A few months ago, I engaged in a job search that left me wondering which rules had changed and which remained the same. Here's one example: when I first tried to find a job, fresh out of college, handwritten thank‐you notes were still the norm. I realized it was time to refresh my skills and learn the new rules. Recently, I spoke to two career services professionals to glean insights on what women in higher education can do to position themselves for job‐search success. Read on for five rules to help you land your next, ideal position.
If you once learned that a résumé should be kept to one page, you might still be right. According to Cameo Hartz, assistant director of career services and professional development at Duke University's Master of Engineering Program, the length of one's résumé should be dictated by the industry to which they're applying. “Align with the audience,” Hartz says. In a field where efficacy and brevity are prized values, keep your résumé to a page. If you're seeking a job within higher education or a similar field, longer résumés are more accepted, and in some cases, a curriculum vita (an extended résumé often used by faculty) could be a few pages.
Candice Serafino, director of central career services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, suggests that job seekers carefully edit their past job experiences to keep their résumés concise. “Don't be too literal,” she says. “You don't need to go back past ten years of experience unless it's particularly relevant.” Serafino also offered advice on whether or not to include your GPA on your résumé. “For recent grads, if the GPA is noteworthy, include it. For more experienced job seekers, your work experience is proof enough,” she says.
Having noticed a trend where job postings do not list salaries or even salary ranges, I asked both Hartz and Serafino how a job seeker should navigate those nebulous waters. Hartz suggests using online crowdsourced salary tools like Glassdoor.com to get a feel for the potential salary. She also recommends making this a conversation with the hiring manager. “One way to approach this is to ask the employer if they have a particular salary range in mind,” she says.
Serafino advises contacting the institution's human resources department as an additional option. It is absolutely acceptable, she notes, to ask for salary information during the interview process, as long as it's handled with tact. “It's a time factor,” she says. “It's important for all parties to share this information so as to not waste anyone's time.”
Handwritten thank‐you notes may have outgrown their usefulness. According to Hartz, the current gold standard for thanking your interviewer is email. “The reason is timeliness,” she says. “Try to email it by the end of the day or the beginning of the next day.” It's OK to follow up your email with a handwritten note, which can still be a productive tool to help you stand out in the crowd, but always begin with the email.
I was also curious about whether texts or social media messages were ever an acceptable option. Hartz says they can be appropriate if that is how your potential employer has been communicating with you, but always use things like texts or tweets as a complement to thank‐you emails, rather than a substitution.
What do job seekers need to know about the role of social media when attempting to find their next position? First and foremost, LinkedIn is now considered a required professional network. Serafino states that most recruiters use LinkedIn to find potential hires. “Your LinkedIn profile should look great and you should use it to strategically contact people in your field for networking and information,” she says. “LinkedIn is also an increasingly useful source for job postings. LinkedIn is a must do.” Hartz agrees. “Recruiters consider it odd for people not to have a current profile. It has become the standard,” she says. “If there's a reason you don't want to have a LinkedIn profile, weigh those potential risks.”
With most people now having some sort of social media presence, how careful do job seekers need to be about what they post online? This is an evolving conversation. According to Hartz, “Because most of us have online histories that now go back for many years, I think there's more of an open mindset. We don't need to live in fear of having an online life.” Serafino adds that posting about one's passions, whether political or otherwise, is perfectly OK so long as it's not hateful or discriminatory. “If you're passionate about something, people need to know that it is part of who you are. If it's important to your value system, it's OK to be affiliated with it online,” she says.
When asked if they had any final words of wisdom for WIHE readers, both Serafino and Hartz offered advice gathered from years of experience in the field. “It's important to use online tools as part of your job search, but don't forget to keep meeting with other human beings too,” Serafino says. “Go to alumni events, workshops, and conferences. It's almost easier to stay electronic. The human element is harder sometimes.”
Hartz notes that the job search can be stressful. “People can freak themselves out,” she says. “When in doubt, take a deep breath, take a step back, and remember that everyone wants this to go well.”
Though much of the job‐search process has changed, one rule persists: remember our common humanity.