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Job Hunting 101

Maybe you’re tired of your current job, or maybe this is your first job hunt altogether. Whatever the reason may be, job searches aren’t easy; the process can be intimidating and time consuming.

We’re here to help simplify that process for you. Going on a job hunt doesn’t have to be a major stress point — with the right tools and preparation, it can be an empowering process!

In this Penny Hoarder Academy course, you will learn everything you need to land a job, whether it be the one of your dreams or a side hustle that’ll help you generate extra income.

Ready to get on it? Let’s do this!

01 Writing a Resume

Ah, yes, the resume — a necessary component of any job search. Without a resume, you can forget about applying for a job!

A resume is a summary of your work experience, skills and accomplishments. It’s the first impression an employer gets of you — which means it’s important. You’ll want to spend time on yours!

A great resume should include:

  1. Contact information

    At the top, be sure to include your full name, phone number and email address. Don’t forget to include your LinkedIn URL, too! If you don’t have one, we’ll cover how to make one later in this course.

  2. Work experience

    If you have previous work experience, list your most recent job first and the rest in reverse chronological order. Instead of writing down your responsibilities, summarize what you accomplished — were you the top salesperson of the month? Did you generate a record-breaking percentage of leads? Bragging is good here!

    If you don’t have previous work experience, do not leave this section blank. Instead, write down volunteering experience or skills you developed in school that are applicable to the position.

  3. Education

    In this section, begin with your most recent education and work your way backwards. If your degree is still in progress, make sure you identify the projected completion date.

  4. Honors and Community Experience

    If you have extracurricular activity experience, create a special section for it. Here, you can list things like Greek life leadership, academic awards or community service experience.

  5. Additional Skills

    Have any other skills that’ll set you apart from other applicants? List them here! Put down things like your typing speed, additional language fluencies and expertise in computer software programs, like Excel.

Wondering why we didn’t include an Objective section here? While a brief outline of the work you’re looking to do and the reasons why you’re a fit for the job used to be standard on a good resume, it’s now considered outdated and a little stuffy.

One more note before you get started: Conventional resume wisdom says you should limit the length to just one page — but that’s no longer the case! Two pages is perfectly fine. Three pages is pushing it, but the bottom line is that you shouldn’t cut out relevant work experience just to keep it to one page. If a recruiter or hiring manager suspects you’re a good fit, they won’t toss your resume in the trash just because it’s a little longer.

If you’re feeling stuck, you can use online resources to visualize what a great resume looks like. Keep in mind, though, that using templates might turn off recruiters and hiring managers — they want to see that you put in the time and effort to create something unique.

For more help on creating an exceptional resume, we’ve got tips here.

02 Writing a Cover Letter

This one-page brief gives you the opportunity to emphasize the most relevant parts of your resume. It also gives you the opportunity to let your personality shine – and will help you stand out from other applicants. Not every company will request a cover letter, and if they don’t, feel free to skip this step, but this is a good place to include any relevant details that you weren’t able to include in your resume or on your application (i.e. relocation plans).

  • How to format

    You can show your personality… but be sure to keep it professional. Think: one-inch margins and 12-point font.

  • Who do you address it to?

    You should look for two contacts: the recruiter (your primary choice) and the hiring manager (if the company doesn’t have a recruiter). If you absolutely can’t find either of their names, open your letter with “Dear hiring team.”

  • How long should it be?

    No longer than one page. Seriously, recruiters and hiring managers will stop reading after that.

  • Three parts to include

    OK, so now you gotta write the thing. It’s not that hard — just stick to three paragraphs. Think of them in terms of “you, me, we.”

    The first paragraph should talk about the potential employer. What do you like about them? How did you find the role?

    The second paragraph focuses on “me,” as in the person writing the cover letter (you!). Talk about two or three skills you can bring to the table.

    And then, the best part: “we.” Talk about the next steps you’d like to take in the interviewing process, like meeting for an interview or attending an open house. Don’t forget to say thanks!

03 LinkedIn Tips

It’s the 21st century — you need to have a LinkedIn profile. Stop putting it off; it’s time to make your presence digital. The internet runs the world, doesn’t it?

Not sure what LinkedIn is? This explainer is a good starting point.

If you’re already familiar with the platform, here’s how to make your profile shine:

  1. Customize your URL

    This makes your profile look more professional. Create something memorable.

  2. Have a professional headshot

    No selfies. No duckface.

  3. Write a killer headline

    You have 120 characters — sell yourself! Add your personality, too.

  4. Spruce up your summary

    Write in first person; it’ll help you connect with the reader. Need some help? This post lays it all out.

  5. Ask for recommendations

    They show a prospective employer that you’re a team player. Ask former coworkers or supervisors to write one for you — and return the favor.

04 Applying for a Job

You’ve got a stellar resume, a custom cover letter and a polished LinkedIn… now comes the fun part! Applying for jobs can be a time-consuming process, but it’ll be more than worth it once you land a sweet gig.

Thanks to the internet, you’ve got access to thousands of job listings; scour places like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn to find them. It’s also helpful to go directly to a company’s website to find its most recent job listings.

Be sure to double check companies on Glassdoor. Are they legit? Do people like working there? What’s the culture like? This can help you narrow your search down. Don’t waste your time applying to a company you can’t see yourself actually working for.

Pro-tip Icon PRO TIP:

LinkedIn will show you which of your connections work at a prospective employer. If you’re close enough with someone there, reach out and express your interest in the job — maybe even ask for an introduction to the recruiter and/or hiring manager.

  • Customize your resume and cover letter to each job you’re applying to

    This is important! It shows that you’re taking the time to pay attention to details, and that you’re dedicated to landing the gig.

  • Triple check your application

    Is everything spelled correctly? Did you follow all of the directions?

  • If you can, write a follow-up

    If you’re applying on LinkedIn, you’ll be able to see who posted the job listing. Message that person and drop a brief note about you applying for the job to reiterate your interest. Don’t forget to say thank you!

05 Hiring Event Tips

Heading to a hiring event can be nerve wracking. How are you supposed to stand out from hundreds of people? What if you draw a blank while talking to a prospective employer? How are you going to make them remember you?

Here are simple tips to make your hiring event experience a success:

  • Do your research

    Before you go, research the companies you’re interested in working for. You may only get a brief window of time to talk to a recruiter or hiring manager, and knowing the company’s mission and needs will make you look serious about the position.

  • Dress for success

    Yes, get out the suit and tie. You know how the saying goes: “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.” Look polished and professional — it goes a long way because it shows that you cared enough to put in the effort.

  • Bring the necessary materials

    Resumes? Check. Business cards? Double check. Pen and notepad? Triple check. Don’t forget some breath mints, too. First impressions are everything, and no one wants to know what you ate for lunch.

  • Stay cool

    It’s OK to be nervous, but don’t let it consume you! Try practicing how you want to answer interview questions beforehand. And if you mess up an answer, don’t panic; you’re only human.

  • Leave a lasting impression

    Even if you aren’t invited to an in-office interview or offered a job, make sure you say thank you. Just because now isn’t the right time doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future. Leaving on a positive note can keep you in the game for future positions.

06 Interview Tips

You submitted your application. You made a great first impression at a hiring event. After checking your email a hundred times a day, you finally open an invite for an in-person interview. Score!

Take some time to prepare before the big day. Remember how we talked about doing your research? Do some more now. Brush up on the company — on its culture, mission and purpose.

Head in feeling confident and looking sharp. Bring a few copies of your resume. Make eye contact and smile — if you don’t, it could be a deal breaker.

One of the hardest things you have to answer won’t be about your past roles and responsibilities; it’ll be “Tell me about yourself.”

Most folks don’t know where to begin. Don’t use this as an opportunity to reveal your life story; use it as a means to talk about what you’ve done, what you’re doing now and what you hope to do in the future.

Pro-tip Icon PRO TIP:

Relax. Answer questions honestly. You were invited in for an interview because the company is interested in you. Now’s your time to shine!

One of the most important things you can do after an interview, regardless of how it goes, is write a thank you note. Even if you don’t get the job, it can leave your interaction in a positive light — never burn any bridges! Start with an email; while a handwritten note is nice, it’s important to thank each person you met within 24 hours of your interview. Then, you can follow up with a more meaningful and personable handwritten note.

07 Negotiating

This is one of the most intimidating parts of job hunting: negotiating your salary, benefits and/or title.

But it’s also one of the most important things you can do during a job search. Negotiating gives you power and helps you reach your true earning potential.

Here are three steps to take if you want to rally for what you want:

  1. Do your research

    If you’re negotiating for a higher salary, research how much other people in the position you’re seeking make. You can find salary information on sites like Glassdoor. If you refer to the “market average” for your position, you’ll know a reasonable amount to ask for.

  2. Stress your value

    Companies love the idea of value. What can you bring to the company that someone else can’t? How are you going to become an asset? Stress this, over and over again. It’ll make your argument for more money valid.

  3. Think about the whole package

    If the company doesn’t exactly meet your proposed figure, don’t walk away just yet. What other benefits is the company offering? Does it have a great vacation package? How about sick days? Does it pay for employee health care? All of these benefits add up — so take them into consideration when you’re faced with a final salary offer.

Whatever you do, don’t overdo it. If you don’t have credible reasons for a counteroffer, don’t make one.

Also, don’t forget to practice! Ask a friend or career coach to run through a mock conversation so you know what to expect. Like other skills, negotiation takes time to learn.

One final note: Be transparent and straightforward about your salary needs from the get-go. Don’t pretend you’re fine with the number they offer at the beginning of the hiring process if you plan to request a (much) higher one at the end. This will only frustrate the recruiter or hiring manager and may cause them to rescind their offer.

08 Accepting/Denying a Job Offer

You did it — you were offered a job! This is an exciting experience, but don’t let your excitement get in the way of properly accepting it. Ask for your offer in writing and check that it reflects everything you discussed, from your role responsibilities and PTO to salary and benefits.

If you were offered a job you don’t think will be a fit, turn it down gracefully. Maintaining relationships you built along the interview process is important; you never know who you might run into in the future.

If you were turned down for a gig, don’t fret or badmouth the company. Thank the manager for their time and the experience of getting to know more about the company. If you liked the company and envisioned yourself working there, it won’t hurt to ask to be kept in mind for future positions.

Action plan checkmark Action Plan

Congratulations! You’ve finished the Job Hunting 101 ecourse. You now have all the knowledge and tools needed to go land the job of your dreams –– or one that’ll be another step toward it.

Here’s a checklist to keep you on track as you prepare for your job hunt:

Make a great resume.

Write a killer cover letter.

Apply for jobs you're interested in.

Rock those networking events!

Do interview prep.

Don't forget to negotiate.

Accept or deny a job offer appropriately.

Smash your career goals!

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