I know what you want from me.
You want me to be a pocket full of optimism. You own personal “yes You can” man. You want me to dance around in frothy verbiage, whispering warm votes of confidence like: “You can achieve any career goal you are passionate about” or, “Persistence is going to drive your butt at 120mph into the career you’ve always wanted, complete with a Herman Miller Aeron chair and a double-wide corner office sporting a street-side view of a never ending happy-go-lucky parade of co-workers celebrating the overwhelmingly important fact that *You* have finally – arrived.”
Sigh. I feel so used.
Right about now myriads of job seekers around the country are throwing down their “To-Do” Lists to fire off strongly worded bombs of cynicism of this article and its writer to their Overly-Comforting Social Career Networks and Hug-Happy Job Coaches.
But for those of you’ve who’ve made it this far, I imagine some questions are racing through your splendorous minds. After all, you don’t just stumble upon an article here without a healthy sprinkling of observational powers and resourceful thinking. So the point I’m trying to make here, other than trying to find a bit of humor in an otherwise serious situation – is that sometimes taking two steps back and reevaluating your job-finding strategy and mindset are necessary in order to take a step forward. After all, landing the right job in this tightwad economy isn’t necessarily impossible, but it is going to take more ingenuity then you’ve likely used in the past. Before diving into your job search, consider tomorrow’s market. What kind of jobs are subject to consumer trend and economic lapses? How big of an issue will a college education play in getting a job? Is going back to school a feasible option right now for you and for your family?
The following is a series of important criticisms that I began pointing out about myself during my last job search that, once accepted and corrected – allowed me to see opportunity where others failed to recognize it. It was not until I tied my short-term goals (landing a job to pay rent) to a bigger purpose and vision (how my career fits into my life) that I really began to see why I was consistently being passed up by recruiters. I have a gut feeling that I’m not the only one here, so I’m offering this same list to you (at least, for those of you that are still reading this):
1. You Aren’t Being Realistic. Expect Obstacles and Disappointments
If there is a principle that never wavers from its intended purpose, it is the idea that doing anything worthwhile in life is always accompanied by unexpected obstacles and hindrances. Finding a job is not exempt from this rule: You will feel as if the monetary walls around you are closing to suffocate your very being. You will interview with recruiters who are overly optimistic and promising when it comes to offering you the job, and then disappearing or finding someone else. You will slip up in an interview. You will get left off of the recruiter’s call-back list for no reason other than the mere fact that they never made it to scanning your resume because there were simply too many submissions for the job.
In this author’s book – character is not judged when times are good, but when times are bad. Getting problems and dealing with them are part of being an adult. Don’t get overly optimistic about any one job (and I know, it’s hard) because the second you do, it always seemingly disappears. It’s like a universal law or something that always occurs.
2. You Aren’t Being SMART
I know, I know – an acronym. But don’t run off just yet – this one actually has substance. So let’s peel back the tin foil and see what’s on offer:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Trackable. The first thing you need to do when evaluating the current State of Your Job Search is being asking yourself whether your selling yourself too high, or throwing yourself in too many different directions like a freshly-made bowl of Jell-O that’s indecisive about what it wants to do with its life.
Having goals without having direction makes you about as pretty as a meat mallet. During my last job search, I had one company that I was really trying to get into. Coincidentally, they were hiring for 3 positions that, although being located in 3 different departments, all seemed to intersect my skill set and experience. So what did I do? I jumped the gun and applied to all 3. I can imagine the HR departments initial reaction at my bombardment of resume gunk on that fateful Thursday morning – they must have likened me to the guy at the bar who hits on every woman there in hopes that one of them will stick and he won’t have to go home alone.
This didn’t make me very attractive to the company, and unsurprisingly I did not get a call back from them even though I was qualified for the positions I applied for. If I had expressed a little more direction to them about where I wanted to go in their company from the outset – they likely would have dragged my butt into the hot seat faster than I could smile and say “Nice to meet you.”
Staying focused and concentrating your efforts into realistic and specific goals can actually make your life a bit simpler. Measuring and evaluating your performance in relation to these goals can give you insight into what areas you can improve upon.
3. You’re Not Digging Deep Enough
CareerBuilder. He’s big, he’s bad. He’s tougher than jailhouse steak. But despite having an almost mythical and legendary status as career finders, Monster and CareerBuilder can be surprisingly useless sometimes.
“Monster” ? It’s more like 4 pounds of fluffy kitten. Average job submission on CareerBuilder and Monster is now 260 resumes, in comparison with 70 submissions just a year ago. Your chances of finding jobs on them are still great; the problem is that competition has almost quadrupled.
If you aren’t checking localized online job boards in addition to the Big National Job dumping websites like Monster and CareerBuilder, start finding them. If you don’t have a local social network built around finding you a job, build one. Here – I officially give you permission to do that.
Tons of cities have local non-profit job boards. Look at the government sites, too. Go on company websites, check out the’ Careers’ pages. Scan the multiplexes of the internet for jobs. You could even hire a typing monkey to do it for you. I’m of the opinion that the tougher it is to find, the less competition you’ll have when you finally discover it.
Start using Google – a lot. Google is the center of the known universe – how’s that for finding a job?
4. You’re Haven’t Gotten the Proper Training and Education
Let me fill you in on something – you’re trying to find a job in one of toughest markets America has ever seen. There are dozens of others job seekers doing what you’re doing for the same job right now – how are you trying to differentiate yourself from the pack? One of the biggest mistakes that job seekers make is assuming their experience will get them in the door. While this may have been true 10 years ago, today’s job market has displaced the idea that experience alone separates you from other job seekers – typically employers are requiring post-secondary education before they even scan your resume (see the ‘Occupations Guide’ on US College Search for more on that.)
Going back to school or getting new certifications in an economy that is becoming increasingly competitive are two areas that I’m actually a proponent of right now. You can find legions of bloggers that have not yet joined the “Going Back to School” camp, but really – has there ever been a more opportune time? Why heck, even our new President has been urging the populous to commit to at least one extra year of higher education or career training
You saw this kind of behavior happening in succession during the early 1980’s and “waiting out” the tough economic times eventually put them ahead of the other job seekers when they did finally make it out of school. 27% of the US population is now attaining a college education of some kind and the numbers continue to rise by the year. That makes them more of an asset to companies right now than the other ¾ of the population – and being an asset counts in this job market.
5. You Don’t Know Your Worth
Figuring out how to convey the secret talents and hidden abilities that you’ve had in past jobs can sometimes be challenging. Finding out what exactly they even were to begin with can be next to impossible. I know that all sounds cliché, and to a certain degree – it is. But if you can develop ways of matching your previous experiences to the objectives of the job you want – you are going to have a much more engaging interview, and a much better chance of finally landing a job.
My advice is to research the industry you’re looking to get in heavily. You stand a much better chance of knowing what kind of valuable skills you’re bringing when you are already an expert for the job you’re going to be interviewing for. Get to know the jargon if you don’t know it, know the industry experts, know what kinds of tasks you’ll be doing (even if the Job Ad doesn’t tell you.) Be prepared to talk about something with real substance and value at the interview.