"Successful careers don't happen by accident."
So says New York Times bestselling author Martin Yate, who wrote Knock 'em Dead Secrets & Strategies for First Time Job Seekers.
It takes a lot of time and effort to conduct a job search. You don't need a perfect plan of action. And avoiding all the pitfalls doesn't mean you will get a job offer. But it helps to increase your odds when you minimize snares. And, hitting unnecessary snags can make looking for a job much longer and seem like you're climbing Mount Everest.
All job searches are not created equal, and I don't think all people seeking employment understand that.
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Some searches are like clockwork — you see a position, complete the application and attach your cover letter, résumé, and then hit submit. Now, you are off to the interview and shortly afterwards offered the job. Then you go to work and live happily ever after.
Generally, the job search process takes much longer today and requires good job search tactics.
Martin Yate says, "recognize that cutting edge job search and career management tactics are what puts food on your table."
Another reality is that the job hunt takes patience. Don't have any patience? You need to grow some, buy it or consider borrowing patience if you must. In the meantime, here are my top pitfalls to avoid during your job search.
■ Little to no focus. If your approach totally missed what the employer is looking for, if your résumé and cover letter don't match the job description or you really didn't have the knowledge, skills and abilities for the position but thought the more you applied to jobs the better your chances of landing one, you're not focused.
To have a successful job search, you have to review description and match the content of your résumé with the company's requirements. Don't force it. If you don't have what recruiters are looking for, take a pass. My suggestion is that you consider three to four career paths and maintain your focus on these options.
■ Lack of organization. Your job search should include having clear goals, planning time to track all your active applications and clear priorities/tasks to reduce distraction.
I've heard job seekers say that when they receive a call from potential employers, they fail to remember what position they applied for or even that they applied to that company. This is a sure sign trouble. If this is commonplace, quickly fix this issue because it is a definite indicator of poor organization.
Arnita Howard, the director of enrollment, career services and student affairs with the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University makes a good observation about timing and planning, "Some job seekers don't realize the value of planning ahead, well in advance, and not the day before an interview." Being organized for your job search will allow you to avoid low productivity and will ultimately yield a greater return on your job search.
■ Lack motivation and energy. This can be attributed to treating the job search like a job and failing to take time off during this process. A major stumbling block to achieving your goal of employment is when you don't build in breaks for yourself. You need to take time off because you are human and you need rest or time away for the job hunt. Consider taking a 3-day weekend with your friends or family, keep a social life, volunteer time to your favorite nonprofit, start a hobby, and/or start a weekly exercise program.
Get out of the house and find an environment that will add to an increase in productivity.
■ Misread the economy. We're in a new economy and the rules are changing. A job search used to take three to four months in a good economy. Today it could be six to nine months, easily. Yate makes an interesting observation saying that job candidates need to "look at themselves from the hiring side of the desk."
Today's job market has produced a competitive selection process and job seekers need to be prepared. The United States Department of Labor reports jobs are being added to the workforce monthly but the competition to get hired is tough.
■ Not following up. The interview follow up is a critical part of the job search courtship process. Consider developing a post-interview strategy of how you plan to approach your prospective employer by phone or email. Ask, at the conclusion of your interview, when you should hear back on the decision.
At a minimum you need to send a thank you note within 24 hours. This will help you develop a relationship and reinforce your interest in the job. You don't want to be obnoxious with your follow up, but you don't want to come across lacking healthy persistence.
Inspirational speaker Lewis Gordon Pugh, who is accustomed to achieving the impossible as an ocean advocate and maritime lawyer, provides some good advice: "I learned two basic lessons on Everest. First, just because something has worked in the past does not mean it will work today. Second, different challenges require different mindsets."
Now, I'm off to research how to climb Mount Everest so I can avoid snags along the way.