Ten Important Lessons I Learned in My Job Searches

Ten Important Lessons I Learned in My Job Searches

For 20 years I’ve been in the job market, either in a job or in a job search, and 15 of those years I’ve been recruiting all levels of professional talent for multiple companies in various cities and countries. Through all of it, I’ve learned some important lessons that I’d like to share.

1. Network now and forever.

NetworkingIf you’re not doing it already, start immediately. Networking should be an integral part of your career, and is critical when you’re in a job search.

Periodically connect with your existing professional contacts, whether it’s getting together or just passing along a relevant article to them, but stay in touch.

Extend your network regularly. Every time you attend a conference or off-site business meeting, make a point of connecting with someone. And, consider asking your current network to connect you with other contacts they value.

Extend yourself to those within your network by offering to help, introduce them to other contacts or act as a mentor to a junior professional.

When you ask someone in your network for assistance or to connect you to a hiring manager, be specific and thoughtful in your ‘ask’. For example, if you’re in the job market, and interested in a specific role, be prepared by providing your resume, as well as an outline of your strengths and accomplishments that match the requirements of the role you’re interested in.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is engaging and professional. Don’t just drop your resume into your LinkedIn profile. Your profile should be more distinctive and include the highlights of your career. Create a headline that speaks to what you’re passionate about in the business world. Hiring managers and recruiters are constantly using LinkedIn, so a strong headline can get you noticed.

If you want to minimize age bias, abbreviate your experience, including only the last past 10 to 15 years.

3. Have an elevator pitch ready.

NetworkingWhen you least expect it, you’ll be asked what you do or what you want to do. Be ready and be concise, zero in on what you do and what you want to do. Your story should take less than thirty seconds to tell.

Always have your elevator pitch ready, not just when you’re making a job change, but all the time, because opportunities can arise when you least expect them.

4. Regularly update your resume.

Annually, it’s a good idea to update your resume, even if you don’t need it. That insures when you do need it, you’ll be ready to go.

I’ve met leaders and senior professionals who recommend you keep a record of your accomplishments and update your record at least annually. It’s a great idea and good practice to get into.

5. Be prepared to discuss salary during a job hunt.

It may seem radical that when you’re in the job search, you get asked about your salary during your first conversation with a company, but it happens frequently. The reason why? Companies don’t want to spend valuable time with candidates who aren’t likely to fit their role. And, from your perspective, there’s nothing worse than spending 8-10 hours interviewing, and then receiving an offer that $10k to $25k below what you’d consider. You’ve just wasted valuable time and energy that could have been spent on a stronger role. So, while it feels intrusive, discussing desired and/or actual salary insures you and the company are focused on a role that matches what you’re interested in.

If you’re asked for a specific number and you’re not comfortable providing one, consider providing a range. If you want to be flexible about compensation, add that you’re flexible when you reveal your salary. And, tell the hiring manager or recruiter why you’re willing to be flexible, so it doesn’t appear to be desperation. Many individuals are flexible in their compensation requirements for reasons such as a better location, work/life balance, because they feel they’re over the current market salary or they may be transitioning their career.

6. Be organized.

cover-letter-writingJob search should be viewed as a project, and potentially the most important project you work on at any point in time. Like all good project managers, develop a plan and schedule, work the plan, and stay on target. Good project management skills will keep you organized when you’re juggling multiple interviews and roles, and interviewing with several companies.

7. Set aggressive goals each week.

Since most of your work will be meeting people or applying online, set goals for both, applications and networking. And, make your job search your number one priority every day. When you’re in a job search, you should spend 6 hours/day minimum on your job search, like your standard work day, whether it’s time spent networking, in meetings, resume submissions or research.

8. Contact and confirm your references.

Don’t include references on your resume or when you apply for a role, but do connect with your professional references early on in a job search. You should gather a list of at least 3-5 references and use only 3 of the most appropriate when you’re asked for them after an interview(s). Most companies want a reference from someone who supervised you, a peer, and one other person who knows you professionally. If this is your first role after your education, then teachers and professors can be used as they will speak to your work ethic. And, stay in touch with your references regularly.

When you get asked for the names and contact information for your references, reach out to the ones most appropriate for the role, and provide them information about what you’ve learned about the role, reiterate strengths that are important for the position, and thank them in advance for the recommendation.

Once they’ve provided a positive reference, and you’ve accepted the offer, circle back with your references, advise them of the role you just accepted, and thank them again.

9. Stay positive.

Job search, whether your currently employed or not, can be exhausting and discouraging. It’s critical that you stay positive. When the going gets tough, reach out to motivators in your network for support and fresh ideas. And, even if it’s difficult to hear, take the advice they give. Sometimes, we can become too siloed in our thinking when it’s about our career or salary. After all, it’s highly personal and often fundamental to how we define ourselves.

10. Pay it forward.

Do what you can to help a colleague, friend, or connection whenever you can. Help others through introductions, or mentoring more junior colleagues. And, if someone seeks your advice, be generous in providing it. Never forget that someone else is today in the same situation you were at one point and may be again.

Job search and managing your career can be exhilarating and frustrating. Being prepared and organized will make you savvier and appear more professional, and get you the results you want faster!


Want to Work at a Company Where the Culture Is a Positive One?

“Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.”

— Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappo’s

A job is more than just a place you go for 8+ hours a day—you also need to deal with coworkers, bosses, and office politics. Here are some clues to determine a company’s culture before you take the job and it’s too late.

It’s important the culture of the company is one you think you’ll thrive in. The work environment significantly influences how you’ll feel about your job. This includes everything that forms employees’ involvement with the work itself, such as co-workers, supervisors, company culture, personal development opportunities, even hours and surroundings.

A positive work environment makes employees feel good about what they’re doing and encourages employee engagement.

Our colleagues and especially our boss, have a huge impact on our work experience.

If you’re looking for a new job, assessing a potential work environment is a crucial consideration you shouldn’t skip.

Check Out the Company Using Multiple Tools to Learn More

Start with the corporate website. What news and updates do they put out to the public, because what’s on their website is generally relevant to new products, ideas, conferences, or volunteer activities that are happening at the company. If there’s nothing there, that may evidence they’re not concerned about their image. So, they may react the same to their employees.


Check the feedback about the company on sites like Glassdoor. Take the reviews you see there lightly, but if you see common threads between reviews, you’ll know what to watch out for. If everyone leaving a company complains nothing is worth the long hours and demanding management, it may not be what you want to get into. On sites like Glassdoor, don’t just read what employees say, but look at what people who interviewed said too. And, if candidate interview reviews suggest a strenuous or disorganized process, consider it a reflection of what’s happening behind the doors.

Check out the company’s social network profiles, specifically their pages on LinkedIn and Facebook.

See what they share on Facebook to the public, and visit their corporate LinkedIn presence will reveal people who work there, what their skills and backgrounds are.

Ask Questions About the Culture in Your Interview

If you’ve done your homework and the company still looks like a great place to work, you have an opportunity to learn more about the culture in your interview. The one question that usually comes up (and often near the end) in most interviews is “Do you have any questions for us?” That’s your opportunity to learn more about the culture, information you can’t get from just your research. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  1. What’s the company culture like from your perspective?
  2. How does this group work with other teams?
  3. How do the different roles on our team interact?
  4. What’s the intrateam dynamics?
  5. How would your employees describe you? What have you been told by more than one person?

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, one of the strongest advocates of culture, makes a solid point when he says ‘the people you hire represent your company even outside of work. If you meet someone and learn where they work, your perception of that place is influenced based on what you learned.’

So, What Elements Make a Great Company Culture?


Let’s start with what is Corporate Culture. It’s probably a word you hear often, but what is it exactly?

According to The Business Dictionary corporate culture is: “The values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.”

This is the reason a positive culture matters. Culture sustains employee enthusiasm.

8 Elements of a great company culture

  1. Positive Values – A positive mission statement outlines the goals and demonstrative the company values and strives toward.
  2. Relaxed and Productive Atmosphere – People enjoy coming to work and feel appreciated, acknowledged, and rewarded.
  3. Open and Honest Communication – Everyone communicates in a cards-on-the-table manner, solving difficulties in a positive way. They view constructive feedback as an opportunity for growth. And constructive feedback is given frequently if needed, and they don’t wait for your annual review. Constructive feedback should also offer workable solutions.
  4. Cooperation, Support and Empowerment – Employees have a sense of camaraderie, cooperation and empowerment.
  5. Humor – Employees keep things in perspective, laugh, and have fun even when change is occurring or everyone is busy.
  6. Flexibility and Transparency – The employees embrace change, accommodate new trends and technology, and incorporate new skills. Companies where management is transparent about the direction, current challenges, and even mistakes creates an environment that builds trust.
  7. Positive Reinforcement – People need acknowledgement, appreciation and gratitude to be motivated. And frequent, specific and timely positive reinforcement is best.
  8. Approachability and Support – When employees feel they can talk openly with their boss and will be supported when faced with challenges. At some point in a career, everyone faces challenges and managers who support their employees


Tony Hsieh, now CEO of Zappos, believes that interactions–both between employees and with customers–are the key to a business’s identity. “At Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself.”–January 9th, 2010, The New York Times

In the end, there are no magic pills even when you’ve thoroughly done your research. Business, like everything else today can change on a dime, so if you’ve decided to join a company and learn the culture is toxic, start looking for a new opportunity, and do research on how to handle a toxic environment before you find yourself just reacting to it.