6 Keys to a Successful Job Search

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By: Daniel Alter, Special Projects Manager


The hard skills of getting a job are what everybody talks about. Write a targeted resume. Craft responses to common interview questions. Leverage and expand your network.

However, as a Braven Fellow, you know the “soft skills” cannot be overlooked either. Your confidence matters. Your mindset matters. Your story matters. You have likely overcome some big challenges to get here, so let it become something that distinguishes you. 

Daniel Alter at Amherst's college graduation in May 2013
Amherst College Graduation, May 2013

My own journey took me from the suburbs of Chicago to Amherst College, then to the classroom in public, private, and charter schools where I taught history and coached hoops. My experience applying to those jobs, as well as finding roles at nonprofits such as City Year, Teach for America, and Braven, taught me what undertaking the job search can be. Here are tips I picked up along the way:

1) Learn from your setbacks

To succeed in your job search, you will need to fail better than ever before. Think back to those times you struggled on the ACT, in a class presentation, or at a new job. How did you overcome those challenges? Tap into your growth mindset now. When my resume wasn’t getting me interviews, I tweaked it; when I botched an interview in the final round, I assessed what went wrong and determined I’d never make those mistakes again. Consider each defeat a learning opportunity, seek out fresh advice, and find a way to do better the next time.


2) Find community

Spend time around other job seekers…but if they are having a hard time, don’t let them get you down. When you surround yourself with others, they can lift your spirits up, share your pain, and provide insights for the road ahead. If you share your network and resources, they might offer you theirs too. It’s just hard to do anything well in a silo.


Daniel Alter and others at the City Year opening day in September 2009
City Year Opening Day, September 2009

3) Be persistent

In your mind, you think the job search will go a certain way. In reality, it will look entirely different. That doesn’t mean planning was a waste. On the contrary, your plans will lay the foundation for your journey. Do not give up. Do not go home. Do not settle.


4) Cast a wide net

In one job search, I chatted with over 60 people before I found the right role. In another, I spoke with fewer than six. There is no magic number. What matters is that you approach each and every interaction with dutiful curiosity, passion, humility, and service to others.


5) Know yourself

Continually revisit key questions from Part 1 of the accelerator course. What do I want to do? What am I best at? Where should I be looking? When you progress in your job search — as you learn more and more about yourself and your industry — your answers won’t change dramatically, but they should be refined.


6) Live your legacy

Daniel Alter at the NCAA DIII Final Four, March 2013
NCAA DIII Final Four, March 2013

Command your own story and you will be able to write its next chapter. Most interviewers will ask you to share your journey with them. Use that chance to make a strong impression and you’ll be well positioned for the rest of the way. Everybody has a story — how you wield it will make all the difference. It is what makes you Braven.