We have, over the last few weeks, discussed many of the most frequent errors job seekers make during their searches. Now, we’ve saved the issue for last that I think is most common.
The majority of us, I believe, are unprepared when the need to job search arises. Let’s review some of the issues we notice:
- We have not maintained a network,
- Our LinkedIn profile is not complete,
- We are not active on LinkedIn,
- Our resume is not ready,
- We lack a job search letter strategy, and
- Financial preparation is not adequate.
We have not maintained a network.
A previous post noted that it is important to have a network of industry and professional contacts, and keep in touch with them. Many of us do not keep in touch with our network.
Sometimes there are valid reasons for not maintaining contact with certain people. Our organization may discourage us from speaking with competitors, or it is difficult to make casual phone calls during the day. Or we are simply too busy. Chances are, though, that we could maintain contact with most of our network.
If you do not have any professional contacts at all—and most of us have a network of contacts even if we do not realize it—start before you need it. Join professional organizations that meet outside of work hours either in-person or online, for example. And become active on LinkedIn.
We lack a complete—or any—LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn has become an essential job search and business communications tool. It’s so important that recruiters have told me they may not take a job seeker seriously if they have less than 50 contacts in their LinkedIn network.
Certain recruiters start their talent searches on LinkedIn instead of using a resume database. LinkedIn’s algorithms and AI functions may not include your profile in their search results if the core sections are not complete, and you have very few contacts.
The LinkedIn profile is just a starting point. We have to use the profile as part of a networking strategy or it won’t work for us.
We are not active on LinkedIn.
I’ve built profiles with clients on a few occasions, and then learned they have gotten poor results. When this happens I usually find the client has not used the profile. A job seeker I worked with, for example, had only 19 contacts in his LinkedIn network. He had not posted anything, replied to posts made by others, or participated in LinkedIn groups.
You are unlikely to get results from LinkedIn unless you are active because it is like many real-world professional and social organizations. People will not know you unless you participate.
Our resume is not ready.
Every week I get calls from people that have no resume at all. Sometimes, the job seeker has worked for years in a construction trade, transportation, fine arts, performing arts, or civil service occupation where they did not need a resume.
It’s a good thing if you have been in a job where you have not had to worry about maintaining a resume or LinkedIn profile for years. That probably means you have been earning a good living, and have had a job you liked, or even loved. The reality is that jobs at all levels can end suddenly with little warning, so it’s best to be prepared. On the other hand, promotion and transfer opportunities can also appear with little notice, require an immediate response, including a resume even when the bosses know you well.
Ideally, you should have a well-designed, accomplishment-based resume saved and ready to go at all times. If you cannot invest the time to do this, maintain records of your achievements so it’s easier to prepare a resume on short notice later.
It’s relatively easy to keep track of business accomplishments. Save your annual assessments if your organization provides them. Keep copies of award letters, award citations, or complementary letters, especially if they contain substantive information about the reason for an award. If you work in a field where your work is published, there is a record of these publications on a Website in many cases. Make sure you have the link so you can find the information later. For example, I co-authored a government report 25 years ago, and can still find it online.
I’ve written resumes that have landed interviews and jobs for clients based, in part, on annual performance assessments and online examples of published work for executives and online discographies for performing artists.
We do not have a job search letter strategy.
A related issue is that most of us do not have a job search letter strategy. A job search letter strategy is what most of us referred to in the past as writing a cover letter.
There is some debate on whether hiring team members still look at cover letters. Some read them and some ignore them, so we have to be prepared. Many online application sites offer the opportunity to upload a letter, and there are strategies to “sneak in” a letter, even if the site you are applying through does not offer a separate cover letter upload opportunity.
You can send a cover letter as a second or third-page of the resume file you upload to an employer.
We have covered job search letter writing strategy in more detail elsewhere in this blog. For now, remember that each letter should address the employer by name, and then explain how your credentials specifically match the employer’s job requirements.
You are not financially prepared for a job search.
Reportedly, many Americans have $400 or less saved for emergencies such as job loss. Unemployment insurance benefits and severance pay, if offered, may cushion the blow but these payments will usually not replace your previous income. If saving enough money to protect against loss of income is not practical, it is especially important to be prepared so your job search is as short as possible. Develop a resume and LinkedIn profile you can easily update, keep in contact with your industry and professional network, and be prepared to show employers how you match their requirements so you can include effective letters with your application.