Common Job Search Mistakes
Nimish Thakkar, MS, MBA,
CCMC, CPRW, SaiCareers.com,
January 02, 2006
spending countless hours in the pursuit of employment, most candidates
do not achieve the desired results -- a direct consequence of an
improperly executed search strategy. The gaffes, it appears, are not
restricted to a few. In my experience as a career coach, I have come
across the following common
job search mistakes:
Not thinking about your overall career
If I were to revisit Maslow’s
Motivation Theory (Hierarchy of Needs), I would certainly add the need
for a great career -- I hope the reader will concur -- to almost every
hierarchical level of the triangle, from the basic needs to the very
highest need for self actualization. Yet, consumed by the need for a
“quick fix” (sometimes necessary) to unemployment, most candidates
approach the job search process as a means to the next job, as opposed
to a stepping stone for overall
career success. In other words, you
must approach your next job as if it were a springboard for your
career ambitions. Your move must be driven by one key question: How
will my next move affect my overall career? A smart move will put you
on the fast track, while the wrong one will …
Lack of planning and research
Driving on an expressway without
directions comes closest to describing an unplanned
campaign. Best case scenario: you will get lost; worst case scenario:
you will never reach your destination.
Before embarking on a job hunt, research the
companies in the industry,
salary offered, etc. Next, back your
research with a carefully planned -- and executed --
campaign. The following are a few questions you could address in your
job search plan: What positions do you wish you target? How will you
approach your job hunt? What strategies will you use to reach
employers? How will you differentiate yourself from the competition?
How many hours a week will you dedicate to your job search? What
job search strategies will be used?
Carefully write your plan (in detail, please); make serious efforts to
progress of your campaign and take
corrective actions as needed.
A weak resume -- actually, a
resume that does a
poor job of marketing you, is in fact no
resume at all -- is often the
main culprit behind a failed campaign. If great qualifications,
thorough research, and smart hunting don’t produce results, you must
consider revisiting your
resume and cover letter. As a matter
of fact, a strong
resume should be the very first step in any job
hunt. You must also avoid creating one generic
resume for targeting
What is the first thought that comes
to mind on hearing of McDonalds? Fast food, right? How about Google?
High quality search results (information), right? These are companies
that have worked very hard to establish their corporate identity in a
certain way. In the same way, you control an employer’s perception
Your positioning strategy could be based on past results, strengths,
skills, experience, etc. Consider the following questions for
developing a positioning strategy: What do you offer that others
don’t? What gives you an edge over your competition? What makes you
valuable to employers? …
The following examples lend further clarity to the discussion about
Let’s consider the example of a project manager. A project manager may
choose to be remembered as a technically-proficient project manager
who is able to build and lead cohesive teams of 100+ professionals,
manage multi-billion dollar projects, and save at least 20% on
established budgets. A sales representative, on the other hand, could
be positioned as a sales professional who is able to get “face time”
with C-level executives OR a sales professional with a 90% closing
ratio OR both.
Resumes, cover letters, interviews -- all of these are valuable
opportunities for positioning oneself effectively. I stress
here on effectiveness, for, an ineffective positioning strategy, in my
opinion, spells “career sabotage.”
Get the point? Now create your own positioning strategy.
By restricting themselves to help wanted ads and
online job boards, most job seekers commit the expensive mistake of
being a passive job hunter. You sure are working toward your
employment goals, but so are millions others, in direct competition
with you. Don’t get me wrong. Help wanted ads and job boards are
certainly important job hunting techniques that you must use, but so
are many others. Diversify your
job search strategies by adding active
approaches, such as calling employers, networking, etc.
Not applying enough
It is no surprise that applicants
targeting one or two positions every week take several months (or even
years) to re-enter the workforce. If you follow my standards, I would
recommend applying for at least 20–30 openings every day. I know what
you are thinking -- no, I am not crazy. A highly competitive workforce
and fewer available positions make it absolutely necessary to match or
exceed this number. “I don’t see that many openings,” is a very common
response I get to this suggestion. Well, if you are looking at one
newspaper, look at five; if you have your
resume on one
have it on ten; if you are calling one employer everyday, call twenty
… Again, diversify your
job search strategies -- aggressively, I would
now add -- to achieve your goals faster.
Not following-up at all or, its counterpart,
excessive follow-up are both not in your best interests.
Everything from resumes to interview
responses to search strategies must be geared toward a specific career
path (or a few related paths if necessary). Some candidates make the
mistake of focusing on one objective one day and another, the next.
networking is one mistake;
only sporadically, is another.
Networking should be a very important
component of your search arsenal. Also, networking is for life; always
keep in touch with your contacts, even after employment is secured.
Being financially unprepared
Job losses don’t come with a
warning, so it is very important to always be prepared. Build -- or
start building if you haven’t -- a financial reserve that could
support you for several months (or even a few years). If you are
currently unemployed, it may sometimes be necessary to freelance or
temp in order to pay bills. If your bills are being paid, you will be
able to concentrate on finding meaningful employment.
Not tracking performance
You will be wasting a lot of time if
you don’t track the performance of your efforts. E.g. what job search
strategies generate most interviews? Which version of your resume is
getting most responses? Tracking performance and initiating corrective
actions are absolutely important.
Job search worksheets can help in the
process as well.
Using only well-known job boards. If you are looking for jobs
online, don’t restrict yourself to
only the big job boards. While it is important to post your resume on
the mega sites, don’t forget the niche boards that cater to your
Job hunting isn’t an exact science, but avoiding common mistakes can
certainly save you lots of agony.
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