One of the things I hated most as a job seeker was job search experts who said I would not get a job unless I did things their way. Fortunately, there are few right or wrong answers on the best job search approaches—there are only best practices. Job seekers with terrible resumes, for example, (in my opinion) sometimes land jobs fast, and those with great resumes take more time than expected to land.
Nonetheless, there are mistakes that may hinder your job search based on research and experience. Here are seven of them.
- Not asking others for help weakens your job search.
When someone asks you for help in their job search, you willingly offer it (if you’re able), don’t you? In fact, many of us that work in career services started out sharing expertise with friends and co-workers because we really wanted to help.
So why is it that we’re so reluctant to ask others for their help when we need it? People like to help other people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. But make sure you’re asking for the right kind of help. Ask specific questions: “Do you know anyone who works for Company XYZ?” “How did you get your job at Organization ABC?” “Would you mind helping me practice my interview answers?”
It’s difficult to help, for example, if you tell us you are looking for “any job.” Employers don’t post “any job.” They post specific jobs, so it really helps to tell your industry and professional contacts, as well as your friends and family, specifically what you are looking for, and why you qualify that specific job.
2. Only applying for advertised jobs will limit your opportunities.
Research reported in The New York Times and elsewhere shows that up to three quarters of job openings are never advertised publicly. Many of these are filled through employee referrals and word of mouth.
You can apply to a company and find a job that doesn’t even exist yet. Yes, companies do create jobs. Sometimes they will meet a candidate and not have a current opening that would be a match. In that case, they may create a new position that takes advantage of the candidate’s knowledge and experience.
While a scattershot approach will work if a random company just happens to need your skills, it is inefficient. It is more efficient to identify jobs that are not advertised by using your network of industry and professional contacts.
3. Networking the wrong way is also ineffective.
Career coaches and job placement specialists say the best way to get a job is through a network of personal contacts. We all have a network, even if we do not realize it.
Second only to not using your network at all is using it incorrectly. Your network is comprised of all the people that you know and also all the people that they know. Don’t just think that because you don’t personally know anyone who works for Company ABC that you’re out of luck using your network. Ask the people you know who they know.
Remember that networking requires relationship building and relationship management. If you haven’t talked to someone for five years, don’t let your first contact with them be, “Hey, can you help me get a job at your company?” Author Harvey Mackay has a great book on this: “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.”
LinkedIn and other social media makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with people you have worked with and went to school with. Establish a LinkedIn profile if you do not have one, and then start searching for people you know from school, work, and elsewhere so you can arrange to chat with them.
4. Don’t unintentionally broadcasting your job search.
If you’re currently employed, be careful with your job search. Don’t set up a LinkedIn profile and send out so many connection requests that you go from 0 to 500 connections in a week. Be thoughtful about your job search, and deliberate. Turn off the setting that sends notifications to others in LinkedIn, especially as you build your profile. Don’t apply to job postings that don’t specify the employer. (That perfect job you’re applying for might be your current position!) And be sure to let any recruiters you’re working with know that you’re conducting a confidential job search.
5. Not doing your homework could result in not getting the job.
Most of us despised homework when we were in school. Then, when we graduated into a business or profession, we found “homework” was essential prior to any business meeting. Job search is another business process, so it’s valuable here, too.
You wouldn’t buy a car without researching the brand, make, and model a bit first, would you? Then why would you go to an interview, or any other business meeting, without first doing a Google search on the company, looking at their website, and studying what they do? It’s easier than ever these days to not only research the company, but also the person interviewing you and you may even be able to find out the salary range for your position at that company!
6. Not asking about the next step may leave you in limbo.
You’re finishing the interview. The interviewer asks if you have any questions. You don’t ask any. They shake your hand and you leave.
You’ve missed a huge opportunity. Thank the interviewer for his or her time. Tell them you’re very interested in the position and then ask what the next step is! “Is there anything else you need from me at this point? What’s the next step? Can I follow up with you next week if I haven’t heard back from you? Would you prefer I call or send you an email?”
Most of us have been taught to ask about next steps at the end of any business meeting. Job search meetings are no exception.
7. Badmouthing your current employer is not good business.
Even if you’re unhappy in your current job, keep that to yourself. Don’t post negative status updates on social media and do not say anything about your current employer when interviewing for a new job. Stick to phrases like, “I am looking for a new challenge,” or “I’m looking to use my skills and experience in a new setting, and when I heard about this opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up.”
The “no badmouthing” rule is good business practice in many professional and social situations. Your current employer may have even had you sign a “non-disparagement” agreement when you onboarded with them. Unfortunately, there are still more common job search mistakes we’d like job seekers to avoid. As a result, we’ll continue this series nest week.