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How to find your dream job amid layoffs: Interview prep, resume tips, and more

CNBC logo CNBC 1/26/2023 Cindy Perman
© Provided by CNBC

This was adapted from CNBC's Work It newsletter on LinkedIn about all things work — from how to land the job to how to succeed in your career. (Click here to subscribe.)

Every day brings fresh headlines about layoffs. And new data from the Labor Department revealed that it's taking unemployed workers longer to find a job than it did a year ago.

But that doesn't mean you can't still find your dream job. It's rocky terrain — but you've got this.

After a layoff, tap your network immediately

If you've recently lost your job, a few quick pieces of advice for how to recover from a layoff from Fana Yohannes, communications lead at Instagram and founder of Here2Help, a job search and mentorship community:

  • Find an online community. Connect with people who were recently or previously laid off. Understanding that you are not alone and sharing advice can be a huge help at a time like this.
  • Network. Attend industry events, be they in-person or virtual. The key to finding your next opportunity is to stay in motion.
  • Be honest about your job status. For a lot of us, a layoff isn't an easy thing to admit. But, once you rip off that Band-Aid, it can be like dating: The more people you tell, the better your chances of someone helping to find you a partner — or in this case, a job. Honestly, you won't find either on your couch. (I've tried.) And, social media isn't just for bragging about your amazing new job or your new bae. (They are pretty great, btw.) It's about sharing your status and finding opportunities. And people really appreciate honesty.

And, while it's OK to feel sad or angry about a layoff, it's also important, when you can find the headspace, to look at the bright side. That job wasn't working out. Now, the slate is clear for you to find your dream job or a stepping stone on the path to your dream career.

Ready to start the job search?

Let's take a look at your resume.

How to make your resume stand out

You should not use a one-size-fits-all resume or cover letter and then just blast them out to like 10 or 20 jobs. If you are asking a company to hire you, that means you are asking them to give you money (and perhaps benefits) on a regular basis. So, take the extra time to tailor your resume and cover letter for the company and job you are applying for.

"You want to make sure that what you're showing on your resume aligns exactly with what the employer is looking for," Octavia Goredema, a career coach and author of "Prep, Push, Pivot," told CNBC Make It.


Here are a few quick resume tips:

  • Read the job description and mirror some of the language when describing your experience.
  • Quantify your accomplishments with specific numbers wherever possible.
  • Organize your experience starting with jobs in which you did tasks similar to the ones in the job description.
  • Pick just six skills to highlight on your resume. And, some experts say keep it to the three or four that the employer is interested in the most.
  • Avoid broad generic words and phrases in your skills section such as "sales," "customer relations," "marketing strategies" and "public speaking." A list of four to six of these can look like "verbal vomit," Julie Bauke, founder and chief career strategist with The Bauke Group, told CNBC Make It.
  • Try to stick to a traditional resume template. Don't get too creative with your resume unless you are applying for a creative job. Then it's OK to show off your creativity a little bit.
  • Don't go over two pages, and leave plenty of white space. Personally, I would say try to keep it to one page — especially if you are early in your career. Your resume is one of the first impressions a hiring manager has of you, and your ability to edit and promote yourself is important.

How to ace the interview

The secret to acing a job interview involves two key things: 1) confidence and 2) preparation, Jeff Hyman, the CEO of executive-recruiting firm Recruit Rockstars, told CNBC Make It.

"You have to play detective and figure out your shortcomings, or the challenges you'll face in the role you've applied for," Hyman said. "The wrong time to think about this is during the interview, because then you're frazzled."

Even if you are good "off the cuff," you need to prepare some key talking points so you're not fumbling or rambling in the interview.

Here are Hyman's tips for answering three commonly asked questions:

  • "So, tell me about yourself." Keep the response short (under one minute). Don't ramble. Highlight your strengths and accomplishments. And, try to communicate what motivates you and how you want to make a difference in your next role, Hyman said.
  • "What's your biggest accomplishment?" Think of a key career achievement and briefly explain the steps you took that got you there. Be sure to quantify that with numbers like "grew sales by X%" or "increased customer satisfaction by Y."
  • "Can you explain this gap in your resume?" You have to answer this one truthfully, directly and unapologetically, Hyman said. Just explain it briefly. "End on a positive note and highlight what you learned from the experience," he said.

Want to do more interview prep? Jennie Rogerson, the global head of people at graphic design platform Canva, shared with CNBC Make It four untraditional job interview questions — and how to answer them.

Don't make this counterintuitive career-planning mistake

Do you ever beat yourself up for not having a detailed, linear path to your ultimate career goal like your friend Jim (Sorry, DOCTOR Jim) did?

Well, here's some advice you might appreciate: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says overplanning is actually ineffective and it can derail your chances of finding a fulfilling career.

This is saying things like "I want to be a VP by age X" or "I want to make X amount of money."

Khosrowshahi told LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky it's one of the biggest mistakes that he sees young people make all the time.

"Have an idea of where you want to go, [but] you've got to be open to opportunity, then you've got to jump at it, you've got to take advantage of it," Khosrowshahi said in a recent interview. "I've never been in a hurry in my career, because if you're open, and you really want to hone your craft, it's so much more satisfying [to take your time]."

"You look at Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, Jack Welch ... greatness takes time," he said.

Yes! Do you hear that? The next time your mom asks why you're not in a successful career yet like your friend Dr. Jim, just say — Hey, greatness takes time!

— with reporting by Ashton Jackson, Gili Malinksy, Sophie Kiderlin, Morgan Smith and Natasha Piñon

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