Seven Tips for Job Searching – Pandemic or Not – from F&R’s Director of Environmental Services

Although I have no recent experience with a job search since I’ve been at F&R for over twenty years, I still vividly remember the long period of time I initially spent searching for employment in this industry.  One of my favorite parts of my role at F&R is to work with college students and new graduates on how to gain employment in our industry.  I love to help people reach their goals!

Years ago, in our environmental department we developed an internship program that included a reverse interview process.  This allowed the interns to interview staff members to ask them about their career progress at F&R, what they liked and didn’t like about their jobs, and thoughts on the industry in general.  People love to talk about themselves, right?  During our exit interviews, time and time again our interns told us how valuable this opportunity was for them.  This led me to start bringing students in for informational interviews.  When we are not in a recruiting phase and students contact us for employment opportunities, we offer them a chance to come in and sit down with at least one or two of our staff to go through this reverse interview process and learn more about environmental consulting.  As we find out more about their goals from them, we look to make connections between these students and the people and organizations in our network.  This has been challenging during the pandemic and as I began thinking about other ways I could help people looking to get into the industry, I decided to write this article about putting your best foot forward while searching for employment.  This goes for current students, new graduates, and seasoned employees that may be looking for new opportunities.  Therefore, with no further ado here are my top seven things to do while searching for employment in a pandemic (or not):

1. Ensure your resume is up-to-date and relevant.

Does this seem obvious? I consistently see outdated resumes, which are a huge turn off for a hiring manager. Review current trends in resume format and style. A relevant resume should be appealing to the eye, have a little bit of color, add a personal touch and highlight your selling points.  Review it and have someone else proofread for grammar and spelling.  The fastest way to get into the ‘no pile’ is to have spelling and grammar errors in your resume.  Particularly in our industry, being observant and detailed oriented is a requirement for the job and a successful career.  Your attention to detail needs to show in your resume.

2. Be mindful of the opportunity cost.

Each action you take costs you in time, effort, and sometimes even mental health.  How much rejection can you possibly endure?  Are you wasting your time and effort applying to positions for which you aren’t remotely qualified to do?  Pay attention to requirements and preferences in job postings.  As a hiring manager, I see this happen for every position I post.  I post a position that requires five years’ experience and see resumes with no experience or students that haven’t even graduated.  Why are you applying?  The hiring manager knows what they need and if they posted requirements, they likely aren’t open to a candidate that doesn’t meet those requirements and you’ll be rejected.  Applying to every position wastes your time and the time of hiring managers.  Granted, if you are close to meeting the requirements-you have four years’ experience and they ask for five, this is worth your time.  They may ultimately give you a chance for an interview.

3. Leverage your network to assist in your search.

Your network is your biggest asset when trying to gain employment.  Who do you know? Who do you want to know?  How do you get there?  You want to connect to people in your desired industry.  Not everyone will be hiring, but that’s okay.  Use your growth mindset and be open to what people can offer you even if it’s not a position.  Set up appointments for reverse interviews as I discussed in the introduction.  Be prepared to ask questions on their career, their success, their challenges and what their opinion is on how you should approach securing a position.  Not everyone has the time or desire to help you, but you’ll have to keep trying and locate those individuals that will help.  When you do find someone that takes time to speak with you, ask for a referral to the next person.  There’s a good chance they have met with someone or can connect you with someone else in the industry that will speak with you.  This is a prime example of leveraging and growing your network.

4. Engage with your network and others on social media.

LinkedIn is the best social media platform for our type of industry and setting up a good profile is step one.  Ensure you have a friendly, professional photo, a relevant banner, and information entered into each section of the profile.  Ask your network for recommendations.  Your profile is probably more important than your resume as it gives you a chance to display your personality along with your education and experience.  Once your profile is up to date, start sharing content from relevant sources.  Like and comment on articles posted by people in your network or companies that interest you.  It’s also important to create your own content and post it (reference item 5 below).  This is one of the fastest ways to be recognized by your network, others in the industry, and hiring managers.

5. Become an expert in what you are passionate about.

This can seem daunting and challenging, but honestly nothing is more difficult professionally than your exhaustive search for employment.  What’s your passion and how does it relate to your ideal job/company/industry?  What question do you have related to it?  Pick one thing, research it, and write about it.  Start small with a short article that you write based on a question you had about a topic you love.  You answered your question through your research and I guarantee that others have that same question, so post your content article on LinkedIn.  Even if you are relatively new to the subject, you have a unique perspective that others may find helpful.  One small article, one post, and now you are on your way to becoming an expert in your field.  Expand from there into longer articles and maybe even videos.  There are a ton of resources available to help you learn content marketing.  And yes it’s marketing…marketing yourself.

6. Training and shadowing is an important aspect of your professional persona.

Seek out opportunities for training.  Sure, there will be costs involved including time and maybe money spent, however it will also make you more marketable.  This is a good question to ask your network – what training are you looking for in a candidate?  There are numerous free web-based training opportunities right now.  Additionally there are a multitude of industry specific groups that are hosting webinars and events – many of which have deeply discounted or free rates for students and those looking to break into the profession.  Attend one, write an article, post it on LinkedIn and connect that with the network of professionals and you just significantly increased your value.  This is a great example of how to be noticed by decision makers and hiring managers.

Another aspect of leveraging your network and growing your resume is shadowing.  Shadowing opportunities give you a chance to learn aspects of a role prior to employment in the industry.  Shadowing is similar to an internship, however typically it is very short term and unpaid.  These opportunities are currently more limited based on the pandemic; however, I have seen some virtual programs and limited interaction programs throughout the last nine months.  Ask your network if there are shadowing opportunities in their companies.

7. Be responsive and professional in your communication.

If someone is taking the time and effort to help you, be thankful and responsive and communicate that in a professional manner.  Typically, we utilize the 24-hour rule; reply to an email or voicemail within 24 hours of receipt; faster if possible, but no later than 24 hours.  For many new to the professional world the need to be responsive to email in particular is important.

Be thankful; send thank you emails that are personalized to your experience and the person you met with.  Trust me that they will remember your etiquette.

Communicate using a professional tone in your emails and phone calls.  Use an opening and closing in your emails.  Review/proofread prior to sending emails as again, attention to detail is key.  In addition, it’s important to know your audience.  Having a closing that says sent from my iphone isn’t appropriate for everyone you interact with.  Use technology to your advantage but also in a manner that relays your professionalism.

Ultimately will these seven things guarantee you a position right away? No.  However, they will help get your name, experience and personality out to a larger group and assist you in being seen by the right hiring manager instead of your hopes resting solely with making it through an automated screening performed by HR software.  People hire people – so make those connections, be attentive and start creating your content!

Prepared by Christy Slaw Director of Environmental Services