I’ve created this forum to share ideas, encouragement, and resources regarding career management. My passion is a result of years of experience in the fields of HR, OD and executive and career coaching. I welcome your comments and look forward to impacting career development journeys in a positive and meaningful way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10 Job Search Mistakes to Avoid

In this job market every job seeker needs to be at their best. Competition is fierce and employers are in the ‘driver’s seat’ with lots of candidates to select from. One of the best examples remains when Delta Airlines was overwhelmed with 100,000 applications for 1,000 flight attendant positions!

Thinking about what not to do is as important as following all the good advice of what you need to do. Based on my HR and career coaching experience, as well as some research published by ABC News, here are the top 10 mistakes I suggest you avoid. I first published this some time ago, but believe the mistakes are still relevant for revisiting.

Mistake #1 - Don’t Back Off During the Holidays
Especially this year! Economists are still debating how strong 2013 is going to be, but I’m hearing from my recruiter friends that staffing orders are increasing. Yes, things may slow down a bit during the holidays, but that only means that the job seeker has less competition trying to make connections with the recruiters, hiring managers and small business owners. Keep up your pace with networking, introduction meetings, and informational interviews. You just don’t know who is trying to staff up to be ready to hit the ground running January 2nd!

Mistake #2 - Don’t Expect the Past to Carry You
No doubt about it, your past experience is one important indicator of what you will bring to the table. But employers today want to hear about what you’ve done lately and how your past experience is relevant to their strategic goals. One comment I hear again and again from colleagues and clients is, "Yes, there are lots of candidates, but they don’t have the skills we need!" Be sure you’ve done your homework and understand what skills employers are requiring for the jobs you are applying for. If those skills aren’t as sharp or updated as they need to be, find training courses, opportunities for job shadowing, or maybe even an internship to help you make them relevant for 2011 and beyond.

Mistake #3 – Don’t Take Rejection Personally
Delta had to reject 99,000 individuals since they only had 1,000 openings. That’s a lot of rejection. It’s tough to hear, but learn something from those rejections, which will undoubtedly come your way. Don’t take it personally. Making a selection is difficult, especially when you have two or three good candidates to choose from. When you have even more, it’s just a process of whittling the list down to the short list. Keep evaluating what you could do differently the next time, and ask for feedback. Paul Powers of CareerBuilder stated in the CNN article, "If you aren’t getting rejected regularly, then you either aren’t working hard enough to get your foot in the door, or you’re applying for jobs beneath your capabilities."

Mistake #4 – Don’t Forget What this is About – and it’s Not About You
The focus during any job search campaign has to be on what the employer needs to be successful. If you are currently in job search, please re-read the previous sentence three times. Now think about specific ways you demonstrate this principle in your day-to-day execution of your job search strategy. The resume objective or introduction statement is a great place to start – right up front tell me what value you are capable of bringing to my organization. Remember, all the hiring decisions are based on the company’s needs, not yours.

Mistake #5 - Don’t Make It About Age
‘In the old days’ when employers were looking for candidates that would stay and grow with their firms for 10+ years, age might have been a consideration, even though there are laws preventing this type of behavior. However, today employers are more interested in what knowledge, skills and abilities you can bring that will help them solve an immediate crisis, innovate the next iPad, or improve the environment. You get the point. Yes, they’d like you to stay and contribute as long as there is a fit. However, employers are more realistic today, expecting that talent will shift and a periodic rotation of new ideas and experiences is probably a good thing. So, don’t let your age, young or ‘more mature,’ get in your way. Keep the focus on the value you will bring.

Mistake #6 – Don’t Try to Wing It
So you’ve been on a few interviews, you’ve been networking and you’re feeling really confident and prepared. Don’t make the mistake that you can walk into the next meeting or interview without preparing. Know the company and their needs. Be prepared to talk about how you would immediately add value to help them. Certainly, be prepared to answer basic questions such as, "What do you do?" We’re experiencing a longer-than-normal time for job seekers to be unemployed. We all know that. But the answer to the question is not "I don’t do anything, I’m out of work." Would you hire the person who gives that answer? Practice being strategic and enthusiastic with the answers and questions you prepare and practice for each specific event. It would be rare to find two companies with exactly the same set of circumstances; so treat each opportunity individually.

Mistake #7 – Don’t Forget to Make Your Resume Special
With as many resumes as organizations receive today there is no time for reviewing a one-size-fits-all resume and deciphering how those skills fit with what the employer is looking for. No one is going to take the time to do that! So, make sure that your resume is tailored for each specific job. Take the time to invest in making the best impression. Understand what they are looking for and highlight those skills and experiences that demonstrate why you are the best candidate for that position. You need to do the work for your resume to speak to their specific needs without a lot of effort on their part; because believe me, they certainly aren’t going to do it for you.

Mistake #8 – Don’t Focus on Only One Career or Industry
As jobs have moved into knowledge-based and technology driven fields, the skills and experiences job seekers have to offer can often fit into more than one job category. Don’t limit yourself to a particular job title or field. Be creative and experimental in seeking information about jobs in different industries that utilize similar information and technologies. Your particular industry may not be on the rebound yet, but that doesn’t mean your talents and skills wouldn’t be welcomed in another industry. And, truth be told, your particular job may never come back, so this may be the perfect moment to reinvent yourself. Give yourself that permission.

Mistake #9 – Don’t Overlook the Importance of Taking Care of Yourself
Conducting a job search is a full-time, exhausting, and emotionally draining job. Don’t forget to take care of yourself during the process. You want to be on top of your game, so make sure you’re eating healthy, getting the proper amount of rest, and making time for exercise and leisure. Stress is unhealthy on a lot of levels, and the stress of financial, career and family problems can quickly become overwhelming. So much so that thinking is foggy, conversations seem desperate, and initiative and self-motivation turn to paralization. Establish healthy routines and use your self-discipline to stick with them.

Mistake #10 - Don’t Just Wait for the Phone to Ring
Networking is definitely the best strategy for job search, especially in this market. Many organizations don’t even want to post a job, fearful that they’ll find themselves with a Delta situation. People, recruiters and folks inside the organization are going to be the link to the openings. Networking does take time and energy but is more likely to give you the results you are looking for. Job seekers who use their time to send out a lot of resumes to LinkedIn contacts or Internet postings and then sit back and wait, will be waiting forever. This option may seem easier and less stressful, and you can even fool yourself into thinking that you’ve been productive. But the truth is, if you’re not following up on every one of those resumes you sent out, you’re just wasting your time. There is no easy way to find a job. The only way to make your phone ring with that offer is for you to make it ring! Be active with your network and keep expanding it. Keep doing all the right things with a good attitude and you will connect with a match.

Job search is challenging, and especially when the competition is so tough. Differentiate yourself from the crowds by not only doing all the things you know you should be doing, but also by being careful to sidestep the sinkholes hiding in the mistakes noted above.

One other thought – don’t forget to have a champion or coach that you can talk, strategize, and brainstorm with. This is a value component to your job search success. Often you’ll find someone at networking meetings who can fill this role. Best of luck in making the right connections in 2013.

If you need additional guidance with your job search campaign, please check out my book Position Your Next Move for a Successful Job Search, other Career GPS blog entries, and my free resources page on my website at www.evolutionmgt.com.