They say the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
You might feel as if you’re going a bit mad while trudging through the job searching process. You’re not alone. As a creepy Cheshire Cat once said, “We’re all mad here.”
The job searching process fuels a weird sense of redundancy and can feel like you’re reliving the same day over and over again:
- Search for openings
- Tailor your resume
- Write a cover letter
- Submit and hope for a response
- Interview (again, again, and again)
- Hope for results for all your effort
But is falling down this job searching rabbit hole the only way to arrive at your next destination? (Spoiler: No.)
In this post, we’ll highlight all of your options and strategies if you’re pondering how to find a job in 2021. So, let’s “begin at the beginning.”
Check In With Yourself
“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’”
Does landing your next job feel like an impossible task? If so, just…pause.
This might seem counterintuitive while trying to search for a job, but it’s an important step. Chances are, you are wondering how to find a job because something didn’t work out at your previous position. Maybe you were laid off, or maybe you became unhappy with the direction of your position or even the company. Even if you are just looking for your next challenge, that means something was lacking in your last role.
No matter what your circumstances were, at the very least, this step gifts you a minute to breathe and strategize your next move. Plus, it helps you take stock of yourself, which will empower you to share your best self during the job searching process.
This is exceptionally important to Nii Ato Bentsi-Enchill, MA, Ed.M, the Founder and Head Coach at Avenir Careers. He takes a holistic approach to the job search and emphasizes the importance of figuring out the story you are telling yourself about yourself during the process.
“Professionals might find themselves unemployed, underemployed, maybe their career isn’t quite where they want it to be, which happens to all of us at different points,” Bentsi-Enchill said. “It’s important to make sure that our internal narrative is one that is not fixated or focused on our temporary situation.”
He advised trying to take a look at the bigger, broader picture of what your career has been.
“If we have this negative internal narrative about who we are, the value we have to offer, [the thought of] ‘Is anyone even going to hire me?’, [and] ‘Can I make the move I want to make?’ it’s going to impact the message we’re telling to the world because there’s internal dissonance,” Bentsi-Enchill said. “We’re not internally aligned, and we’re telling ourselves a negative story.”
He said to really try to hear the current story you are telling yourself about yourself. Then ask yourself what the truths are in that narrative. This helps you reason out if you are being honest with yourself or letting negativity drive you and the way you present yourself.
“By checking in on what those narratives are, job seekers can better align themselves internally, reality test what’s true, and look at the broader picture of what they may have accomplished overall, take stock of their value,” Bentsi-Enchill said. “Then tell a more positive story to the world.”
Commence the Job Search
Once you take a bit of time to reframe your story, the job search can commence. But with all the options available, where do you even start? Below, we’ll break down how to find a job—as in, really locate one—especially during 2021.
Job boards are a helpful tool for identifying available positions within your field. These boards likely include filtering capabilities, so you can dig deep into exactly what you’re looking for in your next position.
However, they can still feel overwhelming. There’s just so many of them! How do you work through all of them every day, plus tailor and submit your resume and cover letter to each open position? The simple answer is—you don’t.
Instead, spend a day working through as many as job boards you can find and then choose your two to three favorites. Those are the ones you’ll check out each day, without descending into madness. A few of our favorite job boards include the following:
- Simply Hired
- Engineer Jobs
- College Recruiter
Yes, LinkedIn is a powerful networking platform, but you can also find open positions by clicking into the “jobs” tab.
The Hidden Job Market
How are you supposed to find a job if it’s hidden?
The hidden job market is a term used to describe jobs that are available but, for one reason or another, have not been posted or advertised.
“Making that a habit and building inroads with people who work at the companies you want to work at, who have the roles that you desire, is how you get in front of those opportunities before they even exist,” Davis said.
She added that people hire who they like, and it really is all about who you know. To take this approach, identify the companies you’d like to work with and then network, network, network. Reach out on LinkedIn, read their content or articles, email them—there are so many ways to connect.
“When you start networking strategically and getting in front of people and companies that you eventually want to work with because you admire them and you see yourself being able to deliver value there,” Davis continued. “The more that you present yourself as a value to those people or create a solid, warm connection to those people, the more top of mind you will be when an opportunity comes up.”
Tailor Your Resume
Hurry! You’re late, you’re late, for a very important date!
Just kidding—don’t rush. But if you do want to join the tea party (secure a new job), you need to be invited.
Your resume helps you do just that.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure your resume is tailored to each job description. Analyze the description and pick out the keywords—the ones that are relevant and specific to the role. Or, you can use our resume optimization tool:
With this tool, paste in your resume and the desired job description, and Jobscan will share your match rate as well as other information that will help you better tailor your resume.
Below are a few other reminders while setting up your resume to find a job in 2021:
- Choose the resume format that will best match this job description
- Write a resume headline that will stand out
- Add a resume objective statement or summary
- List out your resume work experience, reverse-chronologically
- Highlight both your hard and soft skills
If you are starting your resume from scratch, make sure to use our ATS-friendly free resume builder. All you need to do is choose the format, fill in the prompts from the simple forms, print/download, and submit it.
Create Your Cover Letter
Cover letters are tough. There’s so much conflicting advice when it comes to them:
- “They need to be creative and attention-grabbing!”
- “They need to be straight to the point.”
- “You can fill out the whole page.”
- “They need to be short.”
- “They tell the recruiters to take a look at your resume.”
- “Recruiters don’t even read them most of the time.”
So, what is the truth behind cover letters?
Well, they can help you stand out. But only in some cases and only if they are uniquely tailored to each job. The resume is the most important part of your application. Your cover letter will not likely receive a glance if you are not first qualified for the job. But if your resume is a good fit for the job, hiring managers may look to your cover letter to understand how much you know about the company and how you think you can contribute.
Here are a few cover letter tips:
- Use keywords from the job description and include measurable results.
- Do your research and explain what attracted you to the job you’re applying for.
- Highlight why you are the right match for the position.
- Be concise. This is the teaser—you can explain more in-depth during an interview.
For additional advice, check out our cover letter writing guide.
Nail the Interview
Research the Company
As is the case outside of non-crazy-pandemic years, you’ll want to do your research for this interview. This is a huge step when you face the daily question of finding a job in 2021. So how do you go about it?
Dig in deep with the company and learn about its history, values, mission, team, reputation, and more. Head over to the business’s website and read its “About” page.
Also, hope off its website and research the business’s reputation on websites such as Glassdoor. Is it somewhere you can see yourself working long-term? Does it seem like its values (not just written, but in action) align with yours? What are former employees saying about their experience? How do you feel about the company culture? While your first instinct might be to take any job that comes your way, make sure it’s one where you feel as if you can spend significant time there and feel fulfilled.
Make sure you research the average salary for the position. You want to be ready when they ask you for your desired salary. Otherwise, you could find yourself making less than you could have if you negotiated confidently, with research to back you.
Lastly, if possible, research your interviewer. If you know who this person is, you can check out their LinkedIn profile to see their experience. This research will help you in a few ways:
- It will help you get to know them better, calming some nerves during the interview
- If you find similarities, these will help you make a lasting connection/impression
- You can find a little information about what they are like, helping you understand the type of person the business values
And, this should go without saying but is technically still research, make sure you read through the job description carefully.
There are literally thousands of pages on the internet where you can find practice interview questions. In fact, here is Jobscan’s list of potential interview questions. Go through these and think about how you would answer them in an interview. We even recommend going as far as to rehearse your answers out loud. You want to make sure you have something prepared so you can present yourself as confident and ready to go.
Rhona Barnett-Pierce is the Founder of How To Level Up. She emphasized the importance of trying to identify the “why” behind these questions.
“No one has really taught us how to interview, and companies unfortunately don’t really ask what they want to know in a question,” Barnett-Pierce said.
She tries to share as many tips about this as she can with her platform.
“I actually called one of my series ‘Annoying Interview Questions,’” Barnett-Pierce laughed.
She sympathizes with her audience of job seekers who feel many of the questions they are asked are not only annoying but make no sense. But she said it’s important to know the reason behind the question in order to formulate a valuable answer.
Bonus tip: If you are in the interview and are asked an unexpected question (this happens!), there is no shame in taking a minute to think about your answer. Simply say something along the lines of, “Hmm…I’d to take a second to think about that.” This won’t dock you points—it will present you as confident and thoughtful. But you don’t want to do that with every interview question (hence the preparation).
Tweak for Video Interviews
Video interviews are a bit of a bigger beast, but they are ones that we have when facing the question of how to find a job in 2021. On top of the advice provided above, make sure to also consider the following for video interviews:
- Clear your interview space of distractions
- Make sure your background is in order and lighting is good
- Look into the video camera when talking, not at the screen
- Wear headphones to avoid echoes
- Again, should be a no-brainer, but dress for success (including pants!)
Also, be prepared for more interviews than usual, according to Bentsi-Enchill.
“I had one client who I think met maybe 10 people in one day, virtually, of course,” Bentsi-Enchill said. “And just people going through several, several rounds of interviews.”
He said before the pandemic, we were used to a few rounds of interviews, but he’s definitely seen an increase since the switch to mostly-virtual.
“I’m hearing and seeing upwards of five, six, seven, eight, you know rounds for some people, and then sometimes, unfortunately, still not getting the job after jumping through that many hoops,” Bentsi-Enchill said.
He thinks this is because it’s challenging to get a good “feel” for someone through a video screen. It’s easier to understand someone’s personality, energy, and vibe when they are in-person.
“There’s a lot more practice needed in terms of how to come across as your best self on camera,” Bentsi-Enchill said. “It’s a weird medium for us, we’re all getting used to it.”
He encourages job seekers to practice and rehearse the interview ahead of time as much as they can.
“Really put in a bit of extra effort in this coming year to come off as best as possible,” Bentsi-Enchill said. “I think people on tv maybe have to overdo it a little bit for it to come through the tv screen. I wonder if that might be helpful for us to think of as job seekers to be a little bit more.”
But don’t go overboard, he emphasized.
“Don’t be extra!” he laughed. “But maybe just a little bit more than you would since there’s a screen between you and the employer.”
For additional advice on Zoom video interviews, check out our article.
Follow Up and Repeat
After your interview, you’re going to want to make sure you follow up with the interviewer. Thank them for their time, and if there’s anything you’d like to clarify, go for it.
Hopefully all of this effort will result in a job offer. However, if not, then it’s time to repeat the process.
And if you question if you’re going mad…
“I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”
For more advice on how to find a job, visit our Learning Center.
*Alice in Wonderland quotes are attributed to Lewis Carroll.