In past posts, we’ve talked a lot about what job seekers should do, but sometimes it helps to reframe the perspective and know what you shouldn’t do, as it can be a lot easier to start correcting your current habits than thinking about new ones.
Here are a few common pitfalls people make on the job hunt!
1) Lack of Motivation
One of the hardest aspects of unemployment, especially if it comes about after a lay off or termination, is simply finding the motivation to treat the job search as a job itself.
It can be easy to revise your resume a bit, check your email, read a couple job descriptions, then feel like you’ve gotten something accomplished, setting it aside to go back to the TV.
But procrastinating is only going to add to your stress levels; better to wake up early, go to a coffee shop or library, and “clock-in” to accomplish some goals you’ve set for yourself.
Related, keeping yourself organized can be difficult if you’re applying to a high number of openings, as I discussed in our post Tips for Applying to Jobs Online.
Receiving a call or email from a job that you don’t remember applying to can be embarrassing, so writing out lists and maintaining files with companies, positions, resumes, and cover letters is your best bet to stay on top of things. Also, a list of realistic goals and expectations for your day-to-day search can keep you both on the right track and motivated.
3) Not Doing your Research
One of those goals should be to research companies, both the ones you find from openings on job boards and ones you’ve heard about and would want to apply to. Do more research in an industry you’d like to work in and find out who the major employers are. Once you have a list of companies, explore their websites to learn about their histories, values, staff, and listed openings. This is particularly important in the interview process, as they’ll want to see you have an interest and passion about the work they do there.
Showing up clueless to what the company does or even what the position entails is going to put you in a very bad light.
Bonus: Check out our Ultimate Interview Prep Packet for more tips like these!
4) No Clear Sense of Career Focus
During all of that research you should always be asking yourself: “Is this a field I’m excited to work in? Do these companies appeal to me? Where do I see myself in a year? Five years?”
The answers to these questions can and will change throughout your career, but if you don’t stop to consider them during the applying process, you’ll find yourself going down blind alleys. Have career goals for yourself, even if they’re tentative, and be prepared to discuss them in interviews.
5) Underdeveloped Resumes
Besides interviewing, resumes are probably the most discussed pitfall of job applicants, likely because it’s your first impression to a prospective employer – if the resume is no good, they won’t even consider you for an interview. At the same time, the resume is just one component of the process, so don’t put all your effort into revising and re-revising. Focus on one page with accurate dates and descriptions about your past experience, a good template, and no typos. For a detailed look into crafting the perfect resume, check out our post 10 Tips for Resume Formatting.
6) Not Utilizing Your Networks
So your research is going well and you’ve opened accounts with all the major job sites – but so far you feel like you’re sending applications into the ether without a single response? The internet is a wonderful tool, but networking should still be a key component of everyone’s job search.
Attend job fairs and other events where you can have a chance to meet recruiters and representatives face-to-face, which are great opportunities to make use of the company knowledge you’ve been accumulating. Utilize your network of friends, family, and professional relationships for both new leads and references. Volunteer in your areas of interest and engage with your community. It all comes back to the original problem of motivation: you want to have a proactive approach, not just sit alone at home waiting for jobs to come to you.
7) Unexplained Gaps/Lying About Your Experience
Everyone has periods of time they’d rather not discuss or explain in detail on a resume, but it’s important to account for them in responsible ways, as employers often view work history gaps with apprehension. There are different approaches to do so – some that you can even use to your advantage – which I detail in the post How to Explain a Long Gap in your Work History.
Everyone wishes they had a little more experience as well, bolstering their resume with important-sounding language. But what you should never do is resort to flat-out lying, whether it be in the resume or interview process. They will call the references you provide to confirm your resume’s veracity, and even if you do hyperbolize your skill level and manage to get the job, you may find yourself out of your depth compared to their expectations. Honesty is always the best policy.
8) Being Unprofessional
That may sound vague, but it’s only because unprofessionalism includes a wide variety of behaviors that can jeopardize your chances of employment. Be it casual dress, gum chewing, unreliability, bad hygiene, an inappropriate email address, a lack of confidence, or constantly being on your phone, there are countless red flags that show an employer you aren’t taking an opportunity seriously or giving it your fullest attention.
At the end of the day, that’s all professionalism is: diligence and effort. And it’s usually when we lose sight of these principles that the most mistakes are made.
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