There are an infinite number of reasons to look for a new job. I suggest that we should be constantly looking for a job no matter what stage of life they are in as it is invaluable to know your market value and how much an employer is willing to compensate you based on your skills, education, and experience.
Haven’t got a clue how or where to start? Look no more!
Join me as I walk you through my 9-step guide to find a better job!
Step 1 – Deciding You Want A Better Job
The first step I took to find a better job that paid more money was deciding that I deserved to be paid more. Maybe it is my millennial blood that urges me to have such outrageous claims, but I think everyone should have high standards in life and accept nothing but the best in life. Don’t let artificial barriers or limiting beliefs stop you from asking for more!
I was able to increase my income from $43,000 when I first started working in 2013 to making more than $100,000 in just a few years. I don’t say this to brag or show-off, but to be a real-life example of someone who was able to achieve the dream of the ever elusive raise.
I was able to increase my salary %80 when I left my first employer, and I want everyone to be able to get an equally significant increase in their salary. If I can do it, you can do it.
If you have not gotten a significant raise in pay over the past several years, then you are in the majority. Wages in America have been stagnant for the past several years even though corporate profits have never looked better than they do today. Below is a graph from the New York Times article I linked above showing the disparity of income gains between the %1 and the remaining %99 between the years 1980 and 2014.
It’s no secret that %1 of income earners are reaping all the benefits of wage increases, but don’t compare yourself to the 1% – compare yourself to yourself. Meaning, you shouldn’t settle for the average %1 raise that median income earner received in 2014. In terms of real purchasing power, a %1-%2 raise matches the %1-%2 increase in inflation, which means that you are really no better off than you were the previous year.
Just because everyone else is receiving the bare minimum just to keep up with inflation, does not mean you should be satisfied with a meager pay raise. Having a stagnant wage is no way to reach Financial Independence and Early Retirement. You should be unhappy with such an insignificant increase in your salary and DEMAND MORE! With unemployment being the lowest it has in years, the pool of candidates that employers can choose from is shrinking – take advantage of the low supply and high demand for candidates.
Corporate profits have been the highest that they have been in the past 85 years, and income has been the lowest in the past 65 years. The massive disparity in a companies earnings as compared to the trend of stagnant wages is absolutely disheartening. There is little to no incentive for a company to pay you your true value. It remains in our hands to negotiate for what we deserve.
Use the facts of high corporate profits, low unemployment, and stagnant wages to better negotiate an income that better reflects your intrinsic value!
If you play your cards right, this is the chance for you to be the metaphoric “hot girl” in school and have all the boys (employers) lining up to take you out on a date.
Step 2 – Education
In order to be the “hot girl” in school, you had to have graduated from school. More precisely, that means you need to have had received a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university to be able to even compete in the job market. It doesn’t have to be a well known or “prestigious” ivy league academy. Any legit facility will do.
Sure – you can get by trying to grind your way into riches through a successful side hustle/business, but for the majority of us non-entrepreneurs, the safest most sure-fire bet is getting a bachelor’s degree in a field that is in high demand.
If you do not have a Bachelor’s degree (or a successful business), then I URGE YOU to get your Bachelor’s degree as a bare minimum if you ever want to make a significant income. Spending 4 years in a college is absolutely worth your time and money.
If you have a Bachelor’s degree in a major that has proven to be in low-demand, then it may be a good idea to pursue your Master’s degree in a field that is more exclusive and valuable in the job market. Pivoting your education from a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Psychology, General Biology, or Accounting to a Master’s degree in Computer Science, Business Administration and Management (MBA), Public Administration, or Education can really change your lifetime earnings.
For every year you invest in your education, your lifetime earnings are expected to increase by an average of about $250,000! See the graph below from Georgetown University’s study called “The College Payoff“.
Investing in yourself and your education is probably the best investment you could make. In New York State, thanks to “The Excelsior Scholarship”, you can even attend a 4-year college FOR FREE!
So, $0 for $1,000,000, seems like a good investment.
Step 3 – Resume
So, maybe you are very satisfied with your level of education or have no desire to go back to school. I know I don’t ever want to go back to school as I think I am allergic to multiple choice questions, #2 pencils, and scantrons (do they still use scantrons?).
The next step is to start working on your resume!
Your resume is really the most important part of applying for jobs. Your resume is the first thing that an employer will see about you, so you want to make sure that it presents you in the best light possible. Like my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Eckert, once told me, “you only get one chance at a first impression”, so make it a good first impression.
Employers, especially well-known employers, get bombarded by thousands of resumes on a given day for single job applications. It is highly likely that employers are using algorithms that scan resumes for “keywords”. If your resume has the slightest fault, typo, or lack of a skill, it is highly likely that it will be discarded in the trash folder. Don’t be discouraged though, because, with your effort and my help, we can make sure your resume is jacked!
Typically, employers will glance over your resume for just a minute or two (if you are lucky) – so, let’s make sure our resume is absolutely perfect.
A few key points I live by when updating my resume:
- Try to provide as much detail about yourself and your previous role/responsibilities as possible
- Speak highly of the work you have done in the past (a little embellishing is okay)
- Avoid excessive blank spaces and descriptions that do not fill an entire line or just start an additional second line
- Use clear defined sections to break up experience, education, projects, skills, etc..
- Use consistent formatting and spacing
- Every job detail should be stated in the same past or present tense.
- Use an attractive font (Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri are best)
- Use a good font size (anywhere from 10-12 pt font)
- Manipulate space with the margins of the paper
- Avoid lying on your resume (and in life)
- Order your resume based on what is most recent or what you would like to make a point of first (if you are a fresh graduate, put your education first).
- Supply contact info at the top of your resume
- Check for typos! A single typo could ruin your chances of getting a job
Below is an example of my resume format (along with some actual descriptions) that I have been using ever since my first job and it hasn’t failed me since.
Whichever resume format you choose to go with, I suggest you make sure that you try to follow the principles I laid out above.
Step 4 – Online Presence
Alright, so you have made a good impression on your resume, but have you ever tried Googling your name? Try it, just google your [FIRST NAME], [LAST NAME], and [TOWN YOU LIVE IN]. It is important that anything that you wouldn’t want an employer to see is properly hidden.
Technology has made it is easier than ever to quickly type some words into Google and find more than enough information about a particular person. If you end up finding your Facebook profile page when Googling yourself, then make sure you view your profile as “public” and see what a stranger would see if they were on your Facebook page. Facebook does not backdate privacy on old posts, so even though you have made all ‘tagged’ photos of you view-able only for ‘friends’, it is possible there are older posts of you that are set as ‘public’ due to an old setting. The only way to edit these ‘public’ post on Facebook is to individually edit the privacy setting on each and every post.
Maybe you have a picture of you doing something unflattering online that you had no idea people could see. It has happened to me before, and it takes a lot of meticulous checking and editing of posts to make sure that they are hidden from public eyes.
The same things should be done on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and any other social media app you may use. Considering the accumulation of everything that we have shared on the internet, it is highly likely there is something out there we may not want an employer to see.
It is important that your online presence is absolutely professional as you will never know what an employer will search for when hiring an individual.
Step 5 – Cover Letters
I have not found much success in sending out cover letters to employers. I have found from personal experience there is no time for employers to review resumes thoroughly, let alone reading an entire cover letter!
If anything, I think cover letters provide employers an additional document that they can judge you on and even use as a reason to reject you as a candidate.
To me, it makes sense that a well thought out cover letter may make all the difference when applying for jobs, but I have found very little evidence of this. The effort involved in curating specific cover letters for each company you apply to is insanely time-consuming. If you have the time to create a cover letter specifically for a certain company/role, then I suggest putting in as much effort as you think makes sense for your time available.
On the other hand – an efficient solution to creating individually curated cover letters would be to send a generic cover letter to employers by the changing just a few keywords, but this type of generic cover letter is easily detectable by hiring managers and could be detrimental when applying for a job.
I would recommend skipping cover letters altogether unless you are a really compelling writer and have the time to create well written and thoughtful cover letters.
Step 6 – Apply Everywhere Everyday
The amount of effort involved in finding a job, let alone – a better job, can not be underestimated. Finding a job that pays significantly more than your current salary is no small feat. Once you have prepared yourself for success in terms of having the right mindset, education, resume, and online presence, the next step is to start applying for jobs!
As job postings have moved from the classified section of the local newspaper to websites like LinkedIn that are accessible globally, the competition has never been greater. Don’t be discouraged though as technology also creates opportunities like never before.
Instead of being limited to a small set of job opportunities at a local scale, you now have to ability to apply to hundreds, even thousands, of job listings. Below is a list of sites (some you may have heard of, some maybe not) that are just loaded with endless amounts of job openings:
- OR Google: “[Company You Want To Work For] + [Careers]”
This is just a short list of job sites that I have used in the past to look up job opportunities when I was job hunting. Each website will have hundreds, if not thousands, of job opportunities that may be exactly what you are looking for. The problem is that most people won’t put in the effort to dig through these job sites to find better opportunities than they currently have.
Don’t be like the lazy masses of people who settle for the most convenient job that falls into their laps, take the extra step of putting in the effort to apply to relevant job postings all day, every day. It is easy to feel like you have applied to every job posting out there, but I guarantee that there are at least several hundred more job postings you could apply to on any given day.
The hunt to find a better job is never-ending. With the endless amounts of resources at our fingertips, there is no excuse for anyone that is looking for a better job to say “well, I applied to everything available” – because let’s face it, with the existence of the Internet, that just isn’t true.
Step 7 – Peer Review
Peer review is probably one of the most important steps in this entire article. Repetitively doing the same thing over after over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Let’s not be insane – ask your friends and family for help.
It is highly likely that you have at least one friend or family member with eyes, a brain, and an opinion that you trust. Ask this person (or people) to review your resume, your online presence, your education, and overall strategy when it comes to job hunting.
They may spot a typo in the first line of your resume that you may have missed, find an embarrassing photo of you on Google Images from a post you put on Facebook 5 years ago, or simply provide you with the affirmation that your strategy is sound. Either way, getting another person’s opinion is always valuable as employers will never tell you why they didn’t reply back to your online application.
Do not be embarrassed by the fact that you asked a close friend of yours to review your resume. There is no shame in asking for help when help is needed.
I would be more embarrassed and ashamed if I was stuck in a dead-end job that undervalued my time and effort.
Step 8 – Always Be Ready For An Interview
Interviewing is probably where most of us fall flat in the job application process. It is easy to be caught up in our own heads and fumble over simple sentences when put under a spotlight.
Take a deep breath, because I have good news for you. If you are getting called in for an in-person interview (or even a phone interview), that means that you have ticked all the boxes in terms of their requirements for the job. Once you have been brought in for an in-person interview, the employer is typically looking for 2 things:
- Is the job applicant the person they say they are on their resume?
- Is this person able to communicate and think logically?
For the first point, we don’t need to worry about it since we don’t lie on our resume about our education or work experience.
For the second point, employers are looking for people that are able to communicate at a high level. Typically, employers will ask very basic questions in order to gauge how employable an individual is.
A few examples of common interview question/statements are:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What are your strengths/weaknesses?
- Tell me about a time when….
- Where do you see yourself in 1/3/5/10 years?
No matter what question you are being asked, you can always answer the question by remembering the STAR Technique. STAR means that every question should be answered by explaining the (S) situation, the (T) task(s) at hand, the (A) actions you took to resolve the situation, and the (R) results of the actions you took.
For instance, the question, “can you tell me about yourself?”, can be answered by following the STAR Technique. Take my own personal answer for example:
Situation: I recently graduated in 2012, but have been working professionally for the past 5 years. I graduated with a Mathematics, Statistics and Economics Major.
Task: Recently, I have decided that I am interested in looking for a new role because I am interested in joining a smaller start-up company instead of working for a large corporation.
Action: So I have been looking for companies and roles where my skills would transition well in a smaller company.
Result: And I am happy to have come across this company, [insert company name]. Everything I have heard about the role sounds great so far.
The above may or may not apply to your job hunting situation or life, but is an example of how I answer this basic question using the STAR Technique.
You can use this flowchart for any question during the interview process.
Using this technique will also help from rambling on too long and also help give a consistent flow to your answers. This style of communication also lets the interviewer know when you are done speaking, allowing for a smoother interview.
So, next time you are being interviewed – think STAR!
Step 9 – Negotiate!
The last step in finding a better job is to negotiate, negotiate, and negotiate again! People (myself included) need to get more comfortable with asking for what they want in life.
You do not get what you deserve in life, you only get what you ask for.
Too often we shoot ourselves in the foot by being insecure about the value we provide to our employers. It is easy to think that you are replaceable since most of us are to a certain degree. It is much harder to convince yourself that you are irreplaceable and provide a unique value no one else can.
When you are asked about your desired compensation, you should state a number that you would truly be ecstatic about if you were to receive it. You should not limit your target salary based on your previous role – because that role underpaid you. Instead, the phrase I typically use is “my drop-dead number”, implying that I absolutely will not go any lower than a particular set number in mind.
This “drop-dead” number approach leaves little room for the employer to low-ball you as it is clear that you are not the type of person to be undervalued.
When I get asked about my previous/current salary as compared to the lofty number I stated as a desired salary, I typically get strange looks from the interviewers. No matter their reaction, I stick with my guns and state my reasons as to why I am worth that amount.
I give real examples of the previous work I have accomplished and the value it provided. I also mention that the compensation I requested for matches my “market value”. Once you have been on enough interviews and talked to enough HR recruiters, you will have a good grasp of what your market value is. If the employer is not willing to pay you your market value, then move on to the next one. You can get rejected over and over again, but all you need is one “yes” to beat out all the previous rejections.
Don’t let the non-believers get you down. Don’t let artificial barriers created by your peers or by Glassdoor limit your income. Don’t let anything stop you from getting your dream job!
Thanks for reading!
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P.S. If you live outside of New York State, I am sorry you don’t get free college 🙁 . Get on our level you other 49 states!