Tips for a Successful Second Job Search

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When I started my first job search, fresh out of college, I had no idea what to expect. It was a difficult few months of researching, networking, interviewing… and getting rejected. Most of us know by now that a humanities degree from an elite liberal arts college isn’t enough to land you your dream job right out of school. However, I did learn valuable research and communication skills from my studies as a Philosophy major and Writing & Rhetoric minor, and I think that’s a big part of what got me through the challenges I faced. After a series of unpaid internships and part-time jobs, I finally landed my first full-time role in November, about 7 months after graduation, and I was both thrilled and relieved. I also vowed to avoid putting myself through that process again for as long as possible…

And yet, here I was, two and a half years later, leaving that godsend of a job to travel the country and figure out my next move. Part of me was worried that I was setting myself up for the same struggles again, but even if that was the truth, I knew it was worth it to pursue my passions, both career-related and otherwise.

Thankfully, it became clear to me upon returning from my two-month hiatus that this job search was a whole different ball game. Recruiters were reaching out to me, networking events were popping up all over the place, and I felt much more confident than I had as a recent grad. Now I actually knew what I was talking about (most of the time) and had a better idea of my career strengths and interests. Still, experienced candidates face their own challenges when searching for new opportunities. Many aspects of a job search will be unique to the individual, but I’d like to share a few tips that have been helpful for me.

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First, some self-reflection.

Now that you’ve held a full-time position, you have a better idea of your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and maybe even some new areas you want to explore. Don’t ignore these inklings: dig deeper to figure out what will make you happiest in your career. It really helped me to explore my personality type and its connection to my career satisfaction through the book Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron. It was also important for me at this point in my life to take time off and focus on non-career-related areas as well. I think listening to my intuition was extremely valuable and helped me refocus on my goals and priorities, career and otherwise.

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Put yourself out there!

Attend recruiting and networking events, talk to people about your background and what you’re looking to do next, and craft public profiles (on social media sites, blogs, etc.) that tell the world “I’m ready for my next opportunity!” Of course, this will be easier for those of us who are fortunate enough to take some time off and tackle the job search without any company affiliations. However, you can still put out feelers in a more discreet way to avoid your current company hearing about your search.

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Pursue possibilities that interest you, even if they seem far-fetched.

I landed my current job by reaching out to a recruiter who had sent me a LinkedIn message in October. I wasn’t looking to make a change at that time, so I never responded to her, but after sifting through my inbox as I began my new job search, her message stood out to me. I reached out to her, months after the fact, just to see if anything was still available, and she invited me to an open house the next night. You just never know!

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Recruiters are your friends.

The first time around, it didn’t really make sense for me to enlist the help of recruiters. Employers were not likely to pay someone to find me, a fresh-out-of-college Philosophy major with zero professional experience. However, once you get past the entry-level stage, I have found that recruiters are a huge help. I’ve spoken with five different head hunters during the past month of job searching, and although not all of them had relevant openings to tell me about, they were all incredibly friendly and generous in their career advice and suggestions. I had enlightening conversations with each of them, even when a job offer didn’t come as a result.

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Do your research.

This reminder applies to your first job search and all subsequent ones, but it bears repeating, particularly for job search #2. As an entry-level candidate, I did copious amounts of research, but I still never felt fully prepared. The truth is I just didn’t have the experience I needed to be able to truly understand the job responsibilities and qualities employers were looking for. Now that I have worked in an office environment and faced real challenges, I don’t need to dig for answers to questions like “What’s an example of a time you made a mistake, and how did you move forward?” Still, although this makes conversations easier, I always take at least an hour to prepare for common questions and go over my elevator pitch before an interview. I also set aside extra time to research the specifics of the company and role, and come up with insightful questions for the interviewers. These are essential steps to take if you want to both land a job and make sure it’s right for you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: LIZ WING

After earning my Bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 2012, I returned to my New England roots to start my career at a digital advertising start-up in Boston. I recently completed a two-month road trip around the US, and have begun an exciting new role as an Account Development Manager at Forrester Research in Cambridge, MA. In my free time, I enjoy singing, going to concerts, traveling, and outdoor activities. By contributing to Women’s iLab, I hope to share some insight into balancing personal and professional goals, and reflect on my own challenges in these overlapping areas.