Dad Guide: How to Find a Job
As a parent, you are responsible for keeping your kids fed, clothed and housed. In some families there is more than one income-earning parent and in others there is a single or primary earner. Being able to provide for kids adds an additional consideration when job searching.
In an ideal world you would only ever be looking for a new job while you are currently employed. That isn’t always the case. This guide will cover both circumstances with some specific guidance for searching while unemployed.
This guide is a broad overview and as such does not delve deeply into any of these areas. I’d be happy to help you with your search if you want to dig deeper into any of these categories or just need help with your search generally. Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know how I can help.
What do you want to do?
Before your can realistically begin your search for a new position, regardless of whether you are currently employed or are in transition between jobs, you need to figure out what you want to do next. This might be different from what you are doing now or have done previously. You might want to change careers, find a position with more responsibility, or change sectors.
Identifying what kind of position you want, in what kind of organization and in what sector will help to shape your search and your outreach.
Searching while Employed
It is likely that you will reach a point in your current position where you decide you are ready for a new challenge, or that your income is not meeting your needs or that you can no longer tolerate your boss or employer. In any of these cases you will need to make decisions about how open you want to be about your search.
There are risks to searching for a job while you have a job. If your employer finds out you are looking for a new opportunity outside of your current organization they may determine that you are not committed to your current work. This might result in job loss for you so that your employer can find a more committed member of the team.
Active vs. Passive Job Searching
Passive job searching really just means that you are open to new opportunities. An easy way to do this is through LinkedIn. There is a toggle switch that you can activate that will let recruiters know you are looking for new opportunities and that they can contact you. You can also make it clear in conversations with people in your network that you are open to considering new challenges. When you are passively looking for work you aren’t typically submitting job applications unless you are invited to do so. You are also not usually reviewing job postings on a regular basis to identify new prospects.
As an active job seeker you will do the same things as a passive seeker, plus you will apply for posted jobs of interest and actively reach out to your network to find prospective employment opportunities.
Searching while Unemployed
There will be times in your career where you get fired or laid off and you have to initiate your search while unemployed. It can be and often will be psychologically challenging to adjust to your new status as unemployed. So many of us have our identities tied up in what we do for a living.
Tell your family
The first step to take when you lose your job is to tell your partner and kids. You might feel embarrassed that you lost your job, especially if you were fired. If you are the primary income earner you might feel like you can save your family from the anxiety that comes with job loss by hiding what happened. You will need the support of your family as you go through this process and that is only possible when you are honest with them and yourself.
Processing a job loss
Losing your job is usually not a great experience, especially when it is unexpected. Take some time to process your change in status and work through your feelings about losing your job. Part of that involves sorting out how you feel about and talk about your most recent job and why you left.
Figure out how to reframe your experience. Look for a positive way to talk about why you are no longer employed in your most recent position. Writing a script for yourself in answer to the question “why did you leave?” or “what happened?” and using that answer repeatedly will help you to move through any negative thoughts about your most recent job.
This strategy can also be used when you leave a job that was not the right fit or a negative work experience.
Build a routine
When you have a job, you have a daily or weekly routine. When you are out of work, that routine vanishes and it is important to develop a new one. Looking for work is your new job, and without a routine that includes regular job search activities every day it can be easy to let time just slip by without making any progress on your search.
It is important to give yourself a reason to get up every morning.
Your routine might include;
- making school lunches
- getting your kids ready for and to school in the morning
- reading the news
- outreach phone calls and emails to your network
- outreach to build and expand your network
- physical activity
- time for hobbies
- searching job postings
- applying for applicable opportunities
- networking meetings
- practice response to standard behavioural interview questions
- time with your kids
- time with your partner
- professional development
As a dad with competing priorities of your partner, kids, work, hobbies, volunteer work, it can be challenging to also fit in time for physical activity and self-care.
Take advantage of your downtime to put some focus on your physical and mental health. Go for a walk everyday, spend some time at the gym, train for a marathon, take up yoga or do mediation on a daily basis. Unemployment can be a challenge and taking time to care for yourself will help you through it.
Your Job Search Tools
Every job search requires some basic tools. You need to be able to provide an overview of your background to potential employers. Your resumé (sometimes also referred to as a Curriculum Vitae or C.V.) is your summary of all of your relevant accomplishments. Your cover letter is your expression of interest in a job and your link between a job posting and your resumé. The work you do to prepare to write your C.V. will also be the start of your interview preparation and your LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile will provide a tool in your networking process. All of these tools will help you to achieve your objective of finding a new job opportunity and get an offer.
Your resumé / CV is an essential resource in your job search tool kit. It is the evidence you present to potential employers of what you have done and achieved in your past. It is the the best clue to employers about what you might be capable of doing in the future.
The process of preparing your resumé is an opportunity to organize your thoughts and experiences. This preparation is the first step in preparing for an interview.
Before you can begin to write your resumé, take time to go through all of your jobs and write down tangible accomplishments in that role. Ideally you want to put them in the format ‘accomplished … by …’.
- delivered project x 25% under budget by working with key stakeholders to identify process improvements
Once you have identified four or five accomplishments per job you are ready to put together your CV.
Job description format
How do you describe the work you have done in the past? For most, if not all of your previous roles you have likely had some sort of job description. This is a good place to start in describing your responsibilities for a future employer on your resumé.
Start with the dates you work in a job, including month and year. Follow that with your title and organization. Then include two or three sentences about your responsibilities followed by three to five bulleted accomplishments.
Some job applications don’t require cover letters because the application process is through an automated system. Generally, however, a cover letter is required or advisable. The cover letter is your opportunity to highlight how you are the ideal candidate for the position. In a few short paragraphs of two or three sentences each you can identify how your experience specifically meets what the employer is seeking. The cover letter is your opportunity to get the employer or recruiter to go the next step and look at your resumé. The cover letter is your link between the job posting and your resumé.
In some cases your cover letters are going to need to be longer. If you are applying for a job with a government or other organizations where they want you to specifically outline how you meet the minimum requirements for the job you will need more space to highlight each category of experience they are seeking and detail how you meet those criteria.
If you are submitting your application by email, use the cover letter text as the body of your email. Don’t attach a cover letter to your email. There is no need to make the recruiter do more work than necessary.
The best resource I have found for preparing for interviews is the Manager Tools interview podcast series. This is a paid podcast series. I bought it four or five years ago and it has completely changed how I prepare for interviews. I 100% endorse it for everyone. It is well worth the price. They don’t have an affiliate program as far as I can tell so I get nothing for telling you to buy this series. If you have ever rambled in responding to an interview question, or stumbled when trying to come up with an answer to the weakness question, the guidance in this series will help you resolve those issues.
I will only share one of their tips because I don’t want to share all of their content.
They recommend writing out all of those accomplishments that you have identified for each job on cue cards. On the reverse side of the card write out each of the skills used in the achievement of the accomplishment. If you have four skills listed, you can then rewrite the accomplishment on four cards with one of the skills on each of the cards.
Sort the cards by skill demonstrated. When you have an interview list the skills they are seeking in the job posting and pick the accomplishments from your cue cards that correspond to those skills. In your interview preparations you can review those selected accomplishments and use them in your responses.
Most interviews now follow a behavioural interview format. You will often be asked questions in a format like “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated [a specific skill].” With your accomplishments and skills fresh in your mind you will be able to list an accomplishment related to that skill and talk about how you did it.
Practice your answers to some common behavioural interview questions and get your answers to 3-5 minutes in length.
Needs vs. Wants
Take time to figure out what are your essential criteria for a job and your ‘nice to haves’ in advance of an interview. This might help you shape questions that you want to get answered through the interview process or when you are discussing logistics and compensation details if you receive an offer. The interview itself is not the place to ask if they have flexible work arrangements or if you can leave early on Wednesdays so you can get your kid to swimming lessons. You can however ask a question about what a typical work week or day would look like.
Knowing your minimum criteria will help you evaluate whether a job is worth applying for and will shape your thinking throughout your interview and evaluation of the organization and position.
Getting help from your network
60-80% of jobs are found through the hidden job market.
The hidden job market is comprised of all those jobs that are filled through avenues other than public job postings. Estimates range on how many jobs are found through this process depending on the industry. Accessing this market needs to be a key part of your job search strategy.
We all know people who might be helpful to us in our job searches. You don’t know who the person is until you start asking. Once you know what you want to do next, start reaching out to people that you know, former co-workers, friends, family, neighbours, parents of your kids’ classmates. Tell them what you are looking for and ask if they know of any organizations you should consider, people you should talk to or if there are any job openings that might be a good fit.
Then start looking for people in similar roles to what you are seeking or people working in organizations you are interested in. Send them an email or give them a call and ask if they would be willing to meet for coffee. Ask them about their career path, the organization they work for and if they are aware of any current or upcoming openings that meet your criteria.
LinkedIn offers an opportunity to keep connected with your network digitally as you and those in your network shift through jobs and industries. It is also a great tool for building your network. As you identify organizations where you would like to work, you can find people who are connected with those organizations and see who you know that can connect you to them. It is a tool that will provide you with direct access to people you might not otherwise be able to identify or contact without going through gatekeeper staff.
You can also provide your network with a status update letting them know what you are looking for and asking them for leads on opportunities and other people that you could connect with.
LinkedIn is also a great tool for passive job seeking. You can make it known to recruiters that you are open to new opportunities so that they can connect with you if they think you might be a fit for a position they are seeking to fill.
Many jobs are posted on LinkedIn and in some cases, only on LinkedIn so make sure that you are reviewing the jobs posted on this platform.
There are many guides on how to use LinkedIn. If you would like to discuss it further, connect with me and I’d be happy to assist with getting set up and doing your search in general.
Keeping the Momentum
One of the more challenging parts of job searching – especially when you are out of work – is keeping yourself motivated. Applying for jobs and getting no result is demoralizing. Reaching out to your network and making new contacts starts to get harder when you don’t turn up potential job opportunities. Life gets more challenging when the money runs low or you see the end of severance coming and you know you don’t have the resources to pay all the bills when the money runs out.
Some days are a lot harder than others. You will have days when you feel like you are making no progress in your search. There will be days when you find out you didn’t get a job that you interviewed for and thought would be a good fit. Looking for work can be an emotionally draining process, not to mention a challenge to your self esteem.Looking for work can be challenging. This guide will help you find a job and make it through your career transition. Click To Tweet
Keeping motivated during a job search
The first thing to do is to build time into your daily or weekly routine to do things unrelated to your job search that make you feel good and where you can build successes. Maybe you want to lose some weight, so choose your strategy and track your results. Perhaps you have some home maintenance projects that have been lingering due to lack of time. Break them into smaller tasks and get to work. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn knitting or woodcarving. Take the time to learn these and other new skills during your downtime.
As you achieve results in these other areas of your life it will be easier to keep motivation up. Some days job searching is going to be exhausting or feel pointless. On these days throw your energy into achieving other goals and take a break so that you can get back at it the next day with new energy. In the meantime you can accomplish some of your other objectives. Throughout your search it can also be helpful to keep track of all of the people you have contacted and met, all the jobs you have applied for and interviewed for as well as your achievements in other areas.
You Can Do It!
Job searching is challenging work in most cases. In some instances you will be successful in very short order. You might be in a profession in high demand or enter the job market just as the perfect job appears for you. For the most part it will take time to find the right job.
The key is to keep focused and keep working on your search. Find ways to keep motivated, take the opportunity to spend more time with your kids, get in shape and pursue your hobbies and passions. Keep reaching out to your existing network and working to expand your reach. Check job postings every day and get your applications in for those jobs that are of interest. Practice answering interview questions and work to describe your accomplishments succinctly.
The harder you work at finding a job, the better luck you will have in finding a position to suit your needs.