Have you ever seen a psychology experiment with a mouse in a maze? It is really painful to watch. That poor little creature, excited by the smell of food runs into walls, backs up and does it again and again, until finally, bruised and battered he reaches his goal. That is exactly what looking for a job feels like for most of us.
Most often, the only way to apply is through an online application never touched by humans. “Genius” software scans them in milliseconds looking for “keywords”. Of course, what they find are scores of applicants who know how to create resumes and cover letters that say zero about who they are because everyone is filling every nook and cranny with those keywords. Try reading one of those resumes one day and see if you can feel anything at all.
When I was new to the Bay area a few years ago, my friends from “away”, bless their hearts, were all saying the same thing. “Donna, just call ___________, or go by there and ask to talk with someone.” Believe it or not, you used to be able to do that, but not today. Human Resources Departments are behind lock and key most of the time. They would tell you it is to protect confidentiality and information, but the real reason is because people who have been trying to submit online applications to no avail, and the unemployed who have sunk into deep depression finally come looking to see if there ARE any human beings there and sometimes, they bring baseball bats.
So, what can you do to humanize the job searching process? First of all, remember that the best way to find a job is to have one. When you are in the job market, it is often a good idea to accept a position that might be less than you are seeking. If it is in the same job arena, it is more likely that you will hear about job openings, know about upcoming changes in that industry resulting in additional jobs, or talk with coworkers who are leaving the area or the workforce.
Personal networking offers the breadcrumbs to most job hires. It is truly “who you know” or at the very least getting to know people in your job arena that will land it for you. Most importantly, just being with other people is necessary and healthy for job seekers. In addition to possible leads, it helps you stay more positive and hopeful while you search. Get out into the world, even if it is just to your favorite coffee shop or Meet Up group.
Your cover letter is the most crucial piece to your search. Even if you want to up your odds by using keywords, be sure the letter is clear, the grammar correct, and that it contains a bit of your heart. In the end, it does matter to most employers that you have both a heart and a brain, so tell them in a heartfelt way why you want to be part of their organization or company. If you have passion about the work, and here’s hoping you do, be sure they know all about it.