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Common Job Search Mistakes
Nimish Thakkar, MS, MBA, CCMC, CPRW, SaiCareers.com, New York
January 02, 2006

After 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:

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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 job search 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 industry, the companies in the industry, salary offered, etc. Next, back your research with a carefully planned -- and executed -- job search 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 assess the progress of your campaign and take corrective actions as needed.

Weak resume
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 multiple objectives.

Ineffective positioning
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 about you.

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 positioning:

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.

Being passive
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 job board, 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.

Poor follow-up
Not following-up at all or, its counterpart, excessive follow-up are both not in your best interests.

Not focused
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.

Not networking
Not networking is one mistake; networking 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 profession.

Job hunting isn’t an exact science, but avoiding common mistakes can certainly save you lots of agony.

Related Articles:
Job Search Strategies And Tips
Online Job Search: Job Searching In The Digital Age


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