Thursday, September 18, 2014

Into the Wayback Machine: The Mistakes I Made in Job Hunting

One of my friends asked me what part of the advice I give in Navigating the Path to Industry I failed to follow when I was making my own move from academia to industry- you know, back in the last geological age. (OK, it was actually about 15 years ago.)

I, of course, made all sorts of mistakes. There was no handy short ebook for me to read to give me tips on running my job search! (There were no ebooks at all.) I was lucky to be graduating into a biotech boom, so I found a job fairly easily, anyway. (It didn't seem easy at the time, but in retrospect... OMG I WAS SO LUCKY!)

My biggest mistake was probably my cover letter. I found one of my old cover letters during our last office reorganizing kick, and it basically sucked. I just restated what was on my resume, and didn't even use the keywords from the job description. I may have customized it for each job for which I applied, but if I did, I didn't customize it much.

I haven't found an old resume, but I suspect it would make me shudder at its CV-ishness, too.

I managed to get hired despite my mistakes because of the aforementioned incredible timing and good luck, and because of one of the things I did right: I networked. I landed my first job, and my second job, and my third job... and all of my jobs via networking. I only heard about that first job because I was serving on an AWIS committee with a recruiter who was trying to fill that job. I suspect she felt confident enough in me to send in a resume for someone just finishing graduate school because she had worked on a committee with me, not just met me. Also, I had done another thing right and started networking more than a year before I needed to get a job, so by the time I met that one critical person, I had gotten comfortable with delivering a pithy statement about my background and interests.

Does anyone else want to take a ride in the wayback machine? What mistakes did you make in your first job search? What did you do right?

In very much related news, you have a little less than one week left to enter the raffle to win my review of your resume and/or cover letter. You can use the prize anytime in the next two years, and you can transfer it to a friend if you don't need the advice yourself. Details about how to enter are on the book release page.

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