During the course of this past month, I’ve had a number of folks contact me to express a severe amount of frustration — and at times, panic — with regard to their job searching efforts. In chatting with these various individuals, however, which include both clients and non-clients alike, I’ve observed that in many cases there doesn’t seem to be anything fundamentally wrong with their job search endeavors. In the majority of cases, in fact, it seems that the emotional turbulence people are experiencing is simply due to a lack of understanding about what a “normal” job search looks like in today’s world.
On that note, I thought it might be helpful to run down a list of the thought/feelings/experiences that most job seekers will encounter at some point during their job search., even if they’re doing everything right. Hopefully, by reviewing this list, those of you in transition will be able to find a little more inner peace during this process by realizing that you’re not necessarily alone in what you’re experiencing — and that certain setbacks may not actually represent “fatal flaws” in your search approach!
#1: “My Resume Stinks!” Since there is almost no universal agreement on what makes a great resume, even among the experts, job seekers will often find themselves changing their resume again and again in response to feedback from employers, recruiters, and networking contacts. Just when you create a solid two-page document, somebody will tell you that employers instead prefer one-page versions, so your search will be set back a week or more while you retool your piece. Then, when you show the new presentation to people, they’ll tell you that a functional (skills-based) version would be far more effective than a chronological version, so again you’ll go back to the drawing board. This process can easily continue again and again, with the job hunter growing increasingly frustrated, until weeks of precious time have elapsed. So starting out on your job search, it’s imperative to recognize that everybody is an expert when it comes to resumes — and at some point, you’ve got to just decide on the version you like best, stick with it, and focus on getting it out to the right people instead of messing with it further.
#2: “I’m Not Qualified for Anything!” Even the most skilled professionals today will succumb to the feeling, once in a while, that the job market has passed them by and that they aren’t really qualified to do much of anything anymore. Contributing to this dynamic is the fact that companies no longer have to pay for every word when writing job descriptions on the Internet, so they pack their employment ads with a list of 20-30 qualifications, leaving all of us feeling woefully inadequate. Additionally, since many employers now express a strong preference for candidates with previous industry experience, and don’t seem to think very far outside of the box, this reinforces the perception that our skills and talents aren’t as transferable as we might have hoped. To combat this, therefore, you’ll want to keep reminding yourself that the “inflation of qualifications” is largely an offshoot of today’s hiring process and that the person who eventually gets hired will probably only have only 60-70% of the qualifications listed in a given advertisement — but will be confident enough to believe in themselves and sell themselves aggressively as an available solution to the problems at hand, regardless.
#3: “I Didn’t Get a Call Back for a Perfect Job — What’s Wrong?” Another rite of passage that happens all the time in today’s market is that a candidate will get fixated on a specific published job that seems perfect for him or her — and then panic or become irate when they get a rejection notice, despite their terrific qualifications for the position at hand. Again, this common feeling tends to be based on a false assumption, which is that most hiring processes are “fair” in the first place. In reality, many job listings are posted for Equal Opportunity compliance reasons even when the job has already been promised to an internal candidate — and in other cases, companies post jobs only to then have the funding fall through, or they collect resumes for a rainy day, even without a real opening actually being available. So you can’t afford to ever obsess about whether or not you’ll get called back for a specific job, since there could be numerous invisible factors in play that have nothing to do with your qualifications. Instead, you should distract yourself by playing the numbers game and chasing dozens of leads (or more!) at any one time, so you don’t tend to get fixated on any one particular opportunity.
#4: “I’m Lousy at Interviewing!” Truth be told, this self-perception CAN be quite accurate, at times, and many people could benefit from brushing up on their personal selling skills. At the same time, you must also recognize that nobody wins them all in the job search process, and that even the best interviewees can’t expect to have more than a 20-30% batting average in terms of landing offers. Again, there are simply too many variables involved, and even intensive preparation can’t always erase the biases and personal chemistry issues that enter into the process. So if you’ve gone on a couple of interviews and haven’t been given the grand prize, don’t panic. This is extremely normal and you should just focus on learning from each experience and preparing more effectively for the next opportunity you get, reviewing any specific questions that stumped you or areas that are within your power to improve upon.
#5: “Things Aren’t Happening Fast Enough!” Alas, SO many people I encounter seem to think that finding a job these days (especially at the $75-100K level and beyond) should only take a couple of weeks, when in reality, it can often be a 6-12 month process even when you’re doing everything right! It’s therefore critical that you prepare for this eventuality as a job seeker and buckle down, emotionally and financially, for the long haul. As for why the process may seem painfully slow, compared to years past, it’s likely a combination of several things. First, people don’t seem to be as open as they used to be to the prospect of relocation, so when they insist on staying in a particular location (e.g. Seattle) they must recognize that they are artificially limiting their options — which tends to draw the process out longer. Secondly, many workplaces are more chaotic than ever before, and besieged by conflicting priorities, so even when companies are desperate to hire somebody they might have to delay the interviewing process by weeks at a time, which seems like an eternity to the job candidate. And lastly, and perhaps the greatest contributor to the feeling in question, I find that many people are unfairly comparing their job search THIS time around to their job hunting experiences from years before, when the market might have been better, they were looking for less money and responsibility, or they were recruited directly out of an organization by a networking contact — versus having to make something happen from scratch. So if you’re searching for a job and wondering why it’s taking so long, make sure to think through the above factors in depth and recognize that your experience may be perfectly normal given today’s market conditions. The key is to stay focused, avoid panic, and to keep working a consistent self-marketing plan, month in and month out, until you achieve success.