In my line of work, I talk with job seekers and candidates on a daily basis. And whenever I speak with them about their search efforts, the responses I hear are rarely positive. Job searches are stressful for 75 percent of candidates (an actual statistic!) because they don’t produce the results people are seeking. So they are often stressed about finding their next position because what they are doing is not working for them.
As I write this post, I am also preparing for a networking meeting for job seekers under the same title – “Avoiding Job Search Quicksand.” There is a real need for job seekers to be more thoughtful and strategic in looking for their next position. A job search is often not an activity that people plan for or even anticipate and when the need arises, there is no road map to help job seekers.
So, this post offers a few tips to plan for and navigate an effective job search. Here are a few thoughts that I hope prove to be beneficial:
Looking For a Job – Is a Job
This often goes without saying, but the realization, mentality and effort behind WORKING a job should be there even when LOOKING for a job. It is work that requires thoughtful discipline, planning and effort. A healthy mindset that sees this as an opportunity versus an obstacle and as well as a commitment to take advantage of the season and to work hard, to try a new approach, to push into a new challenge or even a new career path.
One of my mentors said to me several years ago that when you fall down, you need to get up and make a greater commitment. It’s not just about getting up but doing something greater, stronger with more diligence and a resolve to keep moving forward.
Stop “Spraying & Praying”
When recruiters are desperate to find candidates to fill a job, they often will “Post & Pray”, which simply means they post a job on a job board and pray a great candidate sees it and applies. It rarely works like that!
Candidates also have a desperation approach called “Spray & Pray.” This approach is simply to apply to as many jobs as possible, “spraying” applications and resumes across the universe and then praying something sticks, a recruiter will call and make an offer. And like in the recruiter world – it rarely works this way!
J.T. O’Donnell wrote a great post on this topic. In her article, she writes: “Studies show less than 3 percent of people who apply online ever get contacted by the employer. That’s because the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that stores your information is designed to weed out anyone that isn’t an exact match to the qualifications the hiring manager wants. Thanks to online technology, companies get hundreds even thousands of applicants for jobs. The “one-click-and-apply” buttons may make it easier in terms of you giving the employer your credentials, but it’s also dramatically increased your competition. Everyone is applying, which reduces the chances of you getting called in for an interview!”
Job seekers revert to spending the bulk of their time applying to jobs, in part, because this is the one approach they have control over and can be done any time and anywhere. And when people get desperate, they start applying to positions they weren’t targeting and start “spraying” their resumes and applications at anything that looks remotely interesting. The thought becomes – “surely someone will call me for SOMETHING I have applied to; so the more applications and resumes I submit, the greater my chance for an interview.” In doing this, you lose your focus, become desperate and your mindset spirals down and you forget about your goals and where you want to be. This mindset filters through when recruiters see multiple applications in their recruiting platforms from the same person as well as in your networking conversations and interviews.
The #1 tool used by recruiters is LinkedIn, so it makes sense that job seekers and those who desire a career change establish a presence on LinkedIn and use it well. Here are the main ways job seekers should leverage LinkedIn:
- Set Up Your Basic Info – Have a professional photo on your profile; list a strong summary statement about who you are / what you do; ensure that your contact info is available for recruiters to get in touch with you.
- Create a Strong Profile – Your profile should be a compliment to your resume and include details and accomplishments across your career; use images, web links, projects that highlight your positions and work experience. Include personal info regarding volunteer work and values that are important to you.
- Get Recommendations – Ask previous managers, former colleagues, direct reports and clients to write a recommendation for you. An array of professional recommendations on your profile can persuade a hiring manager or recruiter to reach out to you.
- Establish Connections – One of the best resources on LinkedIn is the people you connect with. Be very thoughtful and strategic in developing your connections on LinkedIn and take into account location, industry, target company, role and position level, and more. Your LinkedIn connections can help you establish a strong professional network. Set weekly targets to expand your network and leverage it in your networking efforts (see notes on networking below).
- Make Yourself Visible – After you have established a strong profile and connections pool, use LinkedIn to help people become aware of you via content you post and share, comments you write on other people’s posts, groups you are part of and articles you write on LinkedIn. All of these avenues are ways you can share your insights, expertise and professional views that will circulate across your network and allow others to see what you’re all about.
Invest In Networking
If only 3-4 percent of applicants earn an interview, it makes sense that job seekers spend their search efforts on activities that bring good results. I read recently that good networking increases your odds of search success to 33 – 47%. Just look at the data and odds of success and you will quickly see that networking is a much better investment of time and energy and, in addition helps you to grow your web of influence that can benefit others as well.
The single most important facet of your job search is networking. Your network is unique to you and when it is well developed it becomes your strongest asset.
One of the great benefits of a strong network and spending time developing your connections is that there is a tremendous mutual benefit that develops. Yes, networking is a tremendous resource for personal career growth but it gives us all opportunities to support others and serve as a resource to them. So networking in its truest sense, is not about one person’s benefit, but is truly an opportunity to connect, learn and consider how each person can support others.
In all of my years of corporate recruiting, I found at each company I worked that the best source of talent was personal referrals. As you grow your network and connect with people directly, they may remember the time they had coffee with you or an email exchange you shared and, as a result, refer you to a hiring manager or recruiter as opportunities cross their radar.
Where To Spend Your Time
A shift in focus, mindset and effort is in order for most job seekers to really see progress in their job searches. Hannah Morgan lays out a clear plan in her post on “How To Invest Your Time Wisely For a Successful Job Search.” This is where she recommends that job seekers spend their time:
- 70% – Networking Related Activities
- 10% – Job Postings
- 10% – Agency / 3rd Party Recruiters
- 10% – Career Fairs, College, Print
Clearly, a shift in priorities is in order and most job seekers should readily agree. This kind of shift will also require a change in mindset and effort, as elevating networking over “spraying and praying” will be more challenging right out of the gate. The need to make a greater commitment is evident, but with thoughtful planning, work and patience as outlined in this post, it will pay off.
Free yourself from the quicksand and enjoy exploring the opportunities that lie ahead of you.