August 4, 2010
Top mistakes job seekers make that cost them the job
I recently spoke with Dan Schawbel, an expert on personal branding and the best-selling author of "Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success." Dan and I discussed many mistakes novice job seekers make that keep them unemployed:
Relying on traditional job-seeking techniques. Applying through classified ads, online job boards and corporate websites is just the first step today. Since these techniques are easy, competition is extremely high. While it's great to use these sources to find out about openings, there are additional effective ways to get noticed by the employer.
For example, employers want to see that you have targeted them specifically. You can do that by finding referrals inside the company, setting up informational interviews or meeting hiring managers at company-sponsored events. If you decide to use the online technique, make sure to custom-tailor your cover letter, resume and search specifically to the employer's job descriptions.
Doing it by yourself. Seattle is a word-of-mouth town. Trying to job-search alone will not only make it harder, it can be daunting. Schawbel suggests letting your network know you're looking. I agree, however, I caution you to reach out to those with whom you have a good relationship. The last thing someone wants to experience is that they haven't heard from you in 15 years and now you're reaching out to them because you need something.
Elevator pitches. This old concept -- carried over from sales -- has created a negative experience for people networking. The elevator pitch is a 30- to 60-second statement you use when you meet someone to tell them who you are, what you do and what you're looking for. Whether you're the one delivering or receiving the pitch, it not only doesn't feel natural, it can corner you and cost you a relationship. Relationships can't be built in 60 seconds, plain and simple. If you're an introvert -- and many people in Seattle are -- giving the pitch won't feel natural and will therefore make you uncomfortable. Even if you can overcome this, the person receiving the pitch will feel he or she is "being sold to" or pressured. My advice: Drop the elevator pitch and focus on building effective relationships instead.
Poor attitude. Job seekers with poor attitudes will turn off professional contacts, colleagues and hiring managers. Your beliefs about the job market will affect your attitude. I met a job seeker last year who told me, "No one is hiring technical writers." I told him that I have helped several technical writers recently and they all got hired. He said, "That rarely happens in our industry; believe me, no one is hiring." This gentleman held onto his belief so strongly, he is still looking. When I see him at networking events, he looks defeated. He is pessimistic and no one wants to help him. He has created his own reality.
The way to overcome these top mistakes is to choose a successful peer group; peers who are more positive than you are, more connected and who are willing to help you. If you notice someone in your family, friends or job group complaining about the market, how hard it is to find a job or discouraging you in general, you need to spend less time with that person.
In my next post, I'll give you some effective strategies on how to find a job in today's challenging job market and how to make this process easier.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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