Of all the questions I get from people looking for work these days, one tends to stand out from the rest: "What are the biggest mistakes that job seekers make?"
In today's struggling employment market, there's been some fine-tuning in terms of how people look for work, but in truth, the basic job search process has changed very little. Neither have the mistakes people make, whatever their job, level of expertise, age, education or intellect. Like many situations for which there's little available training, employees on a job search often show a mysterious lack of common sense, becoming victims of their own ineptitude.
So what are some of these classic blunders that even seasoned professionals make? What are their consequences, and most importantly, how can you avoid falling into their traps? Here are a few of the screw ups that can stop you from getting a good job in today's economy:
- You never figure out what you really want in your career.
- a. You miss a golden opportunity to identify the skills, interests, values, and personality traits that can help you get ahead, contribute to employers and build long-term career satisfaction.
- b. If you don't figure out what you have to offer employers, and what your long-term career goals are, it's likely you won't be able seek help in achieving them.
- c. Job seekers often wind up considering lousy job opportunities. Without a clear sense of what you can do and where you want to go, you could get stuck in a job that's completely wrong for you without even knowing it!
- The skills you enjoy the most.
- Your most unique knowledge or technical skill.
- Your best personality traits.
- The working environment you feel suits you the best.
- You don't do any prior research on a job, company or industry before sending out your resume or going to a job interview.
- a. From an employer's perspective, job seekers who show up at an interview with no knowledge of the opening or company seem more interested in themselves than the job they're pursuing. Only an employee with truly outstanding credentials will manage to land a job without properly researching the company.
- b. Without knowing in advance about the company or the job, you miss the opportunity to pre-test whether your skills will be a good match for a position. This makes it hard for you to make a case to HR for why they should hire you, since you can't even explain why you'd be a good fit for their job.
- c. Just as with mistake #1, this wastes both employers' time and your own, since you'll wind up expending your energy chasing the wrong positions.
The Right Approach
For a successful job search, you need to know both what you want from your career, and what you have to offer potential employers. In other words, you must develop a benchmark job description. Before you start networking or applying for jobs, think carefully about your personal preferences for the following:
Once you've identified these elements, combine them into a cohesive paragraph that will also serve as your 2 minute "elevator pitch." This way, when you're deep in your job search, you'll still have the self awareness necessary to help make the right decisions.
The Right Approach
Learn as much as you can about the company and job you're pursuing by using a combination of research techniques. Google background info on them, read their annual reports and articles about them in trade journals.
In addition, use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to look up contacts who work for the company you're pursuing, then see if they can connect you with someone better than HR. Of course, it's important to give as well as get information, so make sure you have something to offer fellow networkers. And don't be shy asking for help – remember, people generally like to help, especially if they feel they're giving you special, "inside information."