You want a new job. Or maybe you need one.
You’re scanning postings, emailing former colleagues, applying and applying and applying some more. You’ve got this job search thing down cold.
Uh, maybe not. Although every job seeker’s situation is different, many fall into the same traps. Whether you are out of work or looking for a better gig than your current one, you first have to do a good job of looking for a job. Here’s how to get it right.
Don’t Do This: Rush to update your resume and start applying to dozens of jobs.
Do This: Slow it down. Take a deep breath. Jumping ahead quickly usually doesn’t land you a job, especially a good one. Calmly evaluate your situation and your goals. Do a thorough and honest evaluation of your past experience, as well as your skills and strengths. Think about your dream job–before you can find it, you need to define it. And if you have been laid off or fired, or are simply burned out, you need some time to process your emotions. No matter how well you try to hide it, or even ignore it in yourself, interviewers will pick up any negativity or insecurity. Always.
Don’t Do This: Blast out a one-size-fits-all resume.
Do This: As Martin Yate, author of the Knock ‘em Dead job-search series notes, your resume is “the most important financial document you will ever own.” So why would you just dash it off? Writing a resume that gets you a job means learning how to tell the story of your career, and how to customize it according to different goals, companies, or specific jobs. Making two or three versions of your resume makes sense if you have broad experience and a number of potential paths forward, or if you are changing industries or roles. You might highlight different aspects of previous jobs and different results for each. You also want to be sure your resume includes the keywords that correlate to those roles and specific job listings. One caution: If you find you have many versions of your resume, you may not be clear on what you really want—other than a job.
Don’t Do This: Write dull or useless cover letters.
Do This: Most job seekers write letters that sound like a boring 7th grade homework assignment. That’s a major missed opportunity. A cover letter that rehashes your resume is pretty useless. Instead, use your letter to expand on aspects of yourself that will be of interest to hiring managers. Give them a sense of your energy, ideas, and talents. Keep your letters short and upbeat. Keep them focused on how you can solve their problems.
Don’t Do This: Be a needy networker.
Do This: Thinking of networking as something you must do until you get your next gig isn’t much fun. And it usually doesn’t work. People don’t like people who seem desperate or selfish. Ideally, you should be taking care of your relationships all the time. Keep up with colleagues and peers, send congratulations, articles, ideas and referrals. Ask them how they are doing and if there is anything you can do for them. Sure, tell them you are looking for a new opportunity, but then move on. Remember that networking doesn’t just mean attending local business events—it means mentoring, volunteering, coaching, and joining local teams. The more active and giving you are throughout your life, the more doors will open for you.
Don’t Do This: Talk too much during interviews.
Do This: In social situations, people who talk on about themselves without asking much about you aren’t very likeable. Interviews are no different. Many people are so eager to describe themselves and all they can do for the job that they actually lower their odds of getting that job. Be sure to listen at least as much as you are talking. Ask targeted, genuine questions and really pay attention to the answers rather than think about the next thing you are going to say. When you listen closely to what your interviewer is saying, you get a much better sense of what the company most wants and needs, and you can address those points directly. You’ll be more effective as well as more likeable.