What To Do When Your Job Search Isn’t Working (Part 1)

 In Job Search Strategy

There are plenty of smart, successful people who struggle with finding jobs and/or a satisfying career. Why is this? Many times, they don’t know how to look for work. Most people have never been taught how to find a new job. So they do the things that they “think” they should do — applying for positions online, posting their résumé on job boards, and even creating a LinkedIn profile (even if they’re not sure what to do with it). But when they don’t get the results they want, they get stuck. With no immediate results, it’s easy to get frustrated. Many times, they won’t hear anything back at all from their applications, so they’re not sure how to move forward.

Before we look at the reasons why you might be lost or stuck, ask yourself some “bigger picture” questions:

  • Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing? (Is the work I’m doing the “right job” or is it just “a job”?)
  • Do I have the skills, experience, and/or qualifications necessary for the jobs I’m pursuing (if I’m being really honest with myself)?
  • Have I conducted informational interviews to really understand the needs of employers for the types of jobs I’m pursuing — and to make new connections?
  • Is there another way I can use my skills? (Making a change doesn’t always require going back to school or making a “big” change. It can simply mean using your skills in a new or different way.)
  • Does finding another job in this field require something that I haven’t done yet? For example, a move? Taking a lateral position (maybe even with a pay cut) because it will mean developing a new skill set that offers more room for growth? A change in focus?
  • Have I asked someone I know/like/trust for their honest feedback about how I’m presenting myself in my job search? Have I asked for feedback from hiring managers after interviews for jobs that I haven’t been offered?
  • Am I really doing the “work” of conducting a job search, or am I just doing things that are “easy” or “comfortable” for me

People who are most successful in finding — and landing — the job they want have several things in common:

  1. Clearly defined goals — and the ability to research how to accomplish those goals. This includes identifying companies you’re interested in working for, potential job titles, contact information for people in the position to hire you (or connect you to the hiring manager), and knowledge of the company.
  2. The willingness to invest time, energy, and money in their job search. This includes a strong résumé and other career communication documents, the right interview attire, career assessments, coaching to improve skills necessary for success in the job search (i.e., interview preparation, salary negotiation), etc.
  3. The ability to document specific achievements and accomplishments in their education, work experience, and/or volunteer work.

If your job search isn’t working, it’s time to do something different. Treat your job search as a project, with defined objectives, an action plan, and a timeline. Ask someone you trust (a spouse, friend, another jobseeker, or a career coach or counselor) to be your accountability partner — someone who will support, encourage, and motivate you in your job search.

The first step is to figure out where you’re stuck.

There are several areas where you might be having difficulty. If you are having trouble in more than one area, start with the first reason and “fix” that before you move on to the next area.

Don’t Know What You Want? Stop and Engage in Self-Examination

A successful job search requires that you identify and articulate your “career vision” — the type of work environment, location and lifestyle, and job you want — so that when you look for potential job opportunities, you can see if it will be a good fit, based on your identified values.

Author Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” The same is true in your job search. People who say, “I just want a job, any job” will actually have a harder time finding a job than someone who knows what they want!

With that in mind:

  • Have you clearly defined what kind of job you want? You don’t have to limit your search to this company profile, but defining what kind of environment is most attractive to you is a good place to start.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What am I good at?
    • What am I not so good at?
    • What do I like doing?
    • What skills do I need to update in order to stay current?
  • Next, can you clearly describe the value you would bring to the company? In her book, Résumé Magic, author Susan Whitcomb identifies 12 specific needs most companies have. These include the company’s desire to:
    • Make money.
    • Save money.
    • Save time.
    • Make work easier.
    • Solve a specific problem.
    • Be more competitive.
    • Build relationship / an image.
    • Expand business.
    • Attract new customers.
    • Retain existing customers.

Think about how you’re able to help an employer meet these “employer buying motivators.”

Once you’re able to define who you are and who you want to work for, then move on to the next step.

Not Getting Interviews? Re-Examine Your Résumé

A professionally written résumé is ideally suited for one particular job target. This may be a specific job title (“administrative assistant”) or several jobs that are similarly suited — for example, senior accountant/finance manager/chief financial officer. If you’re not getting calls for interviews, your résumé may be the issue.

Take a look at your résumé:

  • If your résumé was professionally written, have you changed the wording from the original version? Did you change anything on the recommendation of a friend or colleague? Did you “water down” the language by adding or removing information?
  • Did you give the résumé writer the strongest examples of your accomplishments — and quantify them with numbers, percentages, and dollars (whenever possible)?
  • Are you using the résumé to apply for different positions than it was originally intended? (For example, if the résumé was developed to pursue a teaching position but you’re using it to apply for a job at a nonprofit.)

If you wrote the résumé yourself — or had a friend or relative write it — consider having it reviewed by a professional résumé writer (me!)  I will give you objective advice about whether it meets today’s standards. If not, consider hiring a professional. Together we will develop a résumé that will “sell” you as an ideal candidate for a particular job title. Through decades of experience, I find that self-written résumés miss the mark in two critical areas:

  1. The candidate’s value proposition — what differentiates you from the competition — is missing, and
  2. Accomplishments or contributions delivered in past jobs aren’t defined. If we can demonstrate that you were an asset to your past employer, the reader of your résumé will want to meet you.

If it’s not the résumé or job target, it may be your job search tactics. One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

  • How are you using the résumé? Are you getting it in the hands of a hiring decision-maker for the type of job you want?
  • Are you spending enough time on your job search? If you’re not working, commit yourself to a minimum of 40 hours per week devoted to your job search. If you are working, devote at least 20 hours each week to finding a new job.
  • Work smarter, not harder. If you’re applying for 20 jobs online, you may think that you need to apply for 40 jobs. Instead, re-examine how you’re finding out about and applying for positions.

Next month I’ll share tactics for conducting a successful job search.

Kathy Keshemberg is a Nationally Certified Resume Writer and Certified Career Management Coach. Since 1983, she has created thousands of interview-winning resumes and related job-search materials for satisfied clients around the world. Need assistance with your career? We’re here to help! www.acareeradvantage.com

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