Use somebody

One of the things that I’ve read in a few different places, as well as was told to me by my college advisor and career services advisor, is that the key to finding a job is through your network. How do you build your network? Well, I’m not really sure because I clearly haven’t done a very good job, because I still don’t have a job.

I made a LinkedIn profile, which I hate. I forget to check it or update it. I just don’t really see the point of it. LinkedIn profiles have no personality, except for the little tiny picture that you can upload. I don’t have any really real experience in the field of communications except for an Internship and projects from the classroom, which were with real clients. My other experience includes things like: catering staff, cashier, sales associate. I guess those positions have allowed me to learn about leadership, responsibility, etc. but they clearly aren’t geared toward helping me in my chosen career track. And, when LinkedIn suggests jobs for me they are “cook” or something like that, because that’s what matches the experience I have, but those were part-time jobs. I didn’t go to college for four years to be a cashier (or did I?…). The connections I have on there are with mostly college classmates, again probably not going to be able to help me get anywhere. I guess they could, but most are also struggling to get entry level jobs, or have just started a career themselves. Am I supposed to just randomly add people from companies that I am interested in? Seems sketchy.

The other way I was told to build my network was through Facebook and Twitter. I personally think that the whole Facebook and Twitter things are, like, out of control. It started with the notion of connecting with other people at your college, to find others who had shared interests. Now, everyone and their mother has one. My newsfeed is constantly filled with things like: ate a banana, went to the bathroom, walking my dog now, going to see Suzy Q after, then I’ll be back to check my notifications. Or things like “loooooveeee my boyfriend,” really? I think I got it when I saw you tagged yourself in 25 pictures of the two of you making out. Okay, so maybe not that bad, actually sometimes it is, either way, a lot of Facebooker’s are out of control.

Totally just went on a rant, because that was not even my point. My point was that I hardly go on Facebook anymore because of things like what I just said, and because I’m out of college now. I used Facebook as a way to keep in touch with my high school friends after we all went away to different colleges and to add new people who I met at college. Facebook was a way to make plans with people if you didn’t have their phone number, or couldn’t remember their name, or creep on your rando roommate to make sure they weren’t psycho. But, I was told my advisors that I should use my Facebook to network in order to find a job. Okay, I’d heard about people NOT getting jobs because of their Facebooks, and then I was being told to use it. So complicated, like the rest of the job hunt. I made sure my page was PG, employer friendly, but almost all of the privacy settings were on so I’m pretty sure you couldn’t find my FB unless you tried really, really hard. Once you managed to find it, everything was private anyway. Again though, I go through my FB friends pretty often, and delete people who I don’t talk to, don’t know, or who annoy me on the newsfeed (some people are just too much). So, I don’t see how Facebook could help me find a job or build my network either.

As far as Twitter goes, I had one and deleted it, then opened it back up again. I follow a few things, but rarely go on it. I don’t know.

This all sounds so awful because I have a Communication degree, I’m supposed to love this stuff, right? I’m supposed to love social media. And actually I do, I definitely do. I love talking and meeting new people and learning new things and all of that good stuff. I just am not entirely sure about the whole social media thing to build your network. Butttttt, I found this article, it’s all about a girl who used social media to build her network and get a job!!! Basically she had to harass people. Okay, not really, but she did initiate conversations with employers from various companies via LinkedIn and Twitter, and she started going to industry events to network in person. While she says it was intimidating, it has definitely paid off. So clearly, the key to finding a job is through networking. Mailing out a resume, no matter how personalized it may be, or how much experience you have, or any of that stuff, apparently doesn’t always matter these days if you don’t know someone who’s related to someone who knows someone that met someone this one time in the street who knew someone else who was married to someone who was the sister-in-law of someone who actually works in the HR department of that company that you thought would be really, really awesome to work for. Gah.

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Hey, what about me

Included in all of the emails I receive everyday, one of them is a newsletter from Simply Hired. Periodically they send me a few different articles that I may find helpful or interesting during my job search.

Today, one of the articles found in the newsletter was Research is Key: 7 Questions to Answer Before Applying to Any Company. The other day I wrote about making sure you avoid applying for scam jobs, which included doing research on the company, so you can do all of this research at once – make sure it’s a real company company and figure out if you’d actually want to work there.

It’s tough because at this point I feel like I’d be willing to work anywhere. I’m frustrated, bored, and I feel kind of useless not going into everyday with real structure, like work. I want to make money, I want to do something with all of my time. However, I suppose that in order to be happy with your job, and not want to pull out your hair everyday, you should make sure that it is something that you would actually want to do. Here are the seven things that author Joanna Riley Weidenmiller (CEO of One Page Proposal) suggests:

What is this company? Visit the company website and learn about the company’s mission statement, foundation, executive staff, and most importantly, the products or services provided.
What kind of customers does this company deal with? Learn about the products or services the company offers and who buys it. If you’re hired, these are the people you will be dealing with on a daily basis. Look up customer reviews about the company and see where the problems are. This will also give you something to talk about in your application and interview.
Who are their competitors? Figure out who the top-notch competitors are. What are the competitors doing similarly and differently? Is there something that the competitors are doing that this company is falling short? You might find that the competitor is a better company to apply to.
What makes this company special? Google the company to see what other people are saying. Look up professional and customer reviews of products and services provided.
What are the employees like? How big is the company? If you are hired, will you be a one-person department or on a large team? Most importantly, do they enjoy working for the company? Check out LinkedIn and Facebook to find current and former employees to contact. You’d be surprised to learn the dirty truth about your “dream” company. (You can also check out glassdoor)
What are some of the skill/experience gaps within the department that I can fill? Obviously, if they’re hiring, there’s a gap that needs to be filled. However, chances are, your company in question doesn’t realize exactly which skills, experience, and ideas they need. Beyond matching the job description, ensure that you match that gap.
Who would hire me? One great way to ensure that an employer won’t hire you is to make sure not to know their name. While “to whom it may concern” is a polite alternative to writing a name, it screams generic and doesn’t stand out. Most hiring manager’s names are easily accessible on LinkedIn, the job posting, or the company website. Go a step further and do some light research on them, you’ll have a better idea of who you’re meeting. (a question was raised about this in the comment section, what if you still can’t find a name, Weidenmiller says to call the company’s HR office to find out)

So basically, before we can even apply for a job we have a lot of work to do. Were things always this difficult? Simply Hired also told me that nationwide job openings declined -3.8% from May, but are up from June 2010. The job competition improved to 4:1 (job seekers to job openings) from 5:1. West Palm Beach, Pittsburgh, Portland, Phoenix, and Sacramento, they stated, all became better places for job seekers. Happy searching today!

Welcome to the jungle

Venturing off topic today, I’m going to talk about my weekend. I got to attend my sister’s company picnic. She is three years older than me, and works at pretty large law firm. The firm rented out the entire zoo for its’ employees and their families.

This leopard really liked showing off, but we just wanted to hear his growl

It was complete with a buffet and all the booze you could want, plus the animals, of course, and tour guides. You could even ride the carousel or train. We skipped on the carousel ride, because those things actually move kind of fast and go up and down – I think I might have been sick if I’d tried riding that.

He kept posing like this until I put my camera down, I think he liked getting his picture taken.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to get to wander around a zoo, of course I haven’t been to a zoo since elementary school field trips. I feel kind of bad for the animals because it doesn’t seem like they have a lot of room to meander around in, but they’re so beautiful. The zoo just adopted a baby giraffe too, and even though he wasn’t even a year old yet, he was pretty big. Due to some construction on their outside area, they were stuck behind glass, so I couldn’t get any good pictures of them. It’s amazing how huge they are!

Lionesses catching some rays, I guess the lions were hiding out somewhere else

You can walk right through the kangaroo area, which was pretty cool, but I was also a little frightened because they hop right across the path in front of you. But it was still pretty cool to get to be up close so many animals. It’s definitely a different experience than going when you’re five and don’t remember anything.

Kangaroo petting zoo

I didn’t add any of my zoo pictures to my etsy account, but I did add a few new items the other day, so make sure to keep checking it out! 🙂

Nobody likes being played

I mostly look online to search for job openings, these days I’m not really sure how else you would find jobs unless they are posted in newspapers or advertised on the radio/TV. To look for a job I have used numerous job search engines, Monster, Indeed, Idealist, etc., as well as Craigslist. I know that Craigslist can be a little sketchy, especially after watching The Craigslist Killer (yikes!), but my cousin found his job through the website. As with any of the other job search engines, you have to weed out the illegitimate job postings, which can usually be done through a simple google search. Before applying to any job that I find on job boards, I search for the company, find their website, make sure that all information given in the posting is the same as that given on the website, and sometimes even googlemap the location. I’ve read plenty of stories about people getting scammed and I sure don’t want to be a part of that!

Today I found an article about job scams found online – someone posted a job on Craigslist for the Better Business Bureau! The (real) BBB gave some tips about how to avoid these types of scams, which I have posted below:
Exercise caution when using social networking sites, check out the company website to make sure it actually exists
Guard your Resume. Make sure you only upload your resume for a legitimate purpose and company. Resumes often contain personal information, ripe for identity theft thieves.
Start with Trust. Many scams use names that are similar to reputable companies to trick job seekers. BBB recommends that job seekers check out the company first at bbb.org and to apply through the actual company site whenever possible.
Never Pay Upfront Fees. No legitimate job offer will require out of pocket expenses from a potential employee before an interview.
Protect Personal Information. Job seekers should never provide their social security number or birth date until they have verified the position is legitimate. Additionally, job seekers should never provide bank account information for direct deposit setup until they have officially been hired.
Be Careful of the “Perfect Offer.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Avoid Work-at-Home Offers. Most jobs that imply you can work from home or rake in cash are a ploy to trap you into giving away your credit card information, cashing fake checks, or paying for training that should be free. Job seekers should understand employees working from home generally go through the traditional in-person interviews and hiring process and often have prior experience in what they are doing, work for a salary, or have spent time and money developing the market for their work.
Report Fraud.If you find a job scam or internet fraud, including Craigslist scams, report it to the BBB or file a complaint with them here. You can also contact the Internet Fraud Complaint Center at 800.251.3221 or go to http://www.ic3.gov.

While looking at these articles, I also came across this one; six girls bought tickets for a Katy Perry concert online. The night of the concert they discovered the tickets were frauds. Luckily a good samaritan, who was in the same boat, bought all six girls legitimate tickets, which ended up being better seats than what they thought they had purchased. The girls promise to pay it forward.

I stumble

I receive wayyy too many emails everyday. Most of them are junk; newsletters that I signed up for on various topics from fashion to job searching, coupons and deals from stores, the regular junk emails, job board notifications (We thought this job fit your criteria: truck driver, um no thanks), match.com (did I even sign up for this?), and of course the rejection responses from jobs that I don’t even remember applying for because it was so long ago (where exactly do those job applications/emails/forms go when you send them out into the world wide web anyway). But, I also get the occasional email from Stumble Upon, if I have absolutely nothing better to do I check out what stumble upon thinks that I’d like, and usually they’re pretty close. Today, one of the stumblings that they sent me was about cover letters (!!!!), which if you don’t remember I wrote an post about cover letters a few weeks ago.

Too many junk emails!

The article is written by Katharine Brooks, Ed.D. who is the Director of Liberal Arts Career Services at The University of Texas at Austin, so she must have an idea of what she’s taking about!! In this particular article she goes over the ten basic guidelines for writing a cover letter. Here’s a brief overview taken directly from the article:

1. Use proper business letter format. Include the date, name and address of person/organization, etc. Use a colon after “Dear Mr. So-and-So:” (commas are for personal correspondence).
2. Keep it to one page unless you have a very clear reason for going beyond that. And particularly when your cover letter is written as an email to accompany your attached resume, keep it short and simple. (But not just “Here’s my attached resume. I look forward to hearing from you.” You don’t get off that easy even in an email. Sorry.)
3. Write unique content. The cover letter is a chance to tell your story, to demonstrate some personality, display your communication skills, and highlight your strengths. It is not the place to simply repeat everything that is in your resume.
4. Remember how your English teacher always said to “show, don’t tell”? What she meant was: don’t just say “I’m a hard worker” (that’s telling); show the reader you’re a hard worker, as in “Last summer, while working at a full-time job, I successfully completed 6 hours of graduate coursework in accounting, and developed a prospectus for a new business.” See, now you’ve shown me you’re a hard worker.
5. Establish a relationship with your reader. To whom are you writing? As I like to say to students: if you’re writing a report on dogs, it’s helpful to know if your reader is a veterinarian or in the 3rd grade. Big difference in how you approach the subject. So, who will be reading your cover letter? Someone in the human resources office? (Likely.) Your future boss? (Also likely.) Someone with no understanding of your field? (Possibly.) For this reason, you need to be careful about using jargon or acronyms from your previous or current employer.
6. Write a targeted letter to each position. The failure to personalize it to the job and/or the employer is by far the most common complaint I hear from employers. Employers resent it when they receive what is obviously a generic cover letter where the candidate hasn’t taken the time to personalize it to them (as in, “Dear Sir or Madam:”). Almost as bad is the letter which starts out personally addressed to the employer but quickly digresses into an obviously generic letter.
7. Plan to create a letter with three-to-five paragraphs (two-to-four if it’s an email). The first paragraph should explain what you’re applying for, how you heard about the opportunity, and why you are particularly qualified. Try to be subtle about this– a letter that opens with “I am the most qualified candidate you will find…” usually ends up in the trash. The employer will judge whether you’re the most qualified: you need to convey what talents or experience you have that connect to the position. The middle paragraphs expand on your connection to the position as well as highlight any research you’ve done about the opportunities the position and the employer represent to you. The last paragraph closes with the next action step that will be taken and how you can connect in the future.
8. Try to avoid trite phrases. I always advise my students NOT to start with the traditional opening, “I am a student at __________ and I am applying for a position as ______________.” Rather, start with something that connects you right away to the position, as in “My three years experience as a bank teller, combined with my economics coursework, have taught me the importance of _____ , a trait needed in your ______ position.”
9. Use an active voice, with action verbs. Avoid phrases like “was responsible for”, or “reports that were written by me…”.
10. Edit. Proofread. Ruthlessly.

Reworking the cover letter

After reading this, I think I may need to go back to a blank Word document and reconstruct my own cover letter. Job searching = frustration, but hopefully it will all be worth it soon!

I can make it on my own

As part of my hobbying and unemployment, wait I mean, funemployment, research yesterday I came across a few articles (can’t find them now of course) about turning your hobbies into money makers. Woohoo! That got me thinking (well really my mom suggested it), that I should start an etsy account. Helloo if no one will give me a job maybe I can just make my own. Plus it’s a great way to get your work out there and to be discovered by other people, and a motivator to keep up with your hobbies!

Today I’ve been busy creating my own etsy, Sara Jane Design. So far I’ve just added a few of my photographs from yesterday, but I plan on adding more photos and paintings as I continue to work on them. I hope you all check it out and are enjoying your funemployment today!

Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy

I discovered my love for art in middle school; I took every art class possible throughout high school and spent a lot of my free periods in the art room. So, naturally when I went to college I knew that art was something I still wanted to pursue and made it my minor. I took several art history classes as well as an array of studio art classes, including drawing, jewelry and metals, photography, and my favorite, painting. Well, it was my favorite until my last semester of college. I transferred schools after my sophomore year, so my senior year painting professor was someone I hadn’t previously had, and he made me absolutely hate painting. Painting used to be an outlet for me, something I did in order to relax, zone out, and just be by myself. My professor was someone who wanted pieces to be done the way he would like them I guess. It seemed like everything I did was wrong, bad, horrible, could be better. And everything everyone else did (including smearing paint across a canvas) was beautiful, let’s hang this in the gallery. The more negative comments I heard, the worse my paintings became because I didn’t want to put anything into them anymore. I believe that artwork is something that is personal to people, and there are ways to give constructive criticism, even if it’s not a particular style of art that you are drawn to. Since that class I have tried, and failed, to pick up a brush and paint. The voice that says you’re no good still hangs in the back of my mind.

The reason that I’m writing about this is because being unemployed is a good time to start a new hobby or go back to an old one; make unemployment more like funemployment! I just read an article on this topic, it’s actually from 2009, but is still pretty relevant. In it, they define funemployment as “A period of joblessness that you actually enjoy — maybe you get to lay out, sleep in, work out, read up. It helps to have savings, severance, or an unemployment check to help pay the bills. We’re hearing this word used more and more, especially as people realize they may not be able to find a new job right away, so they might as well try to enjoy the time off.” I also found a book, Turn Unemployment into Funemployment by Stephen Bernier, for more ideas on hobbies to take up while unemployed.

While I began writing my blog in order to document, complain, talk about, and get in touch with other people who are also jobless post graduation, I don’t want to write post after post complaining about the way things are and how I don’t have a job, yet, who wants to read a bunch of complaining?? Hopefully a job will come along soon, but in the meantime, I need to keep myself sane. Having a job gives you structure to your day, which is something that everyone really needs. In the months since my graduation, I’m proud to say that I have kept more of a schedule than I probably did while I was in college. I get myself up every morning around 7 AM, eat breakfast, work out, and then figure out what I want to do with my day. I really don’t want to plop myself down in front of the TV for hours on end. I’ve been thinking about trying to paint again, but I’m kind of afraid that I can’t do it anymore. Instead of leaping back into it, I decided to take a walk outside today, breath in some fresh air, and take pictures, which I posted for you all to check out! Hopefully I will regain my artiste confidence soon – any suggestions??