How Long Should I Wait to Find My Ideal Job?

How Long Should I Wait to Find My Ideal Job?

Taunee Besson, CMF, Senior Columnist

Q: I'm looking for a job after graduating college with a degree in Speech Communication. I've applied for countless jobs over the past month and had only one interview. The interview seemed promising but I haven't heard back in almost a week. Is it improper to call the employer to ask how things are going? Also, given the bad economy, how long does an average job search take these days? I'm wondering if I should lower my expectations, but I'm afraid if I do that I'll just wind up waiting tables again.

A: You're concerned about three important issues that are on the minds of many job seekers today. Let's take them one at a time.

Employers want people who want to work for them. Your follow up call says you want to be a part of their team.

If you haven't written a thank you note yet, email one right away (you can also snail mail, but that's becoming less common). Be sure to mention specifically why the job interests you, what makes you uniquely qualified for it and how much you want the job. A great thank you note often means the difference between getting an offer and being a runner-up.

If you're new to the communications job market, you're probably looking for a position in the high $20,000 to mid $30,000 range. Typically your job search will take two to three months. However, given that we are currently emerging from a period of high unemployment, don't be scared if that time period is doubled – after all, there are a lot of people in the same place as you right now.

Contrary to popular opinion, it's usually just as hard to land a job that's below your level as one you're qualified for. Why? Employers assume that most overqualified candidates will quit as soon as a better opportunity comes along, and try to avoid hiring them.

  1. It's definitely appropriate to inquire about the status of the job, unless the interviewer has specifically said something like "Don't call us, we'll call you."
  2. While there's no average length for a job search (especially in today's job market), the rule of thumb has traditionally been one month for each $10,000 in salary that you want.
  3. Don't lower your expectations unless you face eviction.

You say you've applied for countless positions in the last month. How selective have you been? Where are you finding these openings? My guess is you are already lowering your expectations by sending the same resume to every halfway decent listing you see. If this is true, try changing your approach. Put together an ideal job description, and respond only to the positions that closely match it. Customize each resume to what each job is looking for.

In addition, try doing a little networking before submitting your application. Employers want to hire candidates they know and trust, so giving yourself an "in" with the company can be a great help in moving your resume to the top of the pile. If you concentrate your job search, follow up on applications and above all remember not to panic, you'll be a great position to find a job you really want.

Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.

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