USAA Tips: Strong finishes and new beginnings

Content provided courtesy of USAA

You might find yourself hoping to hear back from a few prospective employers on some careers you applied for. Here’s a list of 14 things you can do to make a strong finish and start a new beginning.

1. Use this “downtime” to create new versions of your résumé.

Over time, you might recognize the fact that the original version of your résumé needs to be modified to meet specific career choices. Does your résumé contain words that match the job description? Word choice is important and creating a résumé that reflects your skills that align with the job in question can help. Having more than one résumé, with each one tailor-made for a specific position, is the key.

2. Follow up appropriately with those you’ve been in contact with.

With respect to the fact that anyone you’ve interviewed with (along with any and all administrative assistants or employees) can now be seen sprinting toward the finish of 2019, you need to figure out how much communication is enough communication. Did you send or answer all the follow-up emails during the “post-interview” phase of getting hired? Careful attention to how you follow up (or whether you follow up again if no response) needs to be considered. You don’t want to overstep your bounds, appear desperate, or otherwise seem too pushy.

3. Review ALL of the positions you’ve applied for, even if you’ve been sent a rejection letter.

Companies change all the time. The position you submitted your résumé for earlier in the year might have a late-breaking position open today. As mergers, acquisitions, and new divisions of an existing company spring up, you might find a position that just opened up. Just like panning for gold, you just never know until you revisit places you’ve searched before.

4. Keep current not only on what’s happening at each company you’re interested in, but in the industry as well.

As mentioned above, with change being constant, you’ll fare better if you aware of what’s happening within a particular company or within the market segment in question. For example, if you follow a specific type of industry and learn that new laws and regulations take effect in 2020, you might be able to leverage this information to showcase your current awareness of the industry in an interview setting. What’s more, if your skills and abilities demonstrate a particular proficiency related to these changes, you can shine above the other candidates for the position. Keep current on what’s happening.

5. Take advantage of the post-holiday sales.

Do you like to save money? Just after the holidays, you can count on things to go on sale. What better time to upgrade your wardrobe, purchase that new briefcase or computer, or buy plane tickets to a career fair or trade show so you can get in front of potential employers.

6. Brush up on those interview skills.

Just like all those things you did while in uniform — physical fitness tests, weapons qualifications, promotion board preparation, etc. — interviewing is a perishable skill. You need to continue to practice your answers to interview questions so that they don’t sound canned or unnatural. Once those words leave your mouth, there’s no turning back. Find a friend or relative or someone that can play employer/hiring manager so you can keep your skills sharp.

7. Re-connect with your professional and personal references.

The last thing you want to happen is to have a prospective employer reach out to one of your references and get a “disconnect”. What I mean by disconnect is not only a bad or disconnected phone number, but a “disconnect” in what you told your reference about the work you wish to pursue, and the information shared during the reference check. Make sure everyone is on the same sheet of music, so to speak.

8. Clean up your online presence.

More and more, prospective employers perform some serious data-mining in an effort to find “fool’s gold” — those crazy things you might have posted online. We’re all guilty of posting things we maybe shouldn’t have — especially given the fact that much of what we post can be easily and erroneously taken out of context. But, I think it is important to pay close attention to your posts and pages. As a general rule; clean them up if you think Grandma might blush.

9. Seek out new networking opportunities.

You can expand your network easily these days with just a few mouse clicks or the old fashioned way. Join a group on your favorite social media website. Attend a meeting at your local civic organization. Next time you go to the VA, stop by the employment assistance office. Go to the military-centric organizations that have their fingers on the pulse of who’s hiring. All kinds of organizations exist out there and you can simply make a new friend and connect with the larger military community.

10. Set goals.

A new year means a new set of goals. You need to set realistic goals. Use this time to plan your next move and make a plan for success. And remember, a goal needs to have a specific date attached to it.

11. Stay connected with people who can help you get to where you want to go.

Think about your military career — did you do it all alone? Of course not. You had lots of people screaming at you at the beginning, and maybe throughout your career. On a serious note though, some of the people you served with know what life on the outside is all about. People you served with have job leads. People you served with can help you stay positive now, just like they did when times were tough while in uniform. And let me just say, the challenges you’ve faced while in uniform pale in comparison to your challenge of getting hired. You already have that “stick-to-it” attitude that will serve you well as you move closer to getting hired.

12. Tell a POSITIVE story.

Ever been around someone who complains all the time? Have you ever been around someone who absolutely drains you while you’re in their presence? Remember a fun time you had up until the point someone became a “buzzkill”? My advice to you: Don’t become that person. Think about it. Would you hire someone who lives in a world of negativity? If you let negative thoughts override you, the best you have to offer will be smothered. The end result, you’ll have a long road to travel until you arrive at “Hired!” Ask those around you how you come across. Ask them to be honest, and then be honest with yourself. Strive to keep the most positive attitude possible and watch how people respond to you, especially a prospective employer.

13. Take a break now and then.

You can sometimes become obsessed with getting hired and avoiding the unemployment line. You need to maintain balance in all you do in order to keep your sanity while awaiting the call for an interview or an offer letter. You might consider making a solid plan in which you schedule your job-hunting time. For example, you already have the habit of physical fitness nailed as a result of your military upbringing. Maintaining an exercise schedule now will do what it did while you wore the uniform — that workout helped keep you healthy, mentally alert, and focused at the start of your day! Make sure to get plenty of sleep so that your mind is razor sharp during any preparatory tasks, phone interviews, and live interviews. And, have some fun while you wait for that good news that’s bound to happen at some point.

14. Finally, stay encouraged.

Take a moment and think about your entry into military service. What did you really and truly know about the military before your first day in uniform? Who did you know who you could reach out to and ask questions about the military? How did you feel the first day you had your drill instructor screaming in your face versus the day that same person shook your hand and congratulated you on a job well done? Can you name the people in your unit that called cadence, spoke or yelled encouraging words to you when you thought you’d fall out of a run? Or maybe you served in a combat zone with people who had your back. Do you remember things they did to encourage you to make it through? The point is that you’re about to enter a new phase in life. Just like when you ventured into the unknown military life, your next journey has a lot of uncertainty. But the things you experienced while in uniform prepared you for life out of the uniform. You will succeed if you surround yourself with people who have your best interests in mind. Remember that you already have a track record of success.