By Mark Gonska
Finding a job in a recession is not easy. Even in good times, a successful job search requires time, patience, and creativity. These days, hiring managers and executives are choosier than ever and looking for reasons to screen people out, i.e., they are looking for reasons not to hire you. However, if you’re able to avoid the most common job search mistakes, you can still land your perfect job, even in this tough market.
Here are the 10 most common job search mistakes, and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Thinking it’s all about YOU. Few people outside your family are concerned that you don’t have a job. Employers want to know what you can do for them. What’s in it for the employer if they hire you?
The job search is about YOUR PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER – your prospective employer’s needs, their problems, their issues. Not yours. What’s keeping THEM up at night? What’s waking THEM up too early in the morning? THEIR problems and issues are the only reason or justification to hire YOU. If you don’t know what these issues are, you could find out by asking some people in your target industry, by reading trade magazines, or by connecting with a relevant professional association.
2. Living in the past. Yesterday is in the past. Today is a new day, and the time for action is now.
Many who are guilty of this mistake are living in the past in thought, word, and deed. They don’t just think old, look old and sound old—they are continually asking themselves “why did this happen to me?” They talk exclusively about how things “used to be” in the good ol’ days. Instead you should:
- Update your attitude – Give yourself a “check-up from the neck up”. Get excited about your future. Go to the library and check out some motivational CDs that you listen to in your car between appointments. This will help you get motivated, and when you speak to people you’ll sound like you are WORTH a Million bucks.
- Update your appearance – try a new hair cut or a new hair style. Treat yourself and get a pedicure, manicure or massage.
3. Defining yourself based on your old job. Your old job does not define you. Many of the old jobs are gone, and “they ain’t comin’ back”.
Unless your last job was your perfect job, you need to redefine yourself based on your skills and desires inventory, and what you’d really like to do now and in the future. When you find and capture your perfect job—the job you can’t live without—everybody wins. Maybe it’s time to update your skills along with your resume. In the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, you should be constantly investing in yourself, acquiring new skills and learning new things.
4. Being undecided. It’s your life and your future. How long can you be undecided?
Your career, depending on your timeline to retirement, represents thousands of hours, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Either all your dreams fulfilled or a shipwreck on the shoals of life. If you are not really sure what to do next, you need to do some real soul-searching. Being reactive and answering ads in the newspaper or responding to job opportunities on the job boards that “seem interesting” will get you nowhere fast. Instead you need to:
- Take responsibility for your job search and your life – What makes you unique? What is it that you can do that few other people can do? This is where you will find your next big opportunity.
- Be decisive and take action – at least identify what you think you MIGHT want to do and pursue it. Start moving in that direction. Talk to people about it. It may open the door to discovering your real calling.
- Identify 10 people who are doing your target job RIGHT NOW – call them up, tell them you’re evaluating career options, and ask them if you could buy them a cup of coffee. When you meet them, come prepared and ask them good questions that will help you gain a better understanding of their problems, putting yourself in a better position to solve them.
5. Procrastinating. Your job search is a full-time job, and you should treat it as such.
You need to plan your work and work your plan. Plan your time in advance. Who are the most important people you hope to connect with tomorrow?
- Create a ‘Job Search Success Calendar’ with nothing else on it except your job search efforts.
- Decide in advance how long you will spend on doing “research” on the Internet… how long you will take on other tasks. Write down your estimate and compare your actual results. Know what your time is worth and treat it that way!
- Do the most important things and most difficult things first. Even if you get a “NO” Rejection often paves the road to success.
6. Finding a convenient excuse. Einstein was thought to be mentally challenged. Sandra Day O’Connor was home-schooled. Abe Lincoln lost more races than he won.
Are you too old? Too short? Too female? If you give up before you’ve even started, you don’t stand a chance. Acknowledge your shortcoming and decide you can overcome it. Turn that blemish into a beauty mark. You can do it. You have no excuse that someone else hasn’t already overcome. If someone hasn’t, you can be a pioneer!
7. Spending all day on your computer. Spending your day on Linked-in and Facebook is an ineffective form of networking. Nothing replaces the real thing. Avoiding all human contact and building a relationship with a new web portal each day won’t help you get any closer to a paycheck. Instead you should:
- Seek out opportunities to hone your networking, interviewing and sales skills,
- Plan one or two major job-seeking activity out of the house each day, Engage others in conversation where you’re asking them questions about them and learning more about what they do. Remember this is not about you, and
- Make a list of 10 people you could talk with each day.
8. Being a wallflower. Employers do not need people to punch in and collect paychecks. They’re looking for leadership. Employers want people who can manage themselves and others, and people who will make things happen without being told exactly what to do. Even if there is a hiring freeze, most people are interested in talking with an experienced professional who understand s and brings workable solutions to their biggest problems, i.e. top line revenues or cutting costs. With this in mind you need to be prepared to show:
- How you are going to add value? Show how you’ll pay for yourself and provide a return on investment to the company.
- Many employers do not realize that doing nothing can be their most expensive option. Help them calculate the cost of NOT HIRING YOU.
- Be a business person, not a job seeker.
9. Failing to take care of yourself. People who exercise are more relaxed and confident, and it shows. You need to take care of the physical you to look and feel your best.
- Go for a daily walk in the early morning or at your lunch hour.
- Ride a bike on the towpath or in the MetroParks on the weekend.
- Join a gym or a yoga studio, and work out at least 3 times a week.
- Take an exercise class at your local YMCA or community center.
10. Not networking enough. Networking is the fast track to a new job. Statistics show that 4 out of every 5 jobs are found through networking. Disregard the want ads and focus exclusively on building your network. Try to have conversations with as many people as you possibly can. And you should:
- Be prepared – Business cards, resume, and elevator speech.
- Set goals — each day you should talk to 10 new people on the phone, and set one new in-person appointment. The interviews will follow.
- Evaluate the results – take a look back and see how you did. What can you do better next week?
Finally, the biggest and most common job search mistake of all is not asking for help. Everyone needs a helping hand every now and then. Asking for help can be a courageous act – and you shouldn’t view it as a weakness. There are times when you just don’t have the expertise, such as doing a skills and desires inventory, doing a career assessment, or updating your resume. If you let your pride get in the way and refuse to ask for help, you may just lose the opportunity you were seeking. Asking for assistance is sensible, and will help you overcome obstacles in your career search. Don’t be afraid to ask. You may even recognize other areas of your life where an expert’s help will save you time, money, effort and energy. Making your life easier by asking for and using well-informed experts is a smart thing to do.
Times are tough. Jobs are harder to come by. But, by avoiding common job search mistakes, you will be closer to finding the job you really want.
Mark Gonska is Executive Vice President of Career Transition Services for Dise & Company. You can contact Mark directly at the People Page on Diseco.com