Things have definitely changed since I was a job seeker a couple of decades ago. When it comes to this Rip-Van-Winkle experience, I’m not alone.

When I last actively engaged in a full-on job search, I was — how shall I say — in a decidedly different demographic. I’ve been blessed over the years with a freelance career that I have enjoyed while raising my family. Now, as an empty nester, I have decided to explore the new, current job market.

I’ve got plenty of job-seeking company

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three million long-tenured workers joined the employment market last year. That’s a lot of us folks new to the modern job-search world.

Some aspects of being a job applicant today clearly showcased how long it had been since my last rodeo, so to speak. This is not surprising when you consider that the last time I put together my resume for a job search, I didn’t store the file on this:

I didn’t store the file on one of these, either:

I didn’t even store it on one of these:

In my last serious job search, ladies and gentlemen, my resume was saved on one of these:

For all you millenials and Gen-Z readers out there, one of those bad-boy floppy disks held 1.44 MB of data — that’s right, ALMOST 1 1/2 megabytes of premium, grade-A storage space. So, maybe the size of your basic Instagram pic, if you go easy on the filters.

5 things about the modern job search that surprised me

Rather than worry about how much things have changed, I decided to embrace all the new ways in which job searching has evolved. Besides, I figured this was an opportunity to show employers how adaptable and ready to meet challenges I am. So, onward and upward I went. Here are a few interesting things I discovered along the way:

1. Job seekers cannot escape AI

Nor should they! Artificial intelligence (AI) has made it possible for more employers to connect with more employees — and with less paperwork in less time. It works, for the most part, and it is here to stay.

When it comes to AI, I’m a fan. Back when “Friends” was on the air, I had to mail, fax, or email my resume and cover letter to a recruiter or hiring manager directly. But today’s job sites and other recruiting technologies allow me to input or upload information one time to create a profile, after which it is all saved and searchable. Once my applicant profile is loaded up to a job site, I can pick and choose from a steady stream of job opportunities tailored to me.

So much time saved! So many viable opportunities found! Yes, it takes some getting used to if you are new to this way of job searching, but this technology also helps employers find you faster. No more getting lost in a pile of papers or forgotten email correspondences. Instead, you have a chance to constantly massage, update, and improve your online resume in these systems and actively keep your name in the game.

To make sure I wasn’t just speaking for myself, I reached out to Barbara Berger, owner of Career Wellness Partners Inc. and a certified career coach and professional growth coach in Northeast Pennsylvania. She clued me in on what may give some people new to the modern ways of job seeking more anxiety than I felt:

“Technology can sometimes make those who have been out of the process for a long time feel a bit helpless, with no sense of control over their outcomes,” Berger explains. The right mindset can help you land a job much faster, simply because you don’t hold back. “If you believe you’re a victim, you’re a victim,” she continued. “If you believe that you have some amount of control over your outcome, you will find innovative ways to make things happen.”

If the new job-seeking tools and recruiting methods make you uncomfortable, do some homework and reach out to local and online resources that can help you get up to speed and build confidence.

2. Don’t play the keyword game like you’re playing Whack-a-Mole

Every digital recruiting tool and ATS seeks out keywords on your resume, in your cover letter, and in the online forms you fill out … nearly every single one of them. These words and phrases are often an important key to getting past the first gatekeepers the applicant-vetting process, so blow them off at your own peril. At the same time, don’t fall into the keyword-cramming trap and throw together word salad for the initial screening.

“Eventually, human eyeballs are going to see your resume and cover letter,” says Berger. She also says that bogging down a resume with a mish-mash of jargon you think the hiring manager wants to hear can make you look:

  • Like you have poor writing skills
  • Unfamiliar with how the process works
  • Disorganized
  • Desperate

Instead of cramming keywords into your application, be more mindful and pull what you feel are the most important phrases and terms from the posted job description, Berger suggests. Make sure you hit those notes with a concise, strong argument about how they apply to you. “Make them part of your career story, not items to check off a list,” she says.

Recruiters don’t expect to find someone with every single keyword they plug into their software. They are looking for applicants who have a good number of the ones most important to them. They review your resume and letter to learn more about who you are.

3. Ghosting happens — a lot

Recruiters, hiring managers, my kids — people just don’t get back to me like they used to.

With the speed of technology and the volume of positions and people moving through the job market on any given day, those looking to hire just don’t have the bandwidth to follow up all the time with personal emails or phone calls. It’s not you, though. So don’t take it personally.

That doesn’t mean it’s a fine idea to ghost recruiters and hiring managers, however. Like it or not, your business etiquette reflects on you. “Leave people with a good impression, even if you don’t want the job they are trying to fill. Think of them as a new connection that can help you network for future opportunities,” says Berger. That’s an excellent point, which leads me to my next observation about the job market today.

4. You have to market yourself

If you are simply relying on your resume to tell your story to employers, you will be missing the boat in most cases. Your cover letter, your LinkedIn profile and activity, your professional website or blog — they all are the new marketing tools for today’s job seekers. If you don’t set yourself apart with a personal brand message that lets recruiters and employers know you’ve got what they are searching for, you might not be selected for a screening call or interview.

“We all have a brand image that precedes and follows us,” says Berger. “It’s in your social media, your resume, your interview, everything.” This is the new normal, with the exception of jobs that are so hard to fill right now that employers are basically happy to just get warm bodies in the seats. If that is the kind of job you are looking for, that’s great. Otherwise, marketing yourself is important.

5. You are what you tweet

Social media accounts can become a job seeker’s nightmare — even when you use private or semi-private settings. Nothing is really screenshot- or shared-account proof.

“Assume nothing is truly private on your social media,” warns Berger. I understand where she is coming from. I have had hiring managers ask me how to pronounce “Mukkulainen.” That is my kids’ last name; it is not on my resume or on my online profiles. But the internet is quite capable of over-sharing, so there I was on two separate occasions, explaining how to say my ex-husband’s last name during interviews.

Not. Awkward. At all.

I think I am pretty careful with my social media exposure, but apparently, data was collected on me that possibly included old profile URLs, social media links to articles I wrote years ago — who even knows what else. That’s why I say follow Berger’s simple rule: If you don’t want potential employers to see or know something about you, keep it off Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest of your social accounts.

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