This post is a part of the series, Professionals.
I have thought for some time that “back-to-school” season only feels like prime time for job applications because I am a teacher. After reading this great advice today, I realize that the fading of summer into fall feels like hiring time because… it is. College grads just finished their wild and free summer and as their friends head back to school, they are looking for work. Seasonal positions leading up to the holidays start hiring, and parents scaling back and changing work schedules to be home when their kids are home create new openings at their place of work. I don’t know for certain that August is a more active hiring season than January, but this time of year is similar in that it is definitely a time for self reflection and personal change.
Here are a few points to think about if you are looking for something different.
- What brings you joy?
Before combing through your qualifications and needs, decide where you want to go. Long term. What would you enjoy? What do you honestly want to do for 8 hours a day 5 days a week? You are spending 40 of your 168 hours a week working, and ideally 56 of those are spent sleeping! Or do you want something with more time flexibility? Also, think about what environment brings you joy. Do you want a collaborative team, or do you work best alone?
- What are your needs?
Do you need a 9-5 structured day, or more flexible time? How important are included benefits or matching retirement plans to you? For me, I have no kids and a Roth IRA, so I feel more flexibility regarding benefits than someone with a family or different retirement set-up might. What salary is livable for you? How many vacation days do you need? Can you settle for less if you really love your job? I also am accustomed to lengthy vacation time and little freedom within the work schedule. I think I would be comfortable with less vacation and a lower salary in order to have more flexibility throughout the year. Sometimes a few part time jobs can fill needs and keep you happy better than a full time job.
- What are your qualifications?
Working qualifications can include a college degree and formal training, but are not limited to that. Specific, evening short term experiences can be surprisingly applicable and relevant. An example: I spent one day volunteering with the National Park Service, in an unofficial capacity. That sounds irrelevant, but that day was spent teaching students about the migratory patterns of geese using an interactive game outside in the national park. Students were in nature all day, no electronics, lots of bugs, and had to use physical clues to act out a migration scenario, playing as if they were the traveling geese. This experience of teaching outside, giving students tools to learn through play, and using materials that cost nothing (one stack of index cards, essentially) gave me a wealth of knowledge and experience that teaching in a regular classroom for a whole year wouldn’t provide. These experiences are best shared in a letter of interest, and should be directly tied to skills needed for the job you are applying for.
- What have you already done?
In many instances, especially in the arts, there is a way to prove yourself. Even if there is not an audition or required sample of your work, take the extra step and create one. They are hiring someone to write about their product line? Look at the writing already done, and do it better. Submit this sample along with your resume and cover letter. Or think way outside the box, like this applicant.
- Would you hire yourself?
Would you hire yourself for this position? Think on this. Convince yourself, write the reasons, envision yourself there. Can’t picture it? Don’t apply. Find somewhere where you feel you will be a great fit, where there is room for growth, and where you and your place of work can have an exchange of reward.
Related: 10 Ways to Get Ahead and Get the Job