Starting your job search can feel daunting but can be a bit exciting when considering the possibilities. As a career strategist, I’ve heard countless stories from individuals who come to me frustrated and exhausted as they’ve been stumbling through their job search. I want you to be energized, excited, and confident as you navigate the next chapter in your career. So, allow me to shed light on the most common missteps that can hinder your progress.
1. Lack of Clarity in Your Search
The number one mistake a job seeker makes is to hastily prepare their resume and immediately apply for a job without clearly defining career goals and targeted roles. This is sailing on the open ocean without a compass; you might end up lost in the sea of missed opportunities. Do you know what you want and the type of environment (work culture) you need to thrive and be successful? If you cannot, with some confidence, articulate what you want and where you want to be, then your search will be just as scattered and unclear. Take the time to write down your skills, what role you want, and your preferred industries and culture. This way you can focus your efforts on relevant opportunities (and eliminate the noise).
2. Believing the Perfect Resume is the Key to Your Job Search
Sure, your resume matters, but job seekers tend to put too much emphasis on this step, which results in less time spent on high-value activities such as networking. You still need to have a customized resume for the role you are applying for that is highly specific and easy to read. But it need not be your first or most time-consuming step.
Remember, the length of your resume is less of a concern in today’s world. Gone are the days when a one-page resume was the norm. Showcase the immense value you bring to the table without overwhelming the reader. Articulate achievements, employ action verbs, and proofread diligently. Tailor your resume for the role, but don’t let it overshadow other vital actions.
3. Wasting Too Much Time Applying Online
Applying online is enticing because it feels like you’re accomplishing the dreaded task of looking for a job with little effort expended. However, it won’t likely help you find the role you really want. While it is still a necessary evil, it is generally considered a less effective approach due to several factors:
- Low Visibility: Online job applications often receive a large number of submissions, which can make it challenging for your resume to stand out among the competition. Without a direct connection or referral, your resume may get lost in the sea of applications, reducing the likelihood of receiving a response or being considered for an interview.
- Time Constraints and AI: Human resource departments and hiring managers may not have the capacity to review all the submitted resumes thoroughly, relying on AI to screen the resumes. This can result in your resume being overlooked, especially if you don’t have the requisite keywords AI is looking for (which varies for each role or company).
- Frustration and Disappointment: Repeatedly applying online without receiving any response or acknowledgment can lead to frustration and disappointment. It’s important to manage your expectations and focus on high-values actives such as networking.
While applying online may not be the most effective strategy, it doesn’t mean it should be completely avoided. In some cases, it can still lead to opportunities if the timing is right, or if your skills and experiences align closely with the needs of the organization. However, it is generally advisable to prioritize networking and building connections to increase your chances of success in the job search process.
4. Not Maximizing Your Network
Many (maybe even most) job opportunities are found through networking. Building a professional network and actively engaging with industry peers can increase your chances of finding hidden job openings and receiving referrals.
So, once you clearly identify what you want in a role and company, create an intentional networking strategy and get out there. If you need help with a networking strategy, start here.
5. Ignoring Your Online Presence
Employers often research candidates online so expect your online presence to be scrutinized. While seasoned professionals had the luxury of engaging in youthful antics before the digital era, it’s essential to recognize that any information available about you on the internet, whether positive or negative, is there indefinitely. Audit your online presence and ensure social media profiles present a professional image. Clean up any inappropriate content and highlight your relevant professional achievements. Push old content down by sharing fresh and pertinent posts since search engines prioritize recent information over older content. In a landscape where impressions are formed digitally, your online presence can shape your narrative.
6. Unprofessional Video
If not entirely, you will be interviewed by video at some point in the process, even if you plan on working in person. While we have all become more accepting of barking dogs or beds in the background, it is best to eliminate as many of these distractions or unprofessional visuals as possible. So, be aware of good video etiquette. Your backdrop should be visually appealing or at least blurred, ensure good lighting, confine your movements to the camera frame, avoid background noise – and, above all, know how to use video technology!
7. Forgetting Job Seeking Goes Both Ways
Job seekers must recognize that the process of finding the right opportunity is a two-way street. You don’t want to start a new role to learn that you jumped into a slow-burning dumpster fire. Always ask lots of behavior-based questions and do your research before accepting a job offer. Thanks to platforms like Glassdoor it’s much easier than ever, but don’t rely on just one source. Research the company and its leadership team by reading recent news and social media posts, and utilize other sources like previous employees to whom you may be connected. Treat all these data points as a piece of the puzzle to create an overall profile of the company.
8. Lack of Data to Know Your Worth
You must research and assess your value in the marketplace before you attend a single interview, otherwise, you’re negotiating without understanding the data. Don’t talk money until the employer has made it clear you’re their top candidate. If you don’t know how to effectively dodge this question or research salary, read Navigating the Salary Question.
9. Not Claim the Job
One of the biggest flubs job seekers make is not directly asking for the job. No one likes a rejection, including a hiring manager. So even if you’ve managed to avoid the above pitfalls and made it through to the final round of interviews, you may think you’ve got it made – you’re done. But don’t forget – as much as you may think you’ve nailed it and an offer is forthcoming, you need to claim the job. The last thing you need to do after an interview is make it clear you want the job. If in person, stand up, shake your interviewer’s hand firmly and state, ‘Thank you so much for your time. I want this job.’ (If on video, the equivalent gesture). You must make it clear and oftentimes that has made the difference for my clients.
10. Not Following Up or Giving Up Too Easily
After an interview or networking event, it’s crucial to send a thank-you note or follow-up email. It demonstrates your professionalism and can help you stand out from other candidates. Send a personalized thank-you note or email within 24 hours of the interview, expressing your appreciation for the opportunity. Reiterate your interest in the position and briefly mention key points discussed during the interview. Use this opportunity to address any additional information or follow-up requested by the interviewer. Don’t be afraid to follow up several times if you don’t hear back. People are busy and need reminders. If a hiring manager knows you are interested enough to keep pursuing, that often makes the difference, making persistence the defining factor. It’s also how you frame your follow-ups, however, as there is a difference between persistence and desperation.
By avoiding these common job search mistakes, you’ll increase your chances of finding the right job for you. I get that job searching is no fun. It can be challenging, time-consuming, and full of rejection. But it’s an important skill to learn and improve upon because things change, and it’s not uncommon to be in the position of needing to find a new job. If you need support, I’m here for you.