Unfortunately, the job market is still pretty tough, and there are an incredible number of quality folks who are looking for that next opportunity. And, both people with and without jobs are fighting for a few key positions in every town. Even through the downturn, our industry remained hot and now continues to increase in competitiveness as the economy bounces back. It takes more and more to set yourself apart from the pack.
Some people are looking for growth opportunities, and some are looking for that next stepping stone, while others are making career changes, and some wish to settle in at a good company for the long haul. On the other side, most employers just want good people who will fill a current need; hopefully they are also looking past the current position and creating opportunities for their good people beyond the immediate roles.
For those who do look beyond, both employee and employer, they have to get past the resume and see passion, resourcefulness, and creativity. Some of that can be exposed in an interview, but before you get to sit across the desk to try to make a hot digital agency your future employer, you have some other tools that can give you an edge. Put some of these assets to work for you to give yourself a better chance to impress some of the best places to work.
First off, know that a cold call or email is a long shot. That doesn't mean you can't take a shot at hitting up a hiring manager or a high-up at an agency, but you better have an incredibly concise, eloquent, and compelling story that arrives at precisely the right time. A better approach is to introduce yourself via a connection in the company.
Know who works at the company and work every angle you can to get a good friend of yours to introduce you to a good friend of his or hers at the company. You might not have that connection immediately, but it is definitely worth trying to find that inroad. If you absolutely can't find a way in, then make it happen by attending events the company's people attend, commenting on articles, retweeting articles, or creating a social media dialogue in some non-creepy way.
Remember that a lot of companies pay bonuses to employees who bring in new hires. If you're worth recommending, current employees will make the effort to bring you to the table when a befitting opportunity presents itself.
If at this point you realize you have a weak network, you can still start now. You probably know more people than you think. You have past vendors, colleagues, neighbors, and more. And, if you're reading this article in advance of looking for a job or are even wildly satisfied in the one you have now, you should still develop your network now as if you were looking. You don't want to have to start this process when you're actually in need.
A great way to make connections is via LinkedIn. If you keep your profile up to date and actively manage your connections via LinkedIn, you are ahead of the game. In fact, if you are managing this tool right and have been at a high-visibility company for a while, you are probably already getting opportunities presented to you nearly every day through recruiters.
If you're not getting the opportunities you want or just know that your profile is incomplete, then you need to get to work. Thankfully, it isn't too hard to get up to snuff; LinkedIn makes it easy. Just follow its stepped process and fill in the blanks. The hardest part is figuring out how to write a thoughtful and compelling -- yet accurate -- story.
A few tips:
- You can be creative with your picture, but don't overdo it. Let them see you.
- Be succinct with your story, but write it for the job you want.
- Be detailed with your history, but don't share what isn't relevant. Personality is OK, but be professional.
- Show your job-related interests by sharing industry related news and posts.
- Don't overtly stuff keywords into your profile. It looks either desperate or unfocused.
Once everything is in place, refer to the section on connections. Build them, leverage them, and manage them through LinkedIn.
Other social presences
I pulled LinkedIn out into its own section largely because it is probably the most important "resume substitute." But other social media profiles and assets are not necessarily less important in finding that next great job. Other tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest can actually be a more direct, proactive shot if executed well.
With any social platform, I recommend that prospective employees observe the same rules that we might advise clients to follow when they're using social to engage with their customers. Listen, engage, inform, educate, be authentic, be creative, and -- in this case -- be as social as you might be at a business networking function.
Know who you want to reach, follow them, and engage. In this industry, they are probably listening too. So if you speak to them, they will probably respond. Just be useful and respectful in the process. In other words, don't use this channel to pester a company about its job openings or whether or not it received your resume.
If the people at the company have engaged with you via this channel and found some benefit from doing so, then, when you reach out directly about a role, they might be very responsive. So, perhaps they've responded to you a few times or commented on or retweeted some of your content. If so, you might be able to take a shot at building a more direct relationship.
And, as a side note on this topic: As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. You can show a lot of creativity and personality with Pinterest and Instagram. If you can find a way to weave those in, you can show some range and depth beyond the typical retweets and posts from the Twitter and Facebook worlds.
Original content and a gathering place
In order to have a magnet for comments or to have something to tweet, you should consider producing interesting work wherever you can place it. Whether or not you're a writer, if you've been educating yourself on this industry, you probably have something to share. Contribute what you can to our industry, and most likely it will come back to you. You get brownie points if you have an owned place to share it in a coordinated way. A good way to do it is to produce your own Tumblr, blog, or site and centralize your world.
This is, in no way, a requirement for most. But, having something pulled together in a coordinated way like this just shows a bit of savvy for those who might not have digital experience on their resume. It also gives a potential hiring manager the chance to discover something that might help make a case for why you might be a worthwhile candidate.
There is often no better original content than actual work where a client's approval was involved. If you're able to show work (while providing appropriate credit and context), that can go a long way for some of the more creative or technical positions.
By showing work and giving credit, it shows that you're proud of what you've done with others and that you're a team player. If you show work without credit or context, it doesn't tell the whole story and discredits what you present. But, if you can show it and do it right, it can get you in the door quickly for agencies in a pinch. In addition, freelance can often lead to full-time jobs if you're both on board with it.
Industry and agency sites
It is important to any prospective employer that you are keeping up on industry trends and continuing to inform yourself and evolve as a professional. Soak up content from a variety of industry sources and poke around on agency sites to see what they're doing and talking about. If you do get the opportunity to interview, you will be far more informed, and it easily impresses the interviewer when you know a lot about the company, people, and work.
Also, don't forget that you can always contribute comments to articles and weigh in with your opinion. Authors in this industry tend to read and respond to commenters; plus, if your responses are thoughtful and balanced (compared to aimless rants or shameless self-promotion), you can build positive awareness for your personal brand.
As the environment continues to remain competitive (and the best jobs will always have people fighting for them), your resume is only one small piece of a winning equation. For those in digital and creative industries, the bar is set incredibly high. To get the role you want at a place where you are eager to work, you have to get to work using the assets listed above to surface the skills you have and wrap it well with your personality and passion.
At the end of the day, these efforts and assets will only get you to the table. You and the company have to fit well together, and hopefully you will discover that in the interview process. And, if you do get that coveted job, keep up the work on this new platform. It will only benefit you for either the next time you need it or will give you a creative avenue to explore and broadcast your talents to the benefit of both you and your employer.
"Social network background of the icons vector" and "Successful business woman looking confident and smiling" images via Shutterstock.