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A Job Seeker’s Manifesto: Tips for Getting Ahead and Staying Sane When Playing the Job Search Game

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Job search got you down? Don’t despair. Here are some tips to help you survive and land that dream job while you’re at it.

Go the extra mile.
This first one’s quite basic and seems pretty obvious, but if you really want the job, put in the extra work. I can’t tell you how many applications I’ve received with a generic cover letter slapped into the email attachments. Recruiters can tell in a second if you’ve taken the time to write a personal cover letter or if you’ve been sending out mass mails. Those mass emails are usually regarded as spam and land in the trash faster than you can say “Dear Sir or Madam”.  Find out who the contact person is, address the organization and be clear about why you want to work there. How can your skills help them carry out their mission? Putting the time and effort into personalizing your application shows the HR department that you’re serious and willing to go the extra mile. That’s the kind of person they want to hire.

Get help.
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you should throw in the towel and seek mental help. Asking for people to help you with your application is something so simple but can offer a huge payoff. Have a friend or family member proofread your CV and cover letter. Even the most detail-oriented eye can miss a typo. But more importantly, sometimes an objective eye can shine a little new perspective on your application. The unfortunate truth is that sometimes we tend to sell ourselves short. Having a friend who believes in you and your accomplishments look over your application can help you to present yourself in the best possible light. You have a limited time and space to get the recruiter’s attention, so it’s important you really sell yourself, even if it feels slightly less than modest.

Be open. Take something part-time or volunteer.
Sometimes just getting your foot in the door is the hard part. If you have a lot of free time and are feeling a little under challenged, just getting back out there might give you a much-needed boost. You can never know where something might snowball, so consider saying yes to something you might have previously dismissed. I once took a pretty random part-time freelance job that ended up in a full position and I learned TONS along the way. It ended up opening a lot of doors for me. By all means, I am not suggesting that you should give up on your dreams, but maybe reconsider the different ways of getting from point A to point B. If you’re interested in volunteering, Give Something Back to Berlin, has a lot of awesome opportunities to get involved.

Build your personal network.
On that note, in addition to doing good, volunteering can also help you build a strong personal network in the field. It sucks, but who you know still plays a big role in today’s job game. Something it took me a while to realize is the importance of having a strong network and establishing oneself in your given field/sector. Once people see you as a key player, you can reach out for job tips, connections, recommendations, etc. If you are lucky, people will even come to you and will want you to be on board. If you’re looking for an in, MakeSense and OuiShare are both Berlin-based organizations that have very strong communities and are always happy to receive extra input from passionate people.

Make your own.
Take a minute to think. What do I really want to do? Maybe if you haven’t found your dream job yet, you should consider creating it. You’ve had a business idea simmering on the backburner? Perhaps now’s the time to turn up the flame. You’ve got the time, so why not start developing your idea and see where it takes you. Working for yourself is a whole new game, but it’s incredibly exciting and rewarding. If you’re ready to take the leap, we’ve got lots of events and resources for social entrepreneurs and can also recommend this incubator program to help you get your idea off the ground. 

Don’t get discouraged. 
This is much easier said than done. “Rejection” is a scary word and no one likes experiencing it. If I can offer one tiny slice of comfort, it’s to not take it personally. We’ve ALL been there. Whatever you do, don’t let fear of rejection stop you. Keep applying, keep reaching, keep going- it’s going to pay off. (Hopefully sooner rather than later.)

Enjoy it.
No, I haven’t lost my mind. As frustrating and scary as the job search can be, try to enjoy and maximize this time. Believe me, once you have a job you’ll be jealous of all those people sitting in the afternoon sunshine with a good book. Use these free hours to develop new skills and meet new people. Take an online course (this is a good free option) or polish up your Spanish skills, you don’t need a job to become more qualified.  And it’s OK to give yourself a break- spend time with friends and family, sit in the park and read, or take up a (cheap!) hobby.  Just remember, you won’t always have this freedom, so live it up the best you can.

Good luck!


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