How to Avoid Job-hunting Traps
Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, job hunters sabotage their own efforts. By acting on outdated information (perhaps based on the last time they searched, even if it was years ago) or misguided advice, they waste precious time and energy focusing on strategies that are unlikely to land them a job — at least any time soon. And sometimes what seems to be a good idea for a while turns out not to be worth more time, but it’s tough to change direction.
Here are some common job-hunting traps and how to avoid them:
*Waiting for potential employers to contact you or to get back to you. Face it, it simply won’t happen. Especially these days, when recruiting positions have been cut and managers are filling jobs in addition to handling other duties, often they are too busy to focus on anything but that day’s work. Through polite persistence (and always remain polite and deferential — the best way to assure you won’t be hired is to become an annoying and demanding pest), you need to keep your candidacy alive. If a hiring manager or organization shows interest in you, follow up right away and be in touch regularly with email updates on your free-lance or consulting work (with attached clips and links) and reminders about your interest in their organization. You can’t take it “personally” if you seem to be doing all the work here — that’s just the way it is these days. Seek to get an informational or standard interview so that they’ve met you and will become an advocate for you within the organization. And then stay in touch so that when an opening pops up unexpectedly — as they so often do — your name and resume will be at the top of their list.
*Heading down one path at a time. Though it may seem like an organized strategy to focus on going after one opening after another, that’s not very realistic in this competitive job market. It’s better to find several organizations where you want to work and then (following the advice in the previous item) simultaneously target your efforts to try to land interviews with multiple hiring managers. That way, if you strike out at one place, you’re not starting all over again. It’s also better for your ego to have plenty of possibilities. And if you end up with multiple offers, so much the better — that puts you in a stronger negotiating position.
*Expecting your experience and expertise to speak for itself. Mid-career and senior professionals, especially if they haven’t conducted a job search in years or if they’re job hunting while still employed, often start off a search thinking that their stellar resume and impressive reputation will automatically land them interviews and offers. Some hiring managers have told me that respected journalists taking buyouts have called them and wanted to know when they should come by for an interview — expecting that because they were available doors would simply open for them. No matter how experienced you are, these days you’re going to need to work hard to even get a chance to pitch your skills. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can develop a realistic game plan and strategy.
*Focusing too much effort making online connections. Networking is definitely the key to any successful job search these days and social networking must be part of that. But even as you develop an online profile and make connections in the virtual world, you must meet and greet in the old-fashioned sense as well. Facebook friends are not the same as friends and contacts in the real world. Indeed, online connections are valuable because they lead to real connections — you want to follow up with new (and old) friends online with phone calls and in-person meetings. Social networking is a valuable tool in a job search but it’s only a tool and not an end in itself, keep that in mind and apportion your time online accordingly.