This article is for people who have been on the job search for more than 9 months. This seems to be a critical point at which people come to terms with the fact that it’s not the economy but their job search approach that is preventing them from getting a job.
After several conversations with people who are completely frustrated in their job search and those who are trying to support them, I saw some common threads. For numerous reasons, these job seekers haven’t been able to secure a job but a few stuck out. One big reason is that they underestimated how long it would take to get another job. These are people who never had to look for a job because good job opportunities always came their way, and they took them. They assumed the same would happen this time around. It didn’t. This economic downturn is different and many people have to actually look for a job for the first time in a long time.
If you’ve been actively in the job search for 9 months or more and aren’t getting offers, you may need to change your job search strategy. Below are tips for how to get through some common pitfalls where job seekers get off track.
Get focused- It’s absolutely critical to have a job target before you can have an effective job search. You don’t have to spend hours or weeks figuring it out, but you need to have a target. The focus informs your entire approach from how you craft your resume and cover letter, to which companies you approach, to what you say when networking. Lack of focus in your job search wastes valuable time.
Manage your time- You’ve heard the saying “searching for a job is a job.” What does that mean to you? Many people take that phrase literally meaning that they need to spend 8 hours a day working on their job search. Most people who have jobs aren’t productive for 8 hours every day. So, spending 8 hours a day on busy work that doesn’t produce results is just a waste of time. Too many people spend too much time searching for jobs online. If you’ve been using job boards as your primary source for job leads, you’re wasting precious time and missing tons of opportunities. Other job search time wasters are spending time and resources attending networking events or job fairs but not following up. I recommend the book, “Get Hired Now!” for guidance on using your job search time effectively.
Analyze costs and benefits– The phrase “penny rich, pound foolish” often comes to mind when I talk with job seekers. It amazes me what people will spend money on in the job search. People will pay money for a service to send their resume to hundreds of unknown companies but won’t spend $1 for help from a professional resume writer or career counselor. Or, they use only free services that don’t really help them or produce any results. At even the suggestion that they consider paying for assistance they cringe. We all like free stuff, but if it’s not working perhaps it time to pay for more in depth expertise. Career counselors, career coaches and resume writers help people prepare for the job market. Spending even 1 hour with a career professional will be money well spent.
Fill the gaps- No matter what people say, employment gaps can and will impact your ability to get a job. Sure, employers will be sympathetic of the gaps given the tough job market but only to a point. When I talk with someone who has been unemployed for more than 9 months, I always ask what they’ve been doing. I’m looking for initiative, creativity and if they are using their time productively. You need to find a way to fill those gaps. It could be taking classes to refresh, improve or learn new skills. It could be volunteering for a non-profit. It could be project work. I know there are tons of opportunities out there to learn or be of service. It’s a good way to spend your time and in fact, can help you get focused, expand your network and improve your job prospects.
Get cash flowing- You can only cut back so much. So, unless you decide to live a dramatically scaled back lifestyle, you need to get some cash coming in. If you think about one way businesses make money, it’s on incremental revenues. Products and time are broken down into units. You might need to take that approach, even if it’s not ideal. A lot of job seekers want to hold out for the perfect “big” job rather than considering a more modest job that brings money in. Do the math, if you reject the modest jobs for 9 months trying to land the big job that might not appear, not only will you leave yourself in a deeper hole financially, you’ll also have a longer employment gap.
Get connected online– It’s a mistake to dismiss social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as child’s play and a waste of time. The tools are what you make of them, and they are powerful ways to connect with people who have jobs or information about jobs and to get visible. People post opportunities all the time that are passed along to others throughout the network. Maintaining an active LinkedIn account is an absolute must for all serious job-seekers.