who got a job the old-fashioned way.
Before I go any further, I want to tell you that I know this can be frustrating. There were times during my job search when I screamed into a pillow, cried, and moped around. I hated that I had worked so hard only to get rejected over and over. Not to mention that I resented companies for using a mere piece of paper to decide if I was the right fit.
However, I finally accepted that there were two things completely out of my control—I couldn’t force someone to hire me, and I couldn’t predict who I’d be competing against. In addition, there are two realities I had to face: Most companies get a lot of applications, and most of those applications look the same.
Realizing this might bum you out for a bit, but it also might be useful when evaluating what you’re currently doing so you can come up with solutions to actually get your application into someone’s hands.
I’ve tried almost everything on this list, and since then, I’ve found myself more marketable, more confident in my skill set, and more successful in getting interviews. Plus, without going above and beyond the submit button when applying to The Muse, I wouldn’t have the amazing opportunity to write this for you. So, behold, the best ways to get your materials out of the online ether and in front of a person.
3. Have You Reached Out to Your Connections?
You know people, right? And those people know people who know people who work somewhere. They don’t have to be your best friends or first cousins. They don’t even have to be folks you’ve met before. All you need is to send a quick email to people you think might be able to help you in your search.
When I first started looking for opportunities in publishing, I realized that the only way I would get somewhere was to talk to people who knew more than I did. I contacted college alumni over LinkedIn, personalizing my message and asking if they would chat with me for 15 minutes over the phone about their position, or even (gasp!) meet for coffee. This is basically an informational interview—and while “informational” doesn’t sound very promising, you’d be surprised to know that people do remember you later on, and they might just recommend you for an opening.
Who else can you reach out to? Tons of folks. Just think: You have the power to email anyone at any time, whether it’s a friend of a distance relative or someone kind of random (I once emailed my dad’s old college roommate—and yes, he got back to me). This power isn’t about bugging people to give you a job, nor should you take advantage of the detachment of email—even in writing you should be respectful, grateful, and aware that he or she may be busy. It’s about showing people that you admire their work, aspire to reach their level, and appreciate any advice they can offer.
Last thing I’ll say is that I understand networking can be exhausting. Sending out messages won’t guarantee you a response every time, and coffee dates don’t always lead to interviews. But as you build and grow your network, those connections last for your entire career. So even if you don’t feel the immediate satisfaction now, there’s a good chance they might benefit you down the road.
6. Have You Tried a Personal Website?
Now, when the traditional job search strategies aren’t working, sometimes you have to get creative. If you don’t think your bland, white resume does you justice, try building a personal website that better showcases your creativity and enthusiasm.
Or, for those who are a bit terrified by this big feat (even though, trust me, everyone can do it), try out a one-page resume website instead. It’s easy to share with employers and keep all your updated information in one convenient place. Plus, it’ll look gorgeous!
Finally, if you want to share with hiring managers examples of the kind of work you’ve done before, why not make a portfolio? And this doesn’t just apply to photographers and creative writers—sales associates, product managers, and the like can use portfolios to show off prototypes, creative processes, or tangible achievements.
See all 8 Questions, the answers, and the complete The Muse article