Finding a job, whether you’re starting your career or transitioning from one field to another, is unquestionably among the most daunting, time-consuming, and stressful of undertakings.
It’s up there with death, taxes, and buying a home—anxiety-inducing on every level. There are so many things to consider: figuring out what you want to do, finding the right job to apply for, crafting the perfect cover letter and résumé, not to mention all the pressure that comes with getting an actual interview.
It’s enough to paralyze anyone with fear—but it doesn't have to. And with a little legwork, you can actually hunt down employers and job opportunities you never even knew were out there. Here are a few steps to get you started.
The most important thing you can do when searching for your first job, a new job in a different industry, or even an internship is research, research, research. We know, it sounds like homework, homework, homework, and, basically, it is: The more you know, the better decisions you’ll make.
Start by identifying companies you already like and are familiar with. This homework will really pay off because it will help you recognize the right job for you and enable you to go after it with full confidence.
Ask yourself, is there:
- A person whose career you’ve followed for years?
- A website you’re obsessed with and check multiple times a day?
- A nonprofit that’s close to your heart?
- An app you think is totally genius?
- A brand that creates inspiring products or has a really interesting message?
- A company with a great marketing campaign you find incredibly clever?
- An innovative hospital that’s doing amazing research?
You get the idea. These are the companies and industry leaders to look into first, because you’re already interested in and familiar with their work.
Now whittle your list down to your top 25 favorite companies, or to just the companies that employ the people who truly inspire you, then do a deep dive into their backgrounds. For practicality’s sake, you might want to focus on companies based in your area unless you’re planning on moving. Look for articles about each company, especially those that focus on its founders, CEOs, or department heads.
The idea is to get a sense of the company leaders’ personalities, their values, and the work environments they’ve created to determine whether it’s a good fit for you. Reach out to their HR department (there’s almost always a "careers" email address listed somewhere) to find out if the company has a hiring cycle; some hire year-round while others stick to specific schedules or staff up at key times. As you’re doing all this, make a pros-and-cons list for each company—without overthinking it.
Once you’ve come up with your list, go back to each company’s website and find the careers section, which lists available jobs. Seeing how various positions are categorized and the language used to describe the company should shed some light on what it’s like to work there.
And, yes, here's the point where you might even get an idea for a job you didn’t know existed, like being a full-time massage therapist at Google (seriously), a special events coordinator for the New York Botanical Garden (it’s a thing), or a headwear designer for the Dallas Cowboys (yes, really).
We also highly recommend spending time on a company’s LinkedIn page, and we always tell people to contact department managers through that site. Simply reaching out to say that you admire said manager’s career and employer and that you’d like to work for that person in any capacity often opens doors in ways you can’t imagine.
In addition, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the company’s and key leaders’ social media accounts; that’s often the first place they post job listings. The point of all of this is to get to know the key players in whatever industry you’re interested in and to use the information they’re making public to help you position yourself strategically.
Another way to gain insight into a prospective employer is through industry events like panels, conferences, and Q&A sessions. Look at local listings and trade publications to find these events; some are open to the public, and many of them are free. Lots of companies produce panels and summits around larger events and trade shows, so follow your interests and seek out these types of opportunities. You just might find out about a career you didn’t know existed or get to network with a person from one of the companies on your must-apply list.
Over the years, we’ve met countless people at various panels and our own book signings, many of whom we’ve gone on to feature on one of our sites or worked with in some business capacity. The fact that an individual will take time out of his or her busy life to show up at an event makes an impact. You remember that person.
In fact, WhoWhatWear.com’s associate news editor is a perfect example of this; she’d interned at our company in college, and when we weren’t immediately hiring after her graduation, she took another job but kept in contact with various members of our editorial team. One day, after an industry lunch, she made a point of stopping our editorial director to ask about a new position that had just opened up with us.
That in-person connection is incredibly valuable, and very much worth pursuing if you’re looking for a way into a company.
This article is adapted from The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career by Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power. It is reprinted with permission.