Let me just say it. Being on a job search is like being on a big rollercoaster ride in Hell’s worst amusement park.
Am I right or am I right?
Yet, you have to get on that coaster, strap yourself in, and hope that when the ride ends you are still in possession of your self-esteem and your wits.
Not to mention, of course, that when the ride ends you must have landed a job that makes good use of your skills and talents, and that pays enough to keep you flush with life’s extras, like food.
Yet, because no one has probably taught you how to find a job, let alone the right job, you are likely making mistakes that are screwing up your search.
And by “screwing up,” I mean either prolonging it unnecessarily, or landing a job that is not a good fit.
If you have ever been in a job that is not a good fit, you know how painful it is and how it impacts every area of your life, from your finances to your personal relationships.
As a reader of the Good Financial Cents blog, I’m betting that you are someone who likes concise, commonsensical, actionable advice. I see you nodding your head, so let’s jump right in.
If you are in a job search, or contemplating one, there are a lot of ways to screw it up. Based on my experience in Human Resources Leadership and Career Coaching, here are the Top 5 ways really smart people (like you, of course) screw up their job searches:
1. You jump right in without any thought or planning.
How would that approach work with your finances, your retirement, or even your vacation? And what makes you think it is an effective job search strategy? Our tendency is to want to feel productive, so we take action without thought, wanting to “accomplish” something.
In my book, Stop Peeing On Your Shoes: Avoiding the 7 Mistakes That Screw Up Your Job Search, I call it jumping into fire without wearing your fireproof undies. You will get burned.
Do this: Lay out your search plan just like you would any other plan. Determine your desired outcome, then track backwards to how you will get it. Consider: how will you structure your time, what events will you attend, who will you connect with and when, how will you answer key questions from your contacts, and how will you stay productive? The job fairy will not just show up on your doorstep.
2. You have no idea what your value is to an employer.
Why should an employer hire you? What will you bring to the party? What have you done with great success in the past? What have past employers valued about you? When have you failed, and what did you learn from it? Tell me about yourself. Cat got your tongue?
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Yes, these are questions that require thought, preparation, and practice. People tend to think they can wing their answers to these questions. Winging it is not a winning plan. If you can’t answer all of these – and other — questions in a focused, compelling way, stay out of the job search until you can.
Do this: Draft your answers to these questions, review them with someone who knows you well professionally, then practice with someone who will be ruthlessly honest with you.
3. You rely on technology and avoid face-to-face contact.
Read my ink. People hire people, not Word document attachments. If I can’t see you, hear you, sense you, or get a feel for you, it is very hard to really imagine you in my workplace. It is easy to dismiss someone on paper, or by email.
And if your resume is in a pile of 300 I received in response to an ad, think of how easy it is to skip right over yours in my overwhelmed and overworked state.
Do this: Schedule your networking to include both one-on-one conversations and a few group events. Plan your week so that you are having four to six such meetings a week. Two-thirds (or more) of people find their jobs through someone they know or someone they meet in their search. These people will most likely not coming looking for you.
4. You do not consider the employer’s wants and needs.
When you really want a job, it is all too easy to think solely from your own perspective. You consider how you will answer certain questions, what you will wear, what you will focus on. In general, job seekers do way too much talking and not enough listening.
Do this: Think from the other side of the desk. The core purpose of the interview is to find the right person to meet the needs that having this job unfilled has created. Read that again. What can you infer from the job description, from the questions you are asked, and from what you have been able to discover through your network about the opportunity, and about the organization’s needs and challenges? And how are you a fit to address them? If you are not ready to answer that, stay home.
If you can accept the fact that there are actually skills and proven techniques to an effective job search, it is not a leap to assume that if you actually learn those skills, you will be more effective at it. Kinda like, well, everything else in life.
And as a rider on the roller coaster that is a job search, you may find that your ride has been smoother than ever before. And without those annoying bugs in your teeth.
Julie Bauke is the President of The Bauke Group, a career consulting firm that is focused on Career Happiness. She is the author of “Stop Peeing on your Shoes: Avoiding The 7 Mistakes That Screw Up Your Job Search”. You can learn more at www.thebaukegroup.com or at www.facebook.com/thebaukegroup.