Each week, Ellevest hosts Office Hours, an Instagram Live session in which our coaches answer your burning money and career questions with data, expertise, and strategies to help you get where you want to go, financially and professionally. But not everyone can make a livestream in the middle of the day! That’s why we’re publishing the Office Hours transcripts (edited for clarity) here on the Ellevest Magazine.
Last week, Senior Editor Deedi Brown spoke to Career Coach LaToia Burkley about job searching — building and executing a strategy, navigating LinkedIn, and more. Take a peek at their chat below. (FYI: You can still hear / watch it for yourself here, too, if you want!)
How to Tackle a Job Search: A conversation with Ellevest Career Coach LaToia Burkley
Senior Editor Deedi Brown: Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us today for Ellevest Office Hours. We are here to talk about how to tackle a job search. My name is Deedi Brown. I am senior editor and content strategist here at Ellevest. And I am so excited to be joined by certified career coach, LaToia Burkley. LaToia, I'm going to pass it over to you to introduce yourself.
Career Coach LaToia Burkley: Well, let's do our dance first, right? Let's do our little groove first! Good to see you, Deedi. Last time we were together in an IG live — gracious, it feels like millennia ago, but it was probably just a few months, right?
Thank you all so much for being here. My name is LaToia Burkley. My pronouns are she and her. And I am a career coach consultant with Ellevest. My jam is elevating and inspiring women professionals along their career journey — specifically our women leaders, right? Those who lead teams, or lead people, or lead process. I am certified in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, and I work in that space as well. Love, love, love talking to our clients, our members, our friends, our soon-to-be friends about how they can gain clarity on their career journey. What might be some of the difficult and challenging questions that they haven't asked themselves yet? How can they build out a strategy? And how can they thrive at work? Right? How can they grow in their role? All those pieces fall within my bucket and my area of expertise.
Love it. OK, so today we are going to talk about how to tackle a job search, which I think is a great topic. It feels like something that can feel really big when you start out, right? There's so many pieces, but also you want to get it right, you want to be most efficient, especially if you're still in a full-time role and also trying to job search. So I know a lot of people are going through this right now with the Great Resignation, or the Great Reinvention, or the Great Shuffle, or whatever you want to call it, but let's start here.
How do you know when it's time to move on from a job? Is it OK to change jobs voluntarily? Or is it really something you should wait till you have to?
Yeah, Deedi, that's a great question. And for anyone who may be asking themselves that question, you're probably on to something. Typically, we have something within our core and our gut that says, "Something just doesn't quite feel right." Maybe our values are out of alignment at a particular position or a company that we're in. Maybe we've been doing a role for a really long time and we're bored. Maybe it's time to expand. Maybe it's time to diversify our skill level, right? I'd say that there's never really a wrong (if we're assigning value) time to look at taking ownership of your career. And as you know, Deedi, here at Ellevest, we're all about that. We want individuals to take control of their career and do what serves them, work in a way that serves them, and be able to push aside things like negative self-talk, fear, and doubt as they blaze their path on their career journey. How does that sound?
That sounds really, really great.I want that energy for everyone, honestly, but I think that people sometimes get nervous about how soon is too soon, or if they've been somewhere long enough. Do you have any sort of thoughts on that topic?
Yeah, absolutely. It's interesting as we move forward and we think about what the future brings for our reimagined workforce — you brought up the Great Resignation, or the Great Opportunity, or the Great Pivot, whatever we're calling it, whatever the hashtag is these days, right? We all have an opportunity to reassess where we are. And some of the behaviors that may be, I'll even say, antiquated in our day and age, in 2022, how we view job-hopping; how we view gaps and skills, or gaps in résumés, from a timing standpoint, right? In our space of pandemic and lockdown, there's a lot that has changed. In many organizations, recruiters, talent acquisition managers, and those who might be your future bosses understand that people job hop a lot. People want to invest their time, their resources, their talents where it's going to serve them. So moving into a space that serves you is really going to be best for you, whether you're doing that voluntarily, or whether you find that it's time because of maybe an external push, maybe a company is going through some layoffs, or maybe there's some downsizing, right?
I would say it's never a bad time to take an audit on your career and your career intentions. And then, really, if you're thinking about transitioning out of your current role or your current job or industry and you have questions like, is it too soon? Is it too late? Right? You're probably onto something else. There are probably some deeper questions that you might want to consider. So take the time to sit with what's really driving your need for a career change. Maybe you stepped into a role and it's only been 90 days. And after that 90-day probationary period, you look around and you go, "Actually, I don't know that my values are aligned with this company culture." And then you might have to ask yourself some additional questions, right? So never really a right or wrong time. We want to make sure that we are allowing ourselves the space to ask the deep questions before we make those changes.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And I think that is a really smart approach for sure. OK, so the next question that we have on the list says, "I don't feel fulfilled in my current career path. How do I figure out what my strengths are and what I'm passionate about so that I can pivot?"
Ooh, goes back to what I mentioned about sitting with some of those deep questions, right? We have things … that are tantamount to our uniqueness. Right? Our own individual superpowers, and they turn into strengths. What might they be? Right? It might be time to sit down and do some back-of-the-napkin exercises and write out what those strong suits are. I will say, that's also a quick Google search. There are various assessments out there where you can [do that]... all the way from maybe a BuzzFeed quiz, to something a little bit more structured, where you can start to evaluate and ask and assess what are your strong points? What's your skillset? Right? What's transferable, especially? What goes with you, no matter what job you're at, no matter what industry you work in? And keep that as an inventory.
A helpful tip that I use with clients is, “Where's your atta-person folder? Where is that folder that you got that's the pat on the back?” Something that's quick, that's accessible. It could be on your laptop. It could be in your journal, right? It could be just a series of printed emails — [of course] we want you to stay green and not endanger our environment anymore, but it's a repository where you look and say, "OK, well, Deedi sent me a shout out about my organizational skills. Yeah, my boss really talks broadly about how detail-oriented I am. I'm consistent in my communications." Right? Yeah. Take those sound bites. And how do you set them aside? In a bowl that you can pull from, when you're thinking about what's next on your career path? When you're asking yourself, like, "Well, what are my transferable skills?" Right?
And don't forget your values. What are those four or five things that are core to you that are going to serve as filters for your decision-making? Be that courage, be that well-being, be that integrity, be that faith, be that fun, be that collaboration, right? Those also lend themselves nicely. They pair well with those transferable skills, whether you decide to go through an assessment, something a little bit more formal, or whether you just take some time to jot it down — what's your jam? What are you good at? And keep that as a repository for you.
Just had a question come in, and I think that it’s a great one. This person is saying that they just started a full-time job and they're having first day jitters and they're doubting themselves, or whether it's the right fit, and they're really nervous. So do you have any advice for how to deal with those jitters when you first start out?
Yeah, absolutely. As a coach, I hear two questions being asked. Could this be self-doubt and negative self-talk creeping up, maybe stemming from a lack of confidence or a lack of surety? Right? And I also hear, “Is this the right fit?” Right? So let's attack this [with a] kind of two-prong [approach]. So when we talk about negative self-talk, yeah, that's that. That's that negative LaToia that creeps in my head that says, "They're going to figure you out here. You know you have no business doing this role. You have no business being a part of this project. Why did they even ask you?" Yeah, swipe left, right? Go ahead and swipe left and push those thoughts out. It's OK. We all often face bouts of negative self-talk, especially when we're in a new experience. And it's because we're new. But when we allow ourselves time to think about, well, where else have I been new? And now I don't feel those jitters so much anymore, right?
What are the repeatable patterns from the first time you did something else, from the first time you started another job, a long time ago? Or if this is the individual's first full-time job, when was the first time that you were nervous to present in front of your class? When were you nervous to network with your peers in a student focus group that you didn't know? What did you do then? Those are repeatable processes, right? Also, when we think about negative self-talk, how do you start to get crystal clear on the voice that matters? Sometimes that means reducing the external noise, be that in the form of mindfulness, be that journaling, be that connecting with what we call your board of directors. Your trusted 10, those four or five individuals that serve as your sounding board. When those jitters come up, who can you call? Who can you text? Are those deep breathing exercises?
And how will you reassure yourself? How will you reaffirm yourself? What are you going to tell yourself when you start to get those jitters? Are you going to remind yourself how much of a rockstar you are? Are you going to tap into those superpowers? Right? Are you going to come out, [guns] blazing? Because you've got that in you. And we love that here at Ellevest. We work with individuals who are whole, W-H-O-L-E. And we get to be in thought partnership with them along their career journey. You got this. When we think about, “Is this the right fit for me?” we go back to, “What are those values for you? What's important to you at your core? Do you see those things demonstrated in your organization? Is this the type of leadership that aligns with your leadership skills?” You get an opportunity to kind of take an audit. And give it some time. Collect some data, have those robust conversations. Ask your leader what's important for the team. What's important to the individual? And what's important to this department? What might be the expectations that we need to reset on? Yeah, Deedi. I said a lot of words. How does that sound?
That sounds great. I'm fired up and I'm not even the person you're talking to. I'm like, "Yeah, let's go!"
So since this is “job searching and approaching a job search,” let's talk about networking. We talk about networking a lot at Ellevest as sort of important all the time, but can you talk a little bit about why and how it's important? And then how it's specifically important, or how you should specifically use it when you're job searching?
Yeah. So let's take a second. And let's reposition networking. If the word networking makes you nauseous, it's just blehhh, It's cringey, it feels salesy, I don't know what to do. I don't know how to talk about myself, right? Well, maybe we reposition the term networking as “relationship-building.” How might you make tiny baby steps to build relationships that can go with you wherever you go, whatever industry you're in, or whatever geographic space you're in, right? Networking is really important. Relationship building is really important. Why? Because you now have another data source when you're thinking about what future forward looks like for you. Making connections is just great overall as humans, especially when we think about, How can we diversify our spaces? How do we show up in places and spaces that look a little bit different than our norm?
How do we stretch and expand? And then how do we grow and push and pivot when we think about what's future-forward for us? Networking gives you a great opportunity to do that.
Also, networking is a two-way street. Oftentimes I hear members say, "Ugh, networking makes me feel like I'm trying to sell something,” or, “It's very transactional." Keep in mind, just as much as I might be reaching out to Deedi to find out about all those great reads that she's got on deck for August and September, I also have something to offer! So be thinking about, as you're approaching networking, what are you going to lend to the conversation? What are you going to ask the individual that might pique their interest and also push them … to want to get to know more about you. What do you have to offer to this interaction? Not the transaction, but the interaction. And then how can you build that relationship?
Yes, I love that. That all resonates so deeply. I saw someone in the comments just called out that they love that pivot to relationship building over networking. And I definitely agree. But talking about something else that might feel a little bit icky or a little bit more transactional, I think, sometimes, can be LinkedIn. So can we talk a little bit about LinkedIn when you’re job searching? And do you have any tips or any ways that you think about approaching LinkedIn during a job search?
Deedi, LinkedIn is my jam. I love LinkedIn. I love it as a platform. I'm so glad that we're doing more of it, right? I saw a meme yesterday that was like, "LinkedIn is where the money resides." And I love that. It's so true. From what it was back in 2010 to what it is now, there's been super-duper enhancements. LinkedIn is a great space to build your network, to connect with like individuals in your industry, or maybe in your profession, or even within your job title. LinkedIn is a great place to engage with others who might pour into you from an industry standpoint, right? It's also a great way to position yourself digitally. Typically, when we talk about LinkedIn, we can't go too far and not talk about our résumés. And they are a great marriage.
LinkedIn gives a lot of things that your résumé might not give you, which is additional real estate. You have way more space and character limitations to talk more about your professional expertise, your body of work — what's your subject matter space? What's your jam? And who really are you? You also get an opportunity to do a lot of things on LinkedIn. LinkedIn's got some great LinkedIn learning. There may be courses or classes that you want to take to upskill as you are thinking about your new job or the industry that you want to pivot into, right? Great way to join organizations. Open and closed LinkedIn groups to expand and build those relationships.
OK, so I'm going to go back to a couple of questions. One person would like to know if you have any advice for people who are considering taking a pay cut to find more purpose.
Sure. Yeah, it's a noble move, right? And it sounds like an individual who's ready to take those steps has really gotten crystal clear on what's important for them. And we go back to the outset of our chat. It's really important that we — as job seekers, as individuals, as professionals — really do what works best for us. I think we've enough in our world. *Gestures broadly outside of my balcony window* There's a lot going on out there! So it's worth it for us to spend time on what serves us and on what's going to give us that fulfillment. What's going to connect this back to our values? That which brings us joy, even if that's not your job in itself. This is where we spend the majority of our time, right? We're with our coworkers all the time. We're in these work spaces all the time. We're talking about work even when we don't want to talk about work.
So why not make it worth your while? So in the space of taking a salary reduction or a pay cut, yeah, stay really close to that which is important to you. There may be times when it's getting tough, especially financially, or when you're questioning, like, "Why did I even do this?" Yeah. What are going to be those one or two things that bring you back to your why? What are going to be those one or two things that bring you back to reason for making this decision and use those as your north star? Use those as your guiding post, because there's going to be a lot of noise. There's going to be a lot of industry experts telling you what to do and what not to do, right? But what's going to center you? What's going to bring you back to your big why?
Yeah. I think that on this point of values and trade-offs, another question that came through is relevant. And that is about a lot of people are going out and specifically seeking roles that offer more flexibility or remote work.And so some people in the comments are wondering how to go about broaching that conversation or asking for those things during the process of phone screens and interviews and whatnot.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's just that. Sometimes we approach the conversations of I've got to ask for this thing. I really need to ask for kind of... So what's the PTO policy? I actually want to see that before I talk about anything else. Yeah, what's the benefit structure? I actually would like to see that before I see anything else. Yeah, let me see the pay brackets, right? What are the pay ladders for this role and adjacent roles before we talk about anything else, even during the phone screen, right? And what we're saying broadly is we're asking for what we need. Well, if we need flexibility, we're asking for that, right? So how might want to approach asking for what they need, thinking about what the company culture is.
Is work from home or work remote something that's standard? Is anyone else already doing or already receiving what you might be asking for? And then thinking about why the conversation is important to you and might you express that even in the introductory calls. Because that may be a filter tied back to your value, let's say, of well-being, and that flexibility, that's a non-negotiable for you. You get to decide, do you want to continue through the interview process if, potentially, there's a value that's not aligned with what's special and important to you?
Yeah, definitely. I had one question come in here about networking. They were wondering if it's OK to send coffee chat invitations to recruiters before you apply to their company.
Sure. If truly what you want is to just ask some questions, high level from a talent acquisition standpoint, or for a recruitment management standpoint, some organizations might consider that some form of conflict of interest or giving the potential candidate or the interviewee a leg up that others might not have access to. I will tell you, coming from an HR background, a recruiter is looking to do two things: work within the business interests, and really get cake batter all the way up to their shoulders, digging through candidates who fit the bill. And not just fit the bill, but who will be a good add into this position?
So a recruiter might ask themselves, "Do I want to spend my first three weeks in this particular requisition I'm trying to fill with a bunch of coffee chats?" So if you're requesting to network, if you're requesting to reach out ahead of time, just make sure you've got your questions together. You know exactly what you want to talk about in that 15-, 20-minute timeframe. And if a recruiter is not open to connecting with you, they'll let you know, whether that's because there's some company policies that may dictate that, or they just generally may be busy. And that's OK.
OK. Let’s talk about résumés and cover letters, and how you tailor those to different jobs. So how can people make their résumé, and maybe also a cover letter, really stand out and really feel like it's going to put their best foot forward for the role that they're applying for?
Yeah. So once upon a time, before we had fax machines, before we did things digitally, you physically gave your résumé to an individual or to an entity. And what sat on top was your cover letter. The letter of the cover, hence the cover letter, right? We were so smart in that nomenclature. Your cover letter is the space where you get to talk about why you're applying for the job. Why you're the value add for this role, and why this role fits you. Both of them really are marketing tools. Your cover letter and your résumé should get you in the door, should get you the phone screen, but your résumé, your cover letter, may not necessarily get you the job. So when we talk about tailoring your cover letter as you're doing the pre-work for your job search, not just blindly opening up your laptop and jamming it out... Imagine Kermit the Frog on the typewriter, the hands are going... That's not how we're approaching our job search, right? We're being intentional about our job search.
So where are you saving those job titles for the companies that you're attracted to? And you're doing your research, your cover letter, now you can pull in some of the things that you found attractive. What stood out to you on their website? Why have you been pursuing them? Why have you been reaching out to their recruiters to grab coffee? You want to tailor your cover letter based on either the industry that you're trying to get into, or the role that you're trying to apply for. See where you might be able to use like language. You might see that the company structures a certain term or uses a certain verbiage, right? Make sure you use that in your cover letter. Try and stay away from the “to whom it may concern” [format]. Certainly, we want to make sure that we are exercising our diversity muscle and staying away from very gender-specific greetings — we don't need to say “sir or madam.” If you have someone who you can actually connect with, maybe it is the hiring manager, maybe you are reaching out to LaToia Burkley, career coach consultant. See how much you can personalize that with the information that you get.
Is it better to guess if you don't know? Is it OK to guess?
Again, it depends. It really depends on your industry. You want to see if you can tailor it as much as you can to a specific individual. If you can't get to an individual, maybe that cover letter is tailored to [the] HR manager, HR recruiter, right? Or recruiting manager, if you can't get a specific name. See if you can do as much research as you can before you make that educated guess.
Yeah, definitely. OK, we had one really good question come through that I want to make sure that we talk about.And that is beating application burnout. Do you have any tips for people who are feeling burnt out from doing a lot of applying?
First of all, let me just say: To all my job seekers out there, to everyone who is opening up their laptop at 5 AM and closing it at 2 AM, we see you. We know you're tired. Maybe you even have some individuals around you who are landing those jobs, and you're like, "When is it my turn? I'm starting to fatigue." Just know that in this moment you are seen, you are valued, you are loved, and you got this. You truly have this.
So if you're feeling that job seekers' fatigue, it might be time to examine your boundaries. When are you approaching your job search strategy? Is it at the end of a long day of studying? Maybe your classes run into 7 PM, 8 PM, and you really don't have the mental energy for it. How might you adjust your job search strategy to approach looking at jobs, researching companies in a time when you have more physical energy? If you know you're a daytime person, great time to incorporate your job search strategy. If you're a night owl, you get your energy, you get your second win after 8 PM, that may be a great time for your job search strategy.
And give yourself some grace. Give yourself some time. And what might you do to recharge and practice self-care through your job search strategy to avoid and start to lean out of burnout? And maybe it's new limits, right? Maybe you say, "OK, in a week's worth of time, I'm only going to spend four hours a week. And once I hit four hours a week in my job search strategy, that's it." The rest of the time needs to go to body movement, good nutrition, connecting with friends, getting enough rest and staying hydrated. Making sure we're not blowing the guidelines or the fundamentals, right?
Yeah. So we're almost out of time, but I have one more question that I want to make sure that I ask you. And that is, should people apply even if they don't feel like they meet all of the requirements of a job description?
Yeah. You can go out on the internet and look at the research that says certainly as women, we'll see a job description that has 18 bullets. And if we don't fit all 18 bullets, it's a no for us. But our male counterparts see a job description that has 18 bullets. They see that they fit two, and they feel that they need to be the owner of the role. Not only do they need to be the software engineer number three, they need to be the department chair of software, right? We get into a space where our negative self-talk starts to creep up.
You absolutely should have some skill set or some transferable skills, but don't be afraid to shoot your shot. Do we need to sing some Hamilton tunes?Don't be afraid to shoot your shot. Don't be afraid to take a chance. And perhaps it may not even be an instance where you land that job that you feel underqualified for. Maybe you build a new relationship, you build a new connection. Maybe it's not this role, but it's a role adjacent that you didn't even know that the company was advertising for, right? Always shoot your shot.
OK, so we are almost out of time, but where can people go to learn more about this topic with Ellevest?
Yes. They need to go to shop.ellevest.com. They can schedule a 15-minute call with one of our career coaches and think about maybe stepping into a one-on-one session, working with someone like me or our other fabulous career coaches on things like interviewing, résumé skills, etc. Navigating that career transition and getting crystal clear on what's for you, so we can build that infinite runway for you.
I would add to that we have a job search strategy Q&A live event coming up. … The Ellevest Magazine also has a ton of information available for free, if you are searching for something to read. We will not leave you hanging. There is plenty for you to go to.
LaToia, this was so much fun. I feel so energized and I am so grateful for you and your time today.
Oh, thank you.
Thank you. Thank you everyone who joined us. We will see you next time.
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