Q. I have been unemployed for the past year. I hold a bachelor’s, master’s, and J.D. although I have not passed the bar examination. I have applied for every type of job from waitress to VP with little success. I network through friends and alumni associations. I have different resumes and cover letters depending upon the type of job I’m applying to. Any further suggestions?
A. Job seekers often see a world of opportunity and start job search activity without a strategy. Take a step back and review your plan. Wanting a job is not a plan. A strategic review is needed. Start with a goal that makes sense for you, and for the organization who will hire you. The numbers are off in the job market. We know that employers continue to look for the right people, though not as many, and employees are looking for jobs.
You have significant education. Assess why you chose each of the degrees you went after, and see if you had goals at the time which are still valid. If you wanted to work as a lawyer when you went to law school, what is preventing you from taking the bar, and passing? Many people do not pursue that career path though they have the educational credentials. You will need to decide how important that is to you, and if you choose not to sit for the bar exam, or you do not pass, you will need to develop a terrific public statement explaining your reasoning. This will be a red flag for employers unless you can help them understand the plan you had. You might also choose not to list the JD on your resume if that is a recent acquisition, and you do not want to use those skills in your next job.
Review your work experience. What does your track record look like? Document the skills you have developed. Create columns of functional, industry, technical and personal skills. Look for themes and patterns to begin to see where you have strengths that specific employers might like, or environments that show up more often than not. For example, is higher education a place to use your skills? You have experience with the environment, the population (or customers), and now you need to review the kinds of roles (or titles) where you can use your skills. These kinds of job search strategy activities can be supported by members of your network.
Network with contacts in different industries and show them the document you have developed. Discuss the skills and experience you have, and ask them what types of roles or titles might be the right kind of targets for you to pursue. You may not have all of the skills or experience, but if you complete this exercise in a few different industries, and couple the information with your earlier assessment, you will be able to develop a more focused target.
Communicate with your resume and cover letters more effectively now that you can speak to a real target. Go back to your network, alumni associations, edit your LinkedIn profile, and ensure all your job search arrows are pointing the same way.
Anticipate talking to over 100 people about the kind of work you want to do. Make sure your target is clear, and your presentation, written materials, and interview examples all address why you can contribute in that kind of role.
Support services including career counselors might also be available to you through alumni services of each of your colleges or universities.