job search tips

Your Career: Five Common Job Search Mistakes

By Kristen Harris

Looking for work might seem like a fairly straightforward process but, in fact, it’s quite complex.

There are several steps, a series of interactions, and multiple people involved in your search. Each stage of the process is filled with nuance and details. One false move can take you out of the running, and you may not even know it. The job search process is challenging and stressful enough without putting barriers in your own way.

Check yourself...are you making any of these five common job search mistakes? Be honest, or ask someone you trust for feedback. Sometimes we’re so close to a problem that it’s hard to have perspective. Once you’re aware of an issue, it’s much easier to correct and avoid that mistake in the future.

  1. A mismatch between your skills and the role. It’s important to really know yourself. What are your strengths? Skills? Experience level? Interests? What stage are you at in your career? What you do you want from your next role? Once you’re clear on these things for yourself, then compare your answers to every role in which you’re interested. Do your strengths and skills align with what the company needs? Are you at the right career stage for the role? Does it align with what you want, personally and professionally? Do you like the company? Are you interested in what they do? No job is perfect, but if there is a significant mismatch in several areas, move on to the next opportunity. This is not “the one”.

  2. Cookie-cutter communications. We live in a customized world; don’t send the same message to every contact or in response to every job opportunity. Customize your resume to highlight the exact skills and experiences the company is looking for. Highlight how you’re a great fit for that specific role and company in your cover letter or introductory email. Technology means every communication can be specialized to the recipient, yet people rarely receive truly personalized messages. Make the person on the other end feel as though you’re speaking directly to them and their needs.

  3. Typos in your resume. Typos and bad grammar reflect poorly on you and your work. Resume reviewers will immediately make judgments, and often it’s a shortcut to the trash bin. Not everyone is a great writer or speller, I get it. But, even if you are, find someone to proofread everything for you–your brain often fills in the gaps, it’s easier for someone else to find your mistakes.

  4. Not being prepared for the interview. As an interviewer, there are few things more painful than trying to connect with someone who is clearly not prepared for your conversation. Research the company before your interview (actually, before you apply, otherwise, how do you know you want to work there?). You’ll know what to wear (if you’re still not sure, ask the person scheduling the interview), and you can ask about something they’re working on or a project that was recently announced. Have questions prepared; this is a two-way conversation, and you need to know if it’s a good fit for you too. Be interested and engaged, do your part to make it a good conversation.

  5. Not using your network. Go beyond searching job boards, it’s important to utilize your network. Start with people you already know, personally and professionally, in your community or school, through alumni associations or industry groups. Connect with people online through platforms like LinkedIn. Attend events where people in your industry would be, catch up with people you know and ask them to introduce you to someone new. Then follow the cardinal rule of giving before asking. Even though you want someone’s help, first ask what you can do to help them. By giving first, you’ll establish trust and truly build a relationship; people are much more likely to help or recommend people they know and trust.

Whether looking for your first job, next job, or dream job, eliminating these five mistakes will help you get out of the way of your own success.

 

Promotion: Getting the Word Out About You

The 4 P's of Marketing Yourself: Promotion, Part 3

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Once you have established where you need to be, how do you make an impact? How do you get remembered? How do you stay front of mind?

Creating your strategy for marketing yourself can be as easy as the 4 P’s: Product, Place, Promotion, and Price. Here we are going to talk about Promotion and how you can get the word out about you. These are some of the things that effectively work for me and for my company:

Partnerships > Sponsorships

At startup stage, we really didn’t have a lot of money. We had to think smart. We had to get the word out about us, so we sponsored an event. I know what you are thinking, sponsorships are a lot of money. Not necessarily if you go about it correctly. When groups put on a large event they cannot get enough money or volunteers. Many things can be offered in-kind or chipping in to help could be offered in exchange for logo placement at the event or on the website. If you are looking to meet people, you might be able to make an exchange for volunteering just for a ticket to the event. Stepping in at this level will also build great relationships. By the way, our first sponsorship was providing cocktail napkins to an event. That was all we could afford. Well, we did pay a little more to have our logo on all of them.

Invest in Branding

Get a really great looking logo and get it out there! This goes back to sponsoring events, writing articles, and handing out a lot of business cards. It is going to take the average person about 7 times of seeing your logo to actually remember it. Keep that in mind when exposing the world to your logo. It is not going to be a one-time thing. Persistence. Make it your friend. And make that logo memorable; clean, bright, and with your personality.

Use Networking to Build Relationships 

You may have noticed by now that this involves a lot of hand shaking and networking. All true. Personally, I had to learn to be comfortable with it. I would define myself as an un-shy introvert. What worked for me was walking into events and knowing that the only thing I may gain from it is getting to know someone a little better. When you go in with the desire to get to know people, what you do is build a network of people that will spread the word about you. All of our best clients and talent come from referrals. Put your time and money there first. It goes back to getting that 5-star rating from the people that really know you. Others will learn about that and take a chance on you.

Marketing yourself always needs a strategy. For me and my company it is always about the relationships; building and maintaining them. This goes for if you own a company or are just trying to get your foot in the door for your next job. One thing to be very aware of is that almost all people are very helpful. Do not be afraid to ask for help, connections, advice, or criticism. People will help as long as you are helpful and courteous in return.

Read part 4, Price, of our 4 P's of Marketing series. 

Daily Job Search Tips

Looking for a job, or think maybe you should be? I highly recommend the free Job Search Tip of the Day through About.com. Every day a little tidbit arrives in your email, linked to a larger article on the topic. Some of it's basic stuff, but often it's the basics that get overlooked. Like Follow the Directions. Or Use Your Network. Oh, and there's Get a Job Through a Staffing Company too ;)

Tune Up for the New Year

Excellent article from Oprah magazine, by financial guru Suze Orman, all about getting focused and getting your next position no matter where you're coming from. Key Points: Tune up your skills (through your current employer or on your own) Tune into old networks (you know waaay more people than you probably realize!) Tune out the negativity (enough said) Here's to a great 2009!