If you're actively looking for a job, you've probably read at least a few career articles with advice for your job search. But depending on what stage of your career you're in, the tips you read may not all be relevant to you. Someone who's seven years into his or her career won't need to include extracurricular activities on a résumé, just as a college student likely won't have the formal training that midlevel job seekers are told to include.
If you're ready to jump-start your job search, first find your career level, based on descriptions from Norwood Consulting Group. Then, follow the tailored advice from our expert sources, which will help you land interviews and impress hiring managers.
Years of experience: less than two years
Average annual salary: less than $50,000
Common job titles: intern, assistant/associate, representative, junior staff
Job seekers who are just beginning their careers have very little experience in the field, and are typically looking for that first internship or job that will help them get their foot in the door. Playing up "transferrable skills" from previous work experiences like retail jobs or school activities is key to convincing hiring managers to give you the "break" you need. [5 Proven Job-Hunt Strategies That Work]
"For first-time job seekers, it's important to not get blinded by flashy perks or other trendy benefits. Those things can be attractive in the short term, but their appeal will fade very quickly no matter what level of experience you have. You want to start your career with a company that can provide you with meaningful work that you actually care about, as well as development opportunities that will advance your career." – Russ Schramm, head of talent acquisition for healthcare company Philips
"Don't be opposed to starting at the bottom. Sometimes the best way to take a step forward is to take a step backwards. Don't be afraid to work your way up within an organization to prove you're willing to do what it takes to make not only yourself, but also the organization, successful." – Noelle Williams, director of recruiting, Orlando for staffing firm Kavaliro
Years of experience: two to eight years
Average annual salary: $50,000 to $80,000
Common job titles: assistant/associate manager, specialist, senior staff
Sometimes called "first-level management," the "professional" career level means you are ready to start taking on more responsibilities. You may not necessarily directly manage other employees yet, but you will likely get some leadership practice, such as heading up group projects or subbing in for your supervisor. This level is all about honing your existing skill set, as well as building new ones to prepare you for a managerial role.
"The best way to move up is by making sure that people — whether it's your colleagues or, more importantly, those above you — know who you are. Make sure you're talking with the people you work with and that you're not the person standing in the corner anonymously." – John Addison, president and CEO of Addison Leadership Group
"The biggest thing I look for as a recruiter is someone who has stepped outside of the box. This could be getting certified and expanding your skill set, working on a project outside of your core business or even volunteering in a leadership capacity. If you are looking to step up in your career, you have to show you are working towards it, go that extra mile to stand out and be something different. This shows that you are confident, trust yourself and are committed." – Jay Kent-Hume, senior recruitment consultant at TEEMA Solutions Group, a staffing solutions provider
Years of experience: eight to 15 years
Average annual salary: $80,000 to $150,000
Common job titles: manager, supervisor, director
Midlevel employees are not at the very top yet, but they're entrusted with direct leadership roles, and manage their own teams. Earning a middle-management position requires proving your worth as a leader, but also being able to take responsibility for your team's progress when you report to the higher executives.
"Know what sets you apart from the competition. Have you received your MBA? Have you gone to additional classes to improve your own management style? What have you done to be a top performer among the other managers?" – Noelle Williams
"Talk to someone who is above you to ask them for advice on how to get to that next level. Find someone you admire and respect, and use them as your mentor to help you move forward. Most times, those in senior positions like to be asked for help." – John Addison
Years of experience: 15 or more years
Average annual salary: More than $150,000
Common job titles: vice president/president, department head, "chief" (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.)
Unless you're starting your own company and appointing yourself as a chief executive, reaching this career level typically takes more than a decade of experience in your industry, some of which should be in direct management positions. While skills still do play an important role, getting a senior-level job is often more about the people you know than what you know.
"If you're at this level of your career, join networking groups or different community board of directors to be able to get your name and experience in front of other C-level executives. The majority of executives are placed through word of mouth rather than applying for the roles directly." – Noelle Williams
"[Advancing] is all about building relationships. The relationships are what will help you move forward. Be proactive and make sure that when your company starts thinking about advancement, your name comes to mind because they recognize you and know that you're good at your job." – John Addison
Tips for every job seeker
Regardless of your current career level, you can follow these tips to make yourself stand out to potential employers.
Work on your personal brand. Today's recruiters will research your online presence, so it's important to make sure your personal brand aligns across your various public profiles.
"Social media is a powerful tool for job seekers to utilize, and everyone should be taking advantage," Kent-Hume said. "Show you are consistently learning and growing.The best way to find that next gig is to network and interact with your target career audience."
Keep networking. Job seekers at any stage of their careers can benefit from rubbing elbows with prominent people in their industries. To achieve this, you need to be willing to put yourself out there — opportunities won't just fall into your lap.
"Go meet people and get involved in things you're interested in," Addison said. "Go to social mixers and talk with people face to face about the things you're interested in and want to do. A lot of times, they'll hear that and know someone they can connect you to."
Approach your career with an open mind. Though millennials will soon be the largest group in the workforce, right now, the generations are roughly equally represented. Each group has something to learn from the others, so don't dismiss older or younger colleagues because they think differently from you.
"I would recommend that job seekers enter their search with an open mind, and communicate their willingness to learn from the other generations," Schramm said. "This flexibility and eagerness is attractive to companies and will also help you excel when you do get the job."
Follow up. It's an often-given, sometimes-forgotten piece of advice: The way you follow up (or fail to do so) after an interview can matter almost as much as the interview itself. Williams reminded job seekers that hiring managers are bombarded with their own workloads, so standing apart from the crowd after the meeting can really help you.
"After the interview, write a thank-you note, connect with him or her on LinkedIn — somehow make the manager remember you amongst the other applicants," she said. "Go above what is required, and show how you're the best fit for the role."