Nobody’s perfect. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all strive for a dash of continuous improvement, especially when we have the start of a brand-new year coming up and a golden opportunity to take certain aspects of our lives — including one’s job searching efforts — to the next level.
On this note, I was recently teaching a seminar around the “top job hunting mistakes to avoid” and felt this list might be helpful to many of you out there seeking to break some bad career habits in the year to come. This list represents the most common things I’ve seen job hunters do over the years that can potentially impede their progress and limit their success. So for those of you on the hunt for a new position in 2014, I’d advise you to review this list carefully and pick at least one of these items to banish from your regimen in the months to come!
1. Anemic volume; only making a few lead generation attempts each week, versus engaging in a high number of daily contact attempts (recommend 5/day minimum) to maximize the odds of creating opportunities and generating interviews
2. Short-term thinking; assuming a new job will materialize right away, versus erring on the side of caution and planning emotionally/financially for a longer transition time
3. Lack of focus; failing to clarify your career/job goals up front and craft a clear answer to the question “what are you looking for?” so that people can offer useful assistance
4. Burnout; failing to build breaks, rewards, leisure activities, and stress management activities into your job search regimen to help avoid emotional “dips” in the process
5. Stubbornness & wishful thinking; refusal to embrace the new realities of the job market, adapt to them, and accept the fact that many aspects of the hiring process and how people look for work have changed dramatically over the last 10-15 years
6. Negative vibes; allowing negative self-talk, fears, and doubts to creep into one’s job search communications and activities, where they can easily turn off potential allies and damage one’s chances on the networking and interviewing circuit
7. Playing it safe; only relying on published advertisements to try and land interviews, despite the fact that ads are the most competitive, rigid, and challenging way to get hired for most candidates today, versus leads of the “unpublished” variety
8. Lemmingism; concentrating on trying to get hired at the same handful of big household-name companies everybody else is targeting, versus doing some research and uncovering a much larger set of small-to-mid-sized firms that might need your skills
9. Underuse of LinkedIn; neglecting to leverage the formidable power of LinkedIn to generate introductions and referrals to specific organizations and hiring managers
10. Poor project management; approaching the job search process without a plan or structured system in place that outlines what you need to accomplish each day, records your ongoing progress, and keeps you on track toward the ultimate goal
11. Undercommunication; failing to follow up with the people in your network on an ongoing basis to keep them apprised of your goals, ensure they don’t forget you, and keep your candidacy at the top of their mind in case they spot opportunities
12. Skill stagnation; failing to engage in the steady stream of reading, training, self-study, and other professional development activities necessary to stay current in your field
13. Outdated salary/title expectations; aiming too high in terms of compensation or not being flexible enough in terms of the title or level of responsibility you’d consider
14. Isolation; tendency to spend most of your days at home engaging in web surfing or other activities, instead of getting out of the house where you can meet new people, garner support, uncover interesting things, and stay in “professional” mode
15. Unprofessional image; failure to dress, act, and generally carry yourself in a way that will make a confident, positive impression on the people you encounter
16. Resume-itis; succumbing to the tendency to believe your resume must be the primary reason for any lack of results you’re experiencing, versus paying attention to the much larger number of other factors that more commonly limit one’s success rate
17. Ignoring your strengths; failure to leverage the same strengths, talents, and behaviors you’ve used successfully in the workplace to approach and conquer the job hunting challenge, as well
18. Interviewing overconfidence; underpreparing for interviews based on the belief that you’re better at this step than might actually be the case in today’s competitive market
19. Dead-end networking practices; meeting people solely as a short-term strategy to generate job leads, versus actually focusing on getting to know them, understanding their needs, and giving back in the way needed to build a lasting relationship
For the record, the “mistakes” I’ve outlined above aren’t ranked in any particular order or priority, although the first item on the list definitely addresses an issue that I think is perhaps the most persistent challenge I witness among job hunters today — and among the factors most under an individual’s power to change. So again, in the spirit of the season, I’d suggest you identify at least one of the above behaviors that you’ve been engaging in and resolve to rise above it as you kick off your job search efforts for the coming year.
You just never know when one little change might be all that’s needed to generate significantly more positive results in your efforts!