job search strategies

Ignore These 7 Job Search Strategies At Your Own Risk!

Warning: These Job Search Strategies for F1 Visa, F1 OPT Students, H4 Visa, even H1B Visa holders are not suited for mediocre” or “average” candidate.

I just couldn’t convince her to publish her successful Job Search Experience with her real identity. I tried and I failed. She wanted to stay anonymous. But, every word of this successful Job Search Strategies should help any job seekers if you are willing to spend the time and requires sustained effort. Read it. Share it and Take Action.

Here’s the back story:

This anonymous reader posted two comments about how she landed a job after 6 months and applying for countless jobs as a series of comments at 9 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Find Jobs on H4 EAD

I asked her 7 follow-up questions about her job search strategies and experience (her email id from the comment section was a real one).

I’m glad she answered my questions with over 1700 words of useful, bite-sized consumable and actionable job search strategies and tips for Resume, Building your Online Brand to overcoming emotional let downs with negative results for job applications.

The following write-up has two parts:

  1. Part 1: Answers to 7 Questions About Successful Job Search
  2. Part 2: Original Comment about her job search journey

Successful Job Search Strategies

Well, I came to the US a couple of years ago, got my H4 EAD this year, and got a job after searching for 5-6 months.

Joining college was something I never considered, because, based on our financial plans for the immediate future, it just didn’t make a lot of sense, and moreover, my field is such that, a full college degree doesn’t add much to it.

The hunt for a job is quite frustrating, the first one is especially nerve-wracking because it feels like you are not getting shortlisted for jobs that you are actually qualified for, with a perfect match in requirements (and quite often, overqualified.)

I was quite hesitant to write this because, if there was one thing that irritated me the most during my days pre-EAD and post-EAD – it is all the advice I used to get from all my husband’s friend’s spouses about how to get a job.

Especially since their background, circumstances, visa status, etc., were completely different from mine. So, I found their advice ill-suited for my situation and in some cases, de-motivating.

And Happy Schools is a good platform to share my experience and I hope it can help someone.

Even if everything isn’t applicable to your individual circumstances, I hope there are a few takeaways from my job search experience in H4 EAD.

I got a job within 5 months of getting my EAD. I had a gap of almost three years and was searching in a field where there aren’t too many openings in my small town.

1. Number of Jobs Applied

Question: How many jobs did you apply?

Countless jobs, through different means:

  1. Online portal – Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster.
  2. LinkedIn  jobs and, well, also while replying to the recruiters’ automated bulk mails
  3. Consultancies my husband and the company he works for uses.
  4. Through older relatives who happen to be in the US and in senior HR related roles.

Here’s a couple of articles about Countless Job Applications:

2. Daily Job Search Routine

Question: What was your daily job search routine like?

Update and send resumes, keep two/three cover letters ready in different documents.

For example, you might have done business analyst related work along with core development and testing. So keep three cover letters ready, highlighting different skills in each role. Similarly, do the same in your resume.

Note: This is NOT faking.

It is about which part you wish to project as your main skills based on the job you are applying for.

You would still keep all the content. Just, rearrange them and speak in detail about what is required for the job in the first paragraph/point, instead of the last.

Then, I would drive over to the recruiter’s office for one-on-one or Skype with them.

When I was not attending interviews, I would spend time getting a cursory knowledge of some new skill every other week and update them on Linkedin.

Going through online learning videos.  Stay abreast of the latest in your field so that you get material to update on Linkedin – Write small articles, share articles. Recruiters are more likely to show interest in active profiles.

Work on my online portfolio and if some recruiter replies, send portfolio links or re-send resume with any new updates (for example, adding a section on new certification, adding your blog link at the beginning of your resume, etc.).

3. Interview Preparation Tips

Question: How did you prepare for interviews?

In my opinion, the interviews are the same everywhere. There are few things I would advise (especially in telephonic interviews):

Speak slowly and clearly.

Do not mumble – If the interviewer is not someone who is used to thick Indian accents, then they would find it hard to understand, and you would spend most of the conversation by listening to them asking you to “Come again?”.

If you goof up initially (and had to repeat a couple of things because the interviewer didn’t understand), don’t worry. Just put it past you and concentrate on the rest of the interview.

After the interview, don’t keep replaying the entire conversation in your head. Trust me, you didn’t do as badly as you think.

Gaps in Your Career: They would comment on your gap time. Usually, it would be an open-ended comment like “I see, you have a gap of …. years”.

This is where you should be quick to respond.

Keep the reason brief (about not having a work visa), and then quickly start telling everything you have done to keep yourself  “employable”.

Always start with the ones you can show TANGIBLE proofs.

For example, soft copies of certifications, blog post links, portfolio links, and if applicable to your work – volunteering experience.

Your spouse is your best resource. At least in my case, he was. Ask your husband for further tips to crack interviews and do basic mock-interviews with him.

4. Handling Emotions

Question: How did you handle negative outcomes with job applications?

Well, I was devastated initially, but just gave myself a reality check.

I celebrated the smaller milestones – Getting those initial recruiter emails is an achievement.

Getting a second mail from the same recruiter is an achievement.

After the initial excitement of getting an EAD and sending in dozens of applications on Indeed, Glassdoor etc., and after getting one automated rejection mail after the other, I took a step back and tried to understand the size of applicant pool I am competing in.

And how much bigger that pool gets if the job is inviting even remote candidates. I slowly realized I may never actually get a job through online portals, but that is not a reason to stop applying through them.

I still kept applying, and meanwhile continued with the more viable option of getting in touch with consultancies specializing in the local recruiting in my town.

You may ask, why didn’t I stop applying online if I lost hope in them?

Well, all I can say is, it somehow kept me “sharp” and, in tune with the kind of opportunities available, it helped me recognize the “patterns” of the job openings in some of the companies in my town.

Some openings keep re-appearing (short-term contracts) every few months that I felt qualified for but got rejected repeatedly.  With some digging, you notice which jobs are temporary contracts that you are suited for, and may think of applying in the future after gaining some experience.

So, to make a long story short, I handled rejections by just making the job search as a “natural” part of my daily routine.

Something to be done along with cooking, laundry, and dishes.

Something to be done along with other activities and hobbies such as gym and swimming.

Irrespective of rejections, it is something I felt I have to be doing anyway.

5. Job Search and Disappointments

Question: Why do you say job search is frustrating and nerve-wracking?

Hey, we are humans.

Rejections hurt, negative outcomes hurt, regardless of how much you “handle them”.  What makes it even more frustrating is your parents and in-laws getting worried and getting you worried!

No matter how “well-informed” they are about the work and visa situation in the US, it is still hard to get them to calm down!

Parents mean well, but all their tension and nervousness just gets you more stressed out!

I would advise you to filter out half the things whenever you are talking with your folks back home. Don’t tell them each and everything.

Job search is nerve-wracking because the more time it takes, the harder it is to keep yourself motivated to “keep learning” or “improving your skills”.

You start thinking “Gosh, I wish I just get a job soon so that I can learn on the job. This is getting so boring!” And somehow, the time between post-EAD and till you get a job seems to move a lot slower than the time between you coming to the US and till you get an EAD.

6. Study or Apply for Jobs

Question: If someone has the option to go back to school, would you recommend them to take that route?

I feel like it is a very personal decision based on a lot of factors:

Do you want to go back to school only because you have exhausted all the options to get a job?

Or is it because you always wanted to study further and get Masters in the US?

So, you don’t want to lose that opportunity? Especially, if you want to go back to India after a few years?

Moving  Back to India Shortly:

If it is only to get a job, then weigh all other factors.

For example, if you are planning to go back to India within the next 5-6 years, then MS is a huge investment.

You might not work here long enough to see the “monetary returns”.

You might have to compromise on the “savings” you are sending back to India, and also compromise on your travel budget (if you love traveling).

Long-Term Plans in the USA:

If you are planning to settle here, going back to school is a fantastic option!

Provides a great opportunity to grow as an individual and from your network of professional contacts.

If your finances permit, go for it!

If you are going back to India and you feel MS would be a good “long-term” investment (irrespective of whether it will help you get a job here or how long you will be able to work here),  to draw a high-paying job back home, then go for it!

7. Job Search Lessons

Questions: Top 3 lessons learned from this job search experience

1. Portfolios are important.

Certifications are important.

Documenting what you have learned is important.

Showcasing it for the world to see is important.

Use GitHub if you are a coder, Behance if you are in a creative field, or WordPress for everything else!

2. Be Flexible

To get that first job, you might have to be flexible. And heck, you never know what might work.

I mean, your primary skill might be some super-technical software, but you may have some other skill you are good at.

For example, you might be good at presenting, or video editing, or putting together training material creatively.

Try different avenues to present your skills for your portfolio, so that you can “merge” two or more skills. I mean, you can consider

  • Uploading videos on YouTube
  • Putting together your work on Moodle

So, by creatively presenting your skills, you may end up getting considered for something else altogether! Like an in-house trainer or instructional designer.

3. Make it Part of Your Routine

Make it a part of your daily routine, instead of considering it some “forceful” addition to your routine.

Do not let go of your other hobbies. And, if your job was something you genuinely loved doing back home, then continue to keep learning and updating yourself with the latest trends.

Find an outlet to share your thoughts online.

Every footprint left online is an additional tangible “proof” to add in your resumes and cover letters.

You won’t realize it, but in some ways, it becomes a “hobby”. Sure, it is frustrating whenever you suddenly remember that the reason you are doing it is to “find a job”, but, just don’t stop doing it.

Part 2:  Job Search Strategies Requires Effort

My only suggestion is, if available in your field, to get as many industry-recognized certifications as possible during your “unemployed” time in the US. It is easier on your pockets than college tuitions if you cannot afford the latter.

Get active on Linkedin, advertise on your profile that you are searching for X job in X, Y, or Z locations, THINK HARD about ALL the technical skills you have or you can acquire quickly through self-study.

List the skills on Linkedin. And if you, get certifications, list them as well. Any form of certification helps.

I have found all these actually help a lot, if not to get a job immediately, at least to get yourself considered seriously by recruiters scouting profiles. The calls start coming.

And, search for unpaid internships, search for remote jobs, freelance jobs – search vigorously. And if the wait gets really long and you want to start with something, consider customer rep or data entry jobs.

The money helps, you get a foot into a corporate setup, you at least get some work experience and it would give you some breathing space to think about the next step to take.

I got a job within 5 months of getting my EAD with a three years gap. I was searching in a field where there aren’t too many openings in my small town. So I guess, in some ways I got lucky.

But there are a few things that helped:

I started being active on Linkedin, 7-8 months before I knew I would get my EAD. This actually helps a lot.

I found recruiters get in touch through Linkedin with only those who get actively update. Sure, they are automated emails for them to reach their monthly targets. It might not result in anything, but still, it is a confidence-booster.

Studying Masters was never an option for me due to financial costs.

It would hinder a lot of other responsibilities for our family. However, certifications were affordable.  None of them were from an amazing college or a “recognized” affiliate. But, it is still legit. And something for me to show in my resume and account for the gap years.

I managed to keep learning something new during my gap and made online portfolios to showcase everything. And also documented all my certifications in them.

I sent the links to the portfolios to the recruiters along with my cover letter and resume. I used anything, Github, Behance, WordPress, whatever suits you. Put in screenshots, label them, document outputs etc. Thoroughly keep updating and don’t worry about putting in some groundbreaking work. It is more about being active on social media. And putting in the decent amount of work to showcase that you have the skills.

Over to You

  • She discussed several strategies, what was your biggest takeaway?
  • Do you have a story you like to share? Just leave a note in the comments below, I will get back to you.
  • What Challenges are you facing with your job search?

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