Regardless of your reasons for wanting to change jobs, conducting a job hunt is a stressful time for everyone. There are different challenges depending upon whether you’re working full time while job hunting or you’re lucky enough to be able to spend your whole day focused on your hunt. However, the following 5 mistakes occur consistently.
Writing Your Resume First
Your resume is essentially an ad for yourself. The goal is to create a clear picture of who you are and what you’re looking for. Most people write their resume by creating a list of all the jobs they’ve had, they throw in some buzzwords, and hope for the best. You don’t want the hiring manager to have to work to figure out what you’re about. Write your resume when you’re clear on what you’re looking for and tailor it so that you are the perfect person for that particular position.
Lack of Focus
You’ve probably come across people who are job hunting who say things like “I’m staying open to possibilities.” They insist that they are an asset to any company. To a hiring manager, this type of person requires too much work and appears to be a job shopper.
No Job Search Plan
Just spend 10 minutes googling for jobs and you’ll see how easy it is to get overwhelmed. Once you know what you’re looking for (see above), identify the steps you need to take and break them into manageable chunks. Identify your target companies—the rule of thumb if you’re starting with limited contacts is to choose at least 50 potential employers in your area and decide how you’re going to approach them. Set goals for the number of hours you’ll spend on your search each week and the number of qualified contacts you’ll make. Throughout this process you’ll refine what you’re looking for and you may need to tweak your resume/bio/CV to reflect what you’ve learned. Your interviewing abilities will also increase as you get more experience communicating your experience and abilities. Working your plan every day helps you gain momentum and will ultimately land the job you want.
Not Preparing or Following Up
Making contact with your network before you’re clear on your “ask” can make you sound needy and unfocused. Do your research to understand industry trends, and find sample job descriptions to give you the lingo and characteristics of the jobs you’re looking for. Prepare a 30-second statement of what you’re looking for and why you’re qualified. Practice on the less influential within your network. Make sure you’re specific in your request, e.g., “Can you connect me to someone in the marketing department at Company X so that I can talk to them about the culture of the company?” By being specific, you’ll help your network help you—if they don’t know someone in the marketing department at Company X, they may know someone at Company Y.
Lack of follow-up is at the heart of most stalled job searches. Every meeting, call, or email requires timely, thoughtful, follow-up. Customize your communication, bring up your positive attributes in an appropriate way, and make sure you move the conversation forward—find ways to be helpful and ask for another meeting if appropriate.
Taking a Break
Why is this a mistake? In a word, momentum. A good job search builds on itself, creating a rhythm that makes your efforts more efficient and effective. Taking a break when you’re in the midst of your search is like deciding to stop at mile 22 during a marathon.
While the job hunting experience can be an emotional rollercoaster, most people learn very important things about what is important to them in a job and what they need to do to help position themselves better for the future. Try to make your experience smoother by avoiding these common mistakes.
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