It’s an almost automatic response. You need a job, or you’re unhappy at your current job. What do you do? You start applying elsewhere. You look up online job listings. You fill out applications. You send out resumes and cover letters.
While that’s definitely a key step in the process, you’re often just tossing your resume or application into a pile with a lot of other resumes and applications. The question isn’t whether you apply, but how exactly you’re going to rise to the top of that pile.
The truth is that most of the time, it is the factors beyond the resume or application that causes yours to rise to the top of the stack. The factors that set people apart and line them up for interviews comes from the extra steps that people take.
If you want to get a new job beyond an entry-level position, you have to bring something more to the table. Here are five additional things you should be doing to bring that “something extra” into the mix.
Go to meetups and trade shows.
If there are any meetings or shows related to your career in your area, go to them. Go to all of them. If you don’t even know where to start looking, a great place to start is to use Meetup and go to anything that is related to what you want to be doing next in your career.
The goal of these meetings is threefold. First, you can actually learn some things about your career path that can prove useful, both at your current job and where you might be going next. Second, regular participation in a group related to your career can make for a good entry on your resume.
The third reason is perhaps the most valuable one, though: it provides you with an opportunity to meet people in your area in your professional field. Meetups and trade shows are loaded with people in overlapping careers from a wide variety of employers. It’s those people – and those potential relationships – that will help you find an open door to the next step in your career.
Join a trade association related to your career.
If your career path offers a trade association of any kind, become a member of that association. Usually, this will give you access to a publication, meetings for that association, and perhaps most useful, a job board.
Those benefits provide most of the advantages of going to meetups and trade shows in your area, as discussed above, and trade association membership is definitely worth a resume mention.
Trade association job boards might not directly lead you to a job, but they often provide a place to find jobs that aren’t posted on all of the normal job outlets. Often, they’re looking for people who have a trade association membership as a prerequisite, one that you meet, so the membership is directly giving you a path to additional job options.
Do volunteer work.
There are few better ways to meet a wide cross section of big-hearted people in your community than through volunteer work. You’ll meet and get to know people from a wide variety of career paths and backgrounds and they’re all predisposed to think positively of each other because you’re all spending time doing charitable things.
Such civic-minded groups are often full of people who want to build a better community for everyone – and they’re also full of people who do want to connect with each other as part of building that community. A community is made of people, after all, and those groups are often the backbone of it. You’ll find yourself building great resume material, building connections with pillars of your community, learning new skills, and making a ton of good personal and professional connections, all while doing something great for your community. Civic groups and volunteer groups are wonderful tools for anyone wanting to build a lasting career or business in a local community.
You can get started by joining a volunteer or civic group in your area. Look at groups like Habitat for Humanity for starters, and also take a look at the civic groups mentioned on your community’s website, such as the Lion’s Club.
Get active in social media in a professional way.
Many career paths offer thriving online communities where people are constantly exchanging ideas and discussion topics in an effort to improve themselves, build strong professional relationships, and carve out a name for themselves. It’s incredibly worthwhile for you to get involved in those groups.
On social media, your ideas rule. It’s a fast-flowing exchange of information and ideas, and when you can contribute in a useful way by answering questions and contributing value to discussions, you tend to raise your profile and build followers and connections. Jump on there, look for professional conversations you can add to, and dive in. Take note of people you see frequently sharing good ideas and build up a connection with those people.
Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to start. Twitter is best for conversation and sharing ideas with a broader audience, while LinkedIn is useful for finding connecting with people you may somehow already be associated with.
Follow up with the people you meet.
The first four steps in this process are going to introduce you to a lot of people who are in your field or in related fields. Those people are often going to be the difference maker when it comes to getting a good job.
When you meet someone who seems interesting at a meetup or a trade show or a volunteer activity or on social media, follow up with that person. Exchange contact information with them, then jot down a reminder of why you should follow up with that person.
Then follow up. Send that person a message related to the reason you intended to follow up with, then keep that exchange going. Don’t be afraid to ask this person, after a few exchanges, whether or not they know of any job openings that you might fit well.
You can have all of the skills in the world, but in the end it’s relationships that often make the difference in terms of getting your resume noticed. The key to getting a great job, then, isn’t just sending out your resume (though that’s important) and it isn’t just having a great resume (though that’s vital, too), but it’s having lots of relationships that can help you get your foot in the door.
Every career step I’ve taken has been aided by a professional relationship of some kind. My academic advisor in college got me my first job that had anything to do with my career path. My supervisor at that job essentially took me with him when he switched jobs. My mentor at that job ended up hiring me himself, and then when that contract was about to run out, I was hired by another group that I had built a relationship with while working for my earlier mentor.
Yes, at each step, I had the skills I needed for the next step in my journey, but without strong professional relationships, I would have never been able to progress in my career path. It is those relationships that make all the difference when you’re taking a step forward in your career. Those relationships will push your resume to the top of the stack. Those relationships will open doors for you.
It’s up to you to step through it.