Tuesday, June 25, 2013

10 Mistakes That Are Keeping You Unemployed

Everyday, thousands of people wake up and begin their non-stop search of finding, and applying to jobs. If you’re actively looking for a job, but your inbox is full of cobwebs, you may be committing some fatal job mistakes that are sinking your self esteem and your chances at making contact with potential employers. The problem might not be 100% yours however, sometimes well established job search doctrine might actually be hurting your chances at landing your dream job.

In my opinion, the universe of job search tips, blogs, information, how-to and advice from you great Aunt Mildridge has become overly standardized and in certain places is stale and outdated. I think success in today’s job market will require you to reject some of these outdated ideas and instead utilize a more thoughtful and tailored approach.

Your job search shouldn't be a drain but it will be if you stick to the “tried and true” (but ultimately tired and truth-less) methods.  It’s time to re-shape your job search methods to navigate the job market smarter not harder! Rejecting outdated convention and avoiding common errors can take your search from distressed to success!

Application Auto-Pilot

“Just keep at it and just keep submitting applications! As long as you keep sending applications eventually one will see how great you are”               - Aunt Mildridge

If you are like too many other people I know your search process goes a little like this: 1. Open a couple job boards. 2. Flip to the industries that relate to your skills. 3. Open anything that looks remotely interesting. 4. Shoot off your form resume and generic cover letter to the application address. 5. Repeat.

I don’t think this is the right approach but it the approach that some many people recommend and most people follow. If this process sounds familiar, you are likely have application auto-pilot on and are going through the job search motions without really knowing what you’re looking for. Sending applications is important however if all you are doing is hitting the send button you are probably doing yourself disservice. Sometimes it might be better to invest your time learning about a smaller number of opportunities and going the extra mile when applying to them.  

Open Up Your Mind, No Seriously, Do It.

“Look for your dream job! No one wants to be stuck in a job they hate for the rest of your life!” – A.M.

I think that all too often recent graduates expect a glamorous starting point for their career. Chances are your first job is not going to be your last. In fact today people are changing jobs more often than ever. Most of the time, landing your “dream job” right out of college is just that, a dream. You’ll have to put in your dues and work your way up, and it will make it that much more rewarding when you get there. While you might want to believe your dream job is waiting, you might need to rethink or reject this idea so that one day you can get you your dream job.

So when looking for your first job, keep an open mind. You’ll learn a lot about what you need and want professionally early in your career, so don’t be afraid to stretch the limits of your search. Reject convention and get moving on your career.

Use ALL of Your Networks

“All you have to do is network! Network, network, network! Have you talked to your great uncle Rufus?” – A.M.

In our internet age, your network is BIG! It extends far beyond than your great uncle Rufus. Family, friends, classmates, former bosses, neighbors, professors, alumni and the deli owner who you buy your morning coffee from! You are not networking until you are talking to all of these people.

Ask any career expert about the most effective strategy for finding work and they will all say "networking". Yet we have accepted a narrow definition of networking that ends up being unsuccessful. Redefine your network wider and engage with it more broadly. Ask for information, advice and assistance with your search. As previously discussed throughout my blog, LinkedIn is key to making connections with people who you might not have otherwise.

Better Yet, Know How to Network

“Networking is important, but you don’t want to bother people, everyone is tight on time these days” – A.M.

While Milly’s advice is true in some circumstances I believe people view networking in the wrong way. Recent graduates (and sometime seasoned professionals) believe they can only network if they have something they can offer in exchange. In reality networking doesn't need to be a zero sum transaction. Turn the tables to see what I mean.  If a student or young professional asked you for advice or help but didn't have anything to offer, would you tell them no? Probably not.

The fact is people like helping other people. As long as you are respectful people will help you. Often times you will find that people offer to help more than you even ask them to. Be kind, be respectful and be grateful but don’t be too cautious.

Just Keep Doing What You Are Doing

“Don’t get frustrated. Searching for a job is always going to take a long time and will usually be painful ” – A.M.

I don’t think job search needs to be torture. While you cannot control how quickly you land your job, you can control whether it is a beneficial experience or whether it is a painful experience. While you search and apply for positions you should be learning more and more about the industries and companies you are interested in and learning more about yourself and where you will fit best.

I also think you should get frustrated. You should get frustrated if your approach isn't working. The key is you shouldn't stay frustrated. Take your frustration as a sign that the approach isn't working. If you find yourself frustrated don’t ask “What is wrong with me”, ask “What is wrong with my approach and how can I make this more effective.” Searching for a job can be nerve-racking but you don’t need to give yourself even more anxiety by telling yourself that you are the problem.

Your Cover Letter Is Just... Boring.

“Don’t worry about your cover letter, no one reads it and you just have to get it done with” – A.M.

This is a horrible message to send your potential future employer. You pretty much are saying: “This application isn't important to me and you are just another unimportant application click.” I think that although the cover-letter might not be what gets you the job it could the reason you don’t get a job.

If you are sending a cover-letter to a job, turn off auto pilot and customize your cover letter. Cover-letter writing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Each job application needs a tailored cover letter to accompany your resume. If the job application doesn’t require a cover letter consider sending a tailored one anyone. While some people might write this off as not following directions, many more will appreciate that you cared enough to take the extra steps.

I also think you don’t think a cover-letter needs to be boring. “Hi, my name is Julia and I am applying for the marketing position at your company.” Of course you are. As are the rest of the people in the dictionary-sized stack of resumes. Don’t mistake your cover letter for anything other than a sales pitch. Your cover letter should be persuasive, charismatic, bursting with enthusiasm, and explaining how the Cosmos aligned on this serendipitous summer day to bless the company with their truly perfect candidate match.

Communicate your strengths and interests as they align with the company, and be sure to directly ask for what you want (an interview). Your days of pasting a form letter and swapping out company names and position titles are over.

Failing to Follow Up

“By the time your thank you email gets there they already made their decision” – A.M.

While some people believe sending a thank you is a check the box exercise no one really cares about, today this just isn't true. It's not enough to send resumes and pray the phone rings. You are expecting too much in thinking that your resume will be discovered in the big, black, online hole, alongside hundreds of other resumes. Hustle to follow up, it shows extra initiative. 

Further, do not end communication after the interview. Be sure to write a follow up letter or e-mail after the meeting thanking them for meeting with you. In the letter summarize why you think the job is a great fit and touch upon your interest in working for the company. Lack of enthusiasm is a deal killer with employers at any stage of the process.

Your Social Presence Betrays You

While Auntie is a little too old for this mistake, assuming that employers take the time to check your web presence is a big mistake. While the first round of selections might be made without visiting Google or social media 99% of the time your online presence will be checked before you are hired

If you haven’t yet, get your social networks on privacy lock down ASAP. Protect those Spring Break pictures on Facebook and nix all your off-color tweets (especially if your Twitter account is linked to your real name). It is common practice of hiring managers to research their candidates online – make sure they don’t find anything on your social profiles that will cast you in an unprofessional light.

And Your Communication Is Just As Flawed...

“Make sure you include all of your accomplishments!!! I am still proud of that macaroni diagram you made back in 7th grade!!” A.M.

Wrong again. While this misconception isn't as severe and prevalent as the previous mishaps  there is still a lot of issues here. You do not want to include or laundry list ever accomplishment you have ever made. Make sure your resume does not exceed one page. Your resume is not a comprehensive list of every professional or extracurricular experience you've ever had; instead, it's a strategically chosen demonstration of your experiences that make you suited for the position to which you're applying.

Also, when considering sending your resume or cover letter, do not address the e-mail, letter, fax, etc to "Whom it may concern" call the company and ask for the name of the hiring manager or division head of your area of interest. 

Ill must quickly add (even though this really isn't a misconception and generally everyone has this right) that before submitting your properly addressed, one page resume; (for Heaven’s sake,) PLEASE proofread it! If I had a nickle for every dumb typo I came across while proofreading resumes in the Career Service Office during my undergrad career, Id be on an exotic rain forest vacation instead of sitting here typing this blog post... I'm not kidding.

PLEASE NOTE: Typos and grammatical errors in your letters / emails will turn off employers right away. Proofread documents carefully and have others review them as well.

Show Your Personality But Be PROFESSIONAL

“Share that bubbling personality that we all love!! If you just show them how interesting you are they will have to hire you” A.M.

Okay, yes, hiring managers are looking for interesting people and personality, with skills and ability, but don’t assure that their right person is … you. Showing that you will fit in is essential but this is best done in the interview phase. While you should share certain interests in your application and communications, for example, travel, reading biographies, outdoor sports, you should not go over-board. The importance here is to stay professional and don’t over-do it. This balance of professionalism and personality extends to dress as well. Even if you are applying to a creative job you should air on the side of professionalism.

You’re Playing a Rigged Numbers Game

This isn't the time to sit back and be casual in your approach, you must devote time to the process.

It’s easy to get discouraged by months of effort without any promising leads. Keep the job market in perspective: thousands of people are applying for a handful of jobs, and the workforce is underemployed as a whole. You must devote time to the process.

When promising leads do arise don't down the intensity of the job search efforts. Backing off your search at the sign of possible success can be a critical error that could set you back for months. Don't ever assume an offer will come through since circumstances can change with that organization. Keep the pedal to the metal until you have secured a definite offer in writing.

I hope this helped! I can’t promise a swift end to your job search, but these tips should help you be smarter and more efficient with your time and energy. Target your job search, retool your application forms and chase the jobs worth your while. Hopefully I'll see you soon on the other end of the tunnel!

Search on!

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