It’s with good reason we’ve all heard that finding a job is a full-time job. But job seekers struggle with making meaningful use of their time. It’s one thing to invest the time; it is quite another to feel like you’re being productive.
Here are six of the biggest time wasters you’ll need to overcome.
The Application Black Hole
Online job applications are often long and tedious. They give you a false sense of productivity – that feeling that you are “doing” something about your job search. But deep down, you know they are relatively passive, extremely ineffective, and leave you with only a sliver of hope that anything will come of it.
David Perry’s research demonstrates that “In reality, job boards account for about 3% of the available jobs. Monster and CareerBuilder, for example, each have approximately 75,000 customers. While that’s huge, it represents just a fraction of the 10,000,000 employers in the United States.”[i]
He goes on to state what every knowledgeable career professional will tell you, “In general, you will be much more effective in your job search if you are identifying and targeting companies and hiring managers and then powerfully conveying to them the value you can deliver versus going after the posted jobs that most everyone else is going after. However, there will be times when a posted opportunity is worthy of your consideration. The best way to separate yourself from the masses is still to identify the potential hiring manager(s) and connect with them directly, versus simply applying online, which, most likely, will only take you into the proverbial black hole.”[ii]
Endlessly Tweaking Your Resume
Most jobseekers entertain the fantasy that if they can only get their resume just right, it will be eagerly welcomed by recruiters and decision-makers alike with dancing and shouts of “We found her!”
The truth is, for most of us, no matter how carefully we have crafted our resume, it probably doesn’t look very different from other resumes. By the time someone actually looks at it, assuming anyone looks at it at all, they are probably tired of looking at resumes. Employers typically receive hundreds— in some cases, thousands—of resumes per job opening. The laws of supply and demand tell us that the more attractive a job, the more resumes they will receive. Think about that. Your odds are better for the less attractive job. Is this really the way you want to play this game?
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying a bad resume will suffice. You need a resume that emphasizes your accomplishments with brief stories of the difference you have made. If your job history is clean and progresses nicely in an industry, make it chronological. If your job history is a little choppy with changes in industry, make it functional. In either case, make it strong. Then forget about it. Move on to the real work of targeted contact development.
The term “recruiter” can mean many things. It may refer to an internal recruiter that works for an employer as part of their human resource department. It may also refer to headhunters, search firms, staffing firms, or employment agencies. Generally, employment agencies focus on lower level clerical administrative positions and some entry-level jobs. Search firms and headhunters typically specialize within an industry and focus on executive, managerial, and professional positions. Staffing firms typically work with people in more technical roles.
In all cases, the term “recruiter” implies someone who is working on behalf of an employer, not a job seeker. They’re looking for a candidate that meets the qualifications of the job order they have been given. If they see you as eminently qualified, you will have their attention. At the highest levels of employment, you don’t find the recruiter; the recruiter finds you.
If you have had a conversation with a recruiter and have not heard from them in a while, it is acceptable to follow up with them. But don’t be surprised if you don’t get a response. At this point, there’s a fine line between being persistent and looking desperate. Badgering a recruiter with lots of emails and phone calls is far more likely to hurt than help you. Preserve your dignity. Move on.
Lost in LinkedIn
With social media, it’s easy to get lost in the options and forget why you’re there. You may start out with the real purpose of making contacts and doing some research. But next thing you know, your time is frittered away reading posts and articles, and endlessly editing your profile.
Social networks, particularly LinkedIn, can be great as a research and contact development tool. But if you have added a contact to your network, you really don’t have much unless there’s been some real communication. By real communication, I mean something more than letting them know you’re looking and asking them to let you know if they are aware of opportunities. A meaningful dialogue online or through email regarding your interests, value proposition, and their knowledge of an industry or company might be a good start. It’s even better if that dialogue happens by phone and best if it happens in person at some place like Starbucks.
With LinkedIn, your best results will likely come through second-level contacts – someone who knows someone who knows you.
When I ask jobseekers what they have been doing in order to find the right opportunity, they typically respond with what they’ve been doing in terms of applying on company websites and job boards, and learning to use LinkedIn. And then they will say something like, “…and, oh yeah, networking.”
When I inquire about what exactly they have been doing in their networking, I typically hear things like:
“I’ve gotten together with a few old friends for lunch or coffee to see if they know of any openings.”
“I sent an email to everyone in my network to let them know I’m available and looking.”
Let’s be clear. Neither of these remotely resembles networking.
Networking at its most basic level will involve developing new contacts.
Networking at its best is a strategic, targeted contact development process in which you are communicating a personal brand, asking discerning questions to gain relevant information, and offering your assistance for the career objectives of your new contact.
You want to work to create dialogue with:
1. Influential people in your target industries
2. Decision-makers in your target companies
3. People at any level working in the companies and industries that interest you.
When talking to people that you already know, start with this simple question: “Who do you know in the __________ industry?” Or, “Who do you know that works at __________ company?”
When approaching someone you don’t know for a conversation, say something like: “As someone knowledgeable about the __________ industry, I’m hoping you might share briefly your insights regarding current industry trends and its future direction in our area.”
As you methodically make contacts and communicate your personal brand, you will create a critical level of activity where opportunities will begin to develop informally. This will, by far, be the best use of your time.
A job search is challenging enough without the added frustration of wasted, unproductive time. Regularly evaluate your use of time in your job search and consider having a friend or coach provide some accountability.
The truly productive activities seem like more work. However, they will move you much more effectively toward your goal of a new job, and they will almost always result in a better opportunity.
[i] Jay Conrad Levinson and David E. Perry, Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0 (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 190.
[ii] Levinson and Perry, Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0, 176-177.
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