Whether unemployed or underemployed, the job search can be (and often is) a stressful undertaking. In fact, it’s getting harder as 41% of professionals are going to be on the hunt for a new job in 2017. As a former college career coach, I was infamous for telling students that “If you don’t have a job, finding a job is your job”.
It was usually received with a sideways eye and a disgruntled shrug. No matter how qualified, smart and fantastic you are, if your job search strategy is subpar you probably won’t find a job that’s much better.
While every job seeker’s circumstances are different, many fall down the same hole of heading straight to job boards and applying for every job that they feel qualified for. And that’s not a bad start, but 50 other people are doing the exact. same. thing.
Below are 6 common job search mistakes, and tips for bettering them.
#1: You rush to update your resume with your latest job experience and accomplishments, then apply for dozens of jobs.
Slow down, tiger. Now, take a deep breath and step away from your computer. Jumping the gun will rarely land you a job – or, at least a good one – and unless you’re a real sucker for punishment, you probably don’t want to be doing all of this again in a few months. Take out a pen and paper and ask yourself what you really want: what are your career goals? Assess yourself: what are your skills, weaknesses and passions? Think about your dream job – before you can land it, you need to know what it is. Be honest and real with yourself and then build that resume.
#2: You send a one size fits all resume for every job.
Your resume is the single most important document you will ever own. Sound crazy? Think about it: Your resume is your first impression when you apply for that salaried position – and it’s the first step in your career. Once you have that job secured and your career is growing, you can buy a house or a car and take vacations (we hope!). Do you really want to half-ass that document? I don’t think so.
Writing a resume that gets you the interview means detailing your career path succinctly, while customizing it to different positions, goals and companies. Sure, it’s going to take a little longer than sending out the same resume every time but it’s worth it when you land that amazing gig you’ve been dreaming of. Scan job ads closely and look for skill sets, and “keywords” that are a fit with your own skill sets and include them on your resume. We recommend a skills-based resume and an experience-based, chronological resume. And we recommend you tweak them for each and every job you apply for.
#3: Your cover letter looks like a seventh grade writing assignment.
Are you in seventh grade? Great! If not, don’t write like a seventh grader. This is your chance to show a little bit of your personality, outline your skills and drive home the reason why this company needs to bring you in for an interview and see all of your awesomeness in the flesh. Don’t regurgitate your resume, either – this is your chance to share qualities that are most appealing to a hiring manager. Oh, and by the way: YOU NEED TO WRITE A COVER LETTER FOR EVERY JOB YOU APPLY FOR. This is non-negotiable.
#4: You treat networking as a necessary evil to help you land your next gig.
So, here’s the thing: people can smell your desperation from a mile away. Networking really is your friend, and it will help you land a new job but you’ve got to do it right. Instead of selfish and shameless self-promotion, concentrate on building positive, professional relationships with colleagues and peers. Maintain those relationships. Mention that you’re looking for new opportunities, and then move to another subject. And don’t just show up at all of the local networking events, either: get involved in your community through volunteerism, join a sports team, take on some mentorship roles. The more active you are, the more doors will be opened for you.
#5: You don’t know when to stop talking in the interview.
Silence isn’t a bad thing. Really, it’s not. And while it might be a little uncomfortable when you’re sitting in an interview, go with it. You don’t need to start spewing out an answer the second the interviewer finishes asking. Take a deep breath. Ask for a minute if you need it. Often times, interviewers are less concerned with the answer you give and more interested in the process behind crafting your response.
Generally speaking, people who go on talking about themselves without asking about you aren’t very likeable and the same goes for interviews. Ask questions (smart ones), and listen at least as much as you speak. When you listen closely to what the interviewer is saying, you can better speak to those points and craft smarter responses.
#6: You’re not on LinkedIn
… or worse, your LinkedIn photo is you at the beach. Pro tip: Have a professional (or professional-looking) headshot for your professional social networking bio. PLEASE.
And here’s the thing with LinkedIn. Searchable candidates are findable candidates and findable candidates often have endorsements and endorsements are good. Connect with colleagues, fellow graduates and friends. Endorse them for their skills. Be endorsed (you can politely request, or beg your friends to endorse you). Just make sure that your LinkedIn profile and the resume you’re sending out are not two completely different things. A well-maintained LinkedIn profile may just land you a job you’re not looking for: headhunters look for candidates on LinkedIn regularly.
Remember: don’t ever take yourself out of your job search. If you’ve recently been laid off (or fired), take some time for yourself and decompress before you dive into the search again. No matter how well you think you’ve hidden it, any insecurities or negativity will be painfully obvious to interviewers and hiring managers. There are loads of great resources to help you craft an amazing resume, nail your interview and grow your career. We like Ask A Manager and LinkedIn for great articles filled with smart tips and inspiration.
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