By Mike Fulton
I have had the good fortune of meeting and counseling thousands of job seekers during my life.
Former interns and co-workers, my alumni network, congressional aides, reporters and editors seeking to transition their careers, college professors on behalf of their top students, graduates of my own online course, colleagues in professional associations, and employers who have hired my mentees and want more employees like them all contact me for advice. Networking is the name of the game, and it beats solely searching for job postings.
After years of giving advice, it has become easy for me to spot the job seekers who have the most promise. They often exhibit these 10 attributes in exploring new positions or chances for advancement.
1. They know what they want and don’t want.
If an applicant says they are open to anything in any city, then I know that it’s far too broad for me to be helpful. Job seekers need to conduct research and know the types of positions, particular locations, and specific organizations they’d prefer working for to be able to secure specific recommendations and leads. Networking is more productive if people are realistic about their capabilities, experience and optimum job environments.
2. They are not obsessed with their résumés.
Resumés are essential, and should be complete, factual, concise and have no typographical or grammatical errors. However, it is excessive for someone to hire a resumé editor in the first 10 years of their career. Instead, job seekers should focus on WordPress sites, portfolios, short videos, business cards and other tools that complement their resumé.
3. They exhibit strong listening skills.
Time is precious for all parties. I do not need your life story or history of career failures to learn more about you and to offer some tips on networking targets and job leads. It is helpful if the person I am counseling is prepared to take good notes and to follow up quickly after our session. The first conversation we have — whether it’s on the phone, via email or in person — is not intended to be the only or last networking session.
4. They offer feedback and explanations in a purposeful and concise way.
The way people answer my questions is indicative of how they would do so in a formal job interview — and sometimes I am looking for talent to join our agency. Therefore, I appreciate those who are professional and provide constructive feedback.
5. They maintain a robust LinkedIn profile.
Employers I work with consult LinkedIn in almost every circumstance to learn about a job seeker’s career history. One should always try to maintain a positive online social media presence, especially during a job search.
6. They possess strong references and relationships.
It speaks volumes when someone takes the time and effort to ask for support and recommendations. Likewise, those who serve as references to young people are special individuals. It matters who you select, how well you know them and whether you trust what they say. For those who offer no substantive references: It will be a longer, more arduous job search without the human capital.
7. They connect with me, and other references, on social media.
If a prospective job seeker contacts me on LinkedIn or Twitter after a counseling session, I see it as positive and not presumptuous. Bring on the connections and the networking for life.
8. They’re willing to tap connections in their home state and alumni networks.
It speaks volumes when young people (or older adults seeking new career paths) have not consulted their home state or alumni networks. People in cities come from all over the globe, and we need to use every asset we have at our disposal in seeking jobs.
9. They are open to learning new skills, volunteering and meeting new people.
I look for individuals who are willing to take risks through internships, studying abroad and sometimes even delaying graduation by a semester for experiential opportunities. I also often invite people I have just met to accompany me to professional or networking events so they can meet people in a short time frame. Those who do not hesitate to take me up on the offer go up a rung on the ladder.
10. They follow up.
It doesn’t take much time to send a thank-you email or handwritten note, or offer a gesture that might help you stand out to someone who can guide your career search. The person who included a $10 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card in her handwritten thank-you note, for instance, is someone I still periodically get lunch with.
Mike Fulton directs Asher Agency’s Washington, D.C. office and teaches public affairs at West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. He worked in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 years and has been in communications and advocacy for the past 25 years. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This blog post originally appeared in PRSA Tactics.