Be a smart job seeker.

Looking for a job is rarely fun; however, being honest with yourself about which jobs you have a shot at getting and which jobs you don’t will make the process much less of a time-suck. Honesty will also limit the heartbreak that comes from rejection emails because you won’t be getting as many.

I hadn’t considered this until right now, but I think a major reason I went to graduate school was because of the trauma the post-undergraduate job market caused me. I spent 7-8 hours a day for weeks applying to jobs before eventually landing a job selling cars. But I was fired after two weeks because I basically gave a Ford F150 away for free and I was back job searching. And just like before, it was demoralizing.

As I see it now, it didn’t need to be.

For those of you applying to jobs, whether as recent graduates or those in career transitions, you need to ask yourself whether or not you are qualified for each job you are interested in. If a job call says 8-10 years of experience are required, there is not a lot of give there, especially if you have 0 years of experience. If a job requires a graduate degree, your BA or BS will most likely not be enough, especially if you do not have an immense amount of experience to make up for the extra education.

Simply put, prior to tweaking your résumé or spending an hour or two writing a cover letter, make sure you have a real chance at getting through the first round of application reviews. If you still think you are qualified, go for it; if you don’t, keep searching and invest your time applying to a job you can actually get.

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Leverage your recommendations

If you are not using LinkedIn “Recommendations” I highly suggest you start.

Considering the increasing value of the platform as the go-to resource for stakeholders on all sides of the employment and career equation, adding recommendations to your profile should be something you do.

And for those already using the tool, send additional invites to continue building value for your profile.

LinkedIn has a lot of data and users continue to grow; as the significance of the technology continues to increase, having value on your profile that has been added by your network (as opposed to yourself) will become more significant and more persuasive.

For those who have not used “Recommendations,” it is a profile add-on that allows you to send requests to those in your network. This can include those you work with or for, continue to work with, or have otherwise known in some professional capacity.

In recent months, I have increased my use of the tool and even asked former students to leave recommendations if they thought I added something professionally valuable to their own individual brands. The results have been noticeable. I am getting more profile views and potential clients are using my profile and its recommendations in addition to those on my website and on Thumbtack to decide whether or not to hire me. I am getting more traffic to my website, blog, and social media profiles. I am also getting contacted more often.

I had to come out of my shell to ask for these recommendations and I am going to assume the same will need to happen for many of you. It can be uncomfortable to ask others for recommendations, but unlike when I was an undergraduate student asking for graduate school letters of recommendation from professors who only knew me as the kid who rarely showed up, had no filmmaking talent, and was failing at his attempt to grow facial hair, I only ask for LinkedIn recommendations from those in my professional network who know me well enough to write 3-4 sentences without feeling putout.

Starting today, I recommend you start doing the same. Results can only be positive.

Just try

At the end of every semester I have to remind myself to feel pleased about the students who have tried and refuse to let those students who’ve mailed it in get me down. This is certainly, at least in part, due to embarrassment and shame as I was often the college student who gave minimal effort, especially during my early college years when the draw of $.50 pitchers was stronger than the reality of post-college employment; a reality which I inevitably put off for eight more years in favor of grad school.

00000014588But aside from the sting of critical self-reflection, my disappointment stems mostly from my desire for my students to see that life beyond the safety of college is tough and that effort -or lack thereof- is no longer corollary to one’s mastery of the Wikipedia search. I worry that if students are not trying in college, how will they accomplish anything outside of it.

This is not a heartfelt rambling of a college professor, but rather a critical call-to-action from someone who works with job seekers, particularly those who may not have the ingenuity to create $1 billion apps or design spaceships -no matter their access or privilege- but who have worked hard in their life, showcasing effort at all times, no matter the task or the risk.

As a critical scholar, I recognize the shortcomings of the ideological underpinnings that define so many of our social and cultural narratives. Not everyone is capable of pulling on their bootstraps. However, if you’ve been given the privilege of going to college or getting a decent job, don’t mail it in. Working hard every day is rarely rewarded, but don’t let apathy and indifference screw up those moments when it is.