The Job Search

The Black Hole: You Aren't Alone

By Derik Abbott

One of the most common pain points we hear from candidates that come into our office is their inability to get responses to their resume submittals for openings online. While this might seem like something that is only affecting you, rest assured, it’s an epidemic that plagues all job searches out there. 

We, as recruiters, actually see this happen with a lot of hiring managers we work directly with (most we’ve met in person and have some level of relationship with). It’s something that everyone from job seekers to recruiters has been trying to solve for years now and with the current employment climate, it doesn’t see to be something that will quickly rectify its self. The good news is that there are some ways to try to get more visibility with clients. 

I am a firm believer that regardless of the outcome, people should remain steadfast in applying to roles that are in their area of expertise and interest. Once one or two interviews are requested it’s only a matter of momentum before something sticks. In order to try and help with that momentum, I think trying various tactics to get your name/face in front of people will really help make you stand out. 

Simple things like adding the Recruiter or HR Manager that is listed on the LinkedIn job postings is a good way to get your name in the back of their mind without causing too much interruption in their day. Sending them a note on LinkedIn often times could go 50/50 so I think going that far is something you have to individually weight your options on but adding someone is a pretty standard practice and could only increase your chances of at least getting them to think about you. 

Networking is also the number one way people still get jobs. Whether asking someone you know to pass along your resume to the right person within a company of interest or going to various local group’s networking events. There are a ton of people that you could get in front of or make contacts with that doesn’t require you to go out of your way. Remember, people, go to networking events for the Programming aspects but wouldn’t be there if they weren’t open to networking so it’s an open floor to get in front of people who may be able to introduce you to others. 

I think the best piece of advice we can give is to remain positive and diligent. Everyone else is having the same struggles as you, you aren’t alone. While searching and networking, it could be good practice to continue to work on at-home pieces for your portfolio or hone your skills because any extra things you can add to your resume/portfolio could be what helps tip the scales in your favor on that next submittal! 

Asking for a Raise? Four Steps to Getting What You Want

By Kristen Harris

In life, you often have to ask for what you want. You might not get everything you want but asking for it certainly helps. And asking for it in the right way really increases your odds.

Let’s say you’ve been working in a role for a while and things are going really well. You feel like you’re excelling at the job, taking on increased responsibilities, and creating value for your employer. So you’ve decided to ask for a raise.

You want the raise, and believe you deserve it but aren’t sure how to ask for it. How do you approach your employer? What should you ask for? What happens if they say no? Often, when people go into these conversations unprepared, they’re disappointed in the outcome.

You can greatly increase your odds of success by preparing for the conversation. Don’t just pop in your boss’ office and say “hey, I want to be paid more”. Since you’re the one asking for the raise and initiating the conversation, take all the time you need to get ready.

(By the way, if you’re freelancing or working independently, at some point you’ll want to increase your rates. These tips can also help you prepare for that conversation with clients.)

There are four key steps to preparing for a “raise” conversation:

  1. Do Your Research. Collect as much information as you can about your own role, your progression within the company, and similar roles at other companies. How long have you been in the role? Have you received raises in that time? If so, at what time points and how much?  Look at your job description–what additional responsibilities have you taken on? How does that compare with similar roles within your company and at other companies? Research the pay range for your role within your company and at similar companies. It’s kind of rude to ask your peers what they make, but there are plenty of online resources to find accurate salary information these days. How well is your company doing financially? If it’s seasonal, is this the “good” season or the “slow” time of year? Has your company recently gained (or lost) clients?

  2. Organize the Information. Organize your research, then identify the best 3-5 points to make your case for a raise. What you select is going to be unique to you and your position, but things like additional responsibilities, progressive growth, and comparable pay at other companies are good things to look at. Be sure to consider the overall health of the company and how your role fits into future success. Show that you’re thinking big picture about the company and its overall success, not just about yourself. Prepare your notes–actually write down your top 3-5 points–in preparation for your meeting.

  3. Make Your Case. Don’t just pop in one day on the fly, schedule a meeting with your boss or the decision-maker. Now you know that person has set aside time for you, and you’re more likely to have their undivided attention. Start the meeting by telling them you’d like to discuss a pay increase. Then share those top 3-5 points you’ve researched to help make the case for why you deserve it. Keep it factual, realistic and non-emotional. Then ask for their feedback and listen to what they have to say.

  4. Accept Feedback. Their feedback is valuable, regardless of the answer. If they say “yes” then congratulations–you’ve made a great case and got what you wanted! If they say “no” or “not right now”, ask questions and really try to understand their reasoning. Ask what you can do to earn the raise you want, and when an appropriate time would be to bring it up again. Talk about a plan or how you can take on more responsibilities that allow you to prove you’re worth more.

These pay conversations can be difficult because they often feel like conversations about our self-worth. They’re not. The only thing you’re talking about is what the company can afford to pay you for the work that you do, and how you might be able to earn more. If you can’t get a raise right now, you’ll get valuable information on how to get one in the future.

You can’t always get what you want (thanks, Rolling Stones) but preparing for the conversation can make it go more smoothly and increase your odds of success. Working with a professional can help things go more smoothly too. We’re always happy to help our placed talent navigate these tricky conversations–just ask.

The 5 Stages of Grief When Losing a Job

By Catherine Lang-Cline

At one time or another, everyone has the unfortunate opportunity of dealing with the 5 stages of grief. Typically this is connected to death, but it can really be applied to just about all kinds of loss. That includes the loss of a job. These are the 5 stages of grief applied to losing a job and how you can get past each one and get back on track with your career. I know all of these to be true because they have happened to me.

Denial - You have just left your boss’s office or the HR Director’s office and you absolutely cannot believe what just happened. You are stunned. You can’t comprehend that you are now standing at your desk and putting all of your office possessions in a box. You are asking yourself “why did I bring to much to work?” You are packing photos with the disbelief that you will have to tell these people you don’t have a job. “What just happened again? I didn’t just get asked to leave. This must be some mistake.” This is no mistake and you did just get fired. Regardless of how this has been decided, you are no longer employed here and you need to get out and get out fast. Your reputation is on the line and your dignity will quickly expire before you move on to...

Anger - Now you are in the parking lot. Denial may still be lingering but anger is quickly approaching because you gave 100% of yourself to this company! “I worked long hours! I gave up time with friends or family! How DARE THEY do this to me?!!” Thing is people get laid off all...of...the...time. It can be for just about any reason. It could be performance, trimming down of staff, resizing, and about 100 other reasons, but it happens. This time, it was your number that was drawn. Give yourself a moment or two to be angry but I will tell you that anger is not going to help you. Anger can turn into a prison. Don’t let this get to you because the longer you are angry they longer they have control of you. Don’t give them that! You stay in control by keeping cool. Still angry? Take a run, workout, go talk to someone that really cares about you to help sort out your thoughts. Want to bad-mouth your former employer? Trust me, you only look bad doing it. 

Bargaining - The last thing you want to do is call your former employer and try to strike up a bargain of some kind. “Hey, I am sure that was a mistake or if you bring me back I’ll do better. I’ll work for less!” Don’t be that person. If the situation has come to a point where HR has been called, paperwork has been filled out, and you have been asked to clean out your desk, chances are that this has been in the works for a while and there is no going back. Fun fact, keep moving forward and you won’t want to go back.

Depression - It is very normal to get a little depressed about this situation. For now, your identity seems to have been stripped, you have to file for unemployment, and let’s face it, that was a bit humiliating. Again remember that everyone has experienced this once in their lives. If this is your first time. Yeah, it hurts. If you have never been let go, you are either lucky or your turn is still coming. Give yourself the chance to feel a little depressed by this. Just a little. It is your right, but don’t let it consume you. If you find yourself binge-watching shows for more than 3 days in a row fine, but day 4 put on some real pants and get off the couch and get to….

Acceptance - This may take a day, a week, or a month. That time frame can probably be linked to how long that you have been at a company. Regardless of the time it takes, welcome to Acceptance, you made it. You can now plot your comeback! If you find that the road to get here was a challenge, let me clue you in on some shortcuts. 

  1. Really understand that people get fired every day.

  2. Understand that the company you left was probably not the best job for you and it was not the only job in the world.

  3. Take everything that you learned from that former company and update your resume, your LinkedIn and really plan your next role. Stay busy and get a plan together. At least for a while, your job is to get a job.

  4. When updating everything, really re-evaluate your skill set, your job title, everything based on everything you learned at your former employer. Where can you take those skills now? Who would pay you more for this? You might just be giving yourself a big promotion soon!

  5. Get out and get back with people in your industry. Connect with all of the people that understand your expertise. Connect with a recruiter. Ask everyone if they know who is hiring. Let them give you a little pep-talk as to how awesome you really are. People really do love to help. You don’t have to get into the circumstances just say, “Things changed at “X Company” and I am no longer there. I am seeing this as an opportunity to advance so if you hear of anything...”

Like I said, 3 days on the couch but then get back out there and get plugged back in. The most successful people have been fired or face-planted or failed at least once. Almost always when a person gets “kicked out of the nest” it was for their own good and it forced them to fly. Accept this “new and improved you” and soar.

Networking Ninja: How Introverts Can Get the Most Out of Any Event

By Kristen Harris

Some people love networking. They really like meeting new people, chatting in the grocery line, making friends on the airplane. When they walk into a room full of strangers they just see potential future friends. These people extroverts and they are not me.

I like people, I really do. But I want to have the chance to get to know them, to understand who they are, what they think and where they’re coming from. I’m an introvert but I’m not anti-social. I just need to apply a few tactics that make networking work for me.

These are my top tips for how introverts can get the most out of any event or networking opportunity.

  1. Just Go. To get something out of an event you have to attend. I know it seems obvious, but this is actually a challenge for me. Something sounds interesting, I sign up, I plan to go...then the day comes and the idea of attending sounds exhausting. To overcome this I simply make myself go, and I never regret it. Once I’m there I have a great time, it’s usually way more fun than I expected, and I’m so happy I attended. Don’t second-guess yourself, just go.

  2. Arrive Early. This seems counterintuitive, but it’s better to arrive early to an event. You may think it’s better to arrive later and quietly slip in, but it never works that way. When you arrive later people have broken into groups and are engaged in conversations. Now you have to try to join an ongoing conversation or feel like you’re interrupting. I hate that! When you arrive early it’s easy to start chatting with the few other people who are there and keep adding people to your group as they arrive. Plus you’ll get to meet the leaders of the event or organization which leads to…

  3. Get Involved. I get involved with organizations I like and events I want to attend. It’s much easier for me to meet people one-on-one or in small groups, and I like having something to do. When I have a responsibility or am volunteering on behalf of the organization, part of my job is to greet people and engage others in conversation. It’s also a great way to meet people who are well-connected...

  4. Meet the Influencers. There are influencers in any group or organization. Identify one or two people you’d like to know and make a point of meeting them. It’s much less stressful to focus on a few particular people rather than feeling as if I have to make friends with the whole room before I leave.

  5. Follow Up. If you truly enjoy getting to know people like I do, follow up after the event. Reach out to someone that you chatted with to continue the conversation. Send them an article or connect them with someone else they should know. Networking might happen at an event but real relationships are built over time.

For more tips on networking for introverts, check out our article Networking for Introverts: 10 Tips to Survive and Thrive at Events.

Leadership Strengths: Finding Your Highest and Best Use

By Kristen Harris

In real estate, there's a concept called "highest and best use." When appraising a piece of vacant land or property, under this concept the value must be based on the most reasonable, probable, and legal use that is physically possible appropriately supported and financially feasible. For example, if a property is currently an industrial site but would have more value when redeveloped with residential buildings, that higher use is how the property value is determined. (With apologies to real estate experts–I know there are many factors that must be considered, making it more complex than this simple explanation.)

Have you ever thought about your own highest and best use? Are you being appraised and utilized at your top potential value? One way to think about this is to know your strengths and look for opportunities to use them in your work. If you're a leader or manager of others there is also tremendous value in knowing how to leverage the strengths of your team members.

The CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) philosophy is one of the key tools we use at Portfolio Creative to better understand new team members and each other. If you want to know more about this tool, check out our previous article Be Your Best: Using Your Strengths at Work

Once our new team member has taken the assessment and we know their strengths, what do we do with that information? One thing we look at is how their strengths fall into the Four Domains of Leadership Strength. According to Gallup's research, each strength sorts into one of four domains: Strategic Thinking, Executing, Influencing and Relationship Building. 

These domains equate to how you absorb and analyze information or situations, make things happen, influence others, or build and nurture relationships. Every strength fits into one of these categories, and there is no good or bad category (remember, they are all strengths.) 

Knowing which categories a person's strengths fall into provides a clearer view of their overall balance. For example, three of my five top strengths fall under Relationship Building, one is under Strategic Thinking, and one is Influencing. By contrast, my business partner Catherine Lang-Cline has two strengths under Strategic Thinking, two in Executing, and one in Relationship Building. See how we complement each other? I'm strong where she is not, and vice versa. Together we're better. Now apply that to a whole team of people and you can see the power of this concept. 

Some people are heavily weighted in one or two categories (we have one person with four of their top five strengths in the Strategic Thinking category.) Others are more evenly spread across the categories, with top strengths in three or even all four categories. It doesn't matter how the strengths break down, but it's helpful to know if someone is heavily weighted in one or two categories or more evenly balanced.

Once you understand how individual strengths are categorized, you can also apply the concept to a whole team. We look at strengths categories for the entire Portfolio Creative team, and by each departmental team. Our team leaders can see the strengths of each individual on their team, their team's overall strengths, and gaps, and the strengths found on other teams.

Here a few ways we can utilize this information. If we're working on something that requires a lot of Strategic Thinking, we can reference our chart and pull together the people heavy in those strengths. A team leader can look at how the strengths of their team members are spread across the four categories, see where they are heavy and light, and pair up team members or put people in positions that best use everyone's abilities. Across the company, we can see where strengths fall, and pair up individuals or entire teams to complement each other. 

By understanding and leveraging the individual strengths of yourself and others on your team, everyone has the opportunity to work at their highest and best use. 

Be Your Best: Using Strengths at Work

By Kristen Harris 

At Portfolio Creative we welcome every new hire for our internal team with a copy of the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. We ask them to take the assessment and share their results. Why? Because StrengthsFinder is one of the key tools we use to better understand ourselves and each other.

 StrengthsFinder is built on the philosophy that we each have inherent strengths. They're part of our DNA, we can't change them, it's just who we are. The result of a lifetime of research, Don Clifton identified thirty-four unique talents. Everyone has a bit of each, but the top five are truly our unique combination of skills, talent, and knowledge that can develop into strengths. 

Why does this matter? Gallup's research shows that people are more successful when they focus on what they do best. Seems kind of obvious, right? You're happier, do better work and are more productive when you're doing something you're good at. The challenge is to identify those talents and then focus on developing them into strengths. 

We also like how StrengthsFinder takes a very positive approach. Many personality assessments identify strengths and weaknesses, then encourage you to work on improving the weaknesses. While that might seem logical, what's the best possible outcome? You'll probably only improve that weakness enough to be marginal or average. Who wants that? It's much more empowering to be great!

We prefer to have people focus on their strengths, on what they're already inherently good at, and keep building upon that base. It's much more rewarding to take something that is good and make it great; to take something you're already good at and become the best. 

Yes, everyone has to overcome their weaknesses enough to not get in the way or hold them back, but that's it. We don't want anyone our team spending significant time in areas where they'll never be great. It's more productive to keep building strengths, then partner with others who have different strengths. Remember, there are thirty-four strengths and everyone has a combination that makes up their top five. That means there's someone else out there with a different top five to complement yours. 

If you’re not familiar with StrengthsFinder, I encourage you to check out the book or online materials. It is truly empowering to discover, build and utilize your strengths. By focusing the majority of your energy on things you're naturally good at, you are able to bring your best every day to whatever you do.

Side Hustles: It's Not Just About the Money

By Kristen Harris

Nearly a third of workers have a side gig, according to recent research conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder(1). This statistic caught my eye because I know a lot of people who do extra work on the side in addition to their regular day job. It’s pretty common in the creative industry.

The research had other interesting findings, like more women than men have side hustles (35 percent vs. 28 percent), and those under 35 are more likely to have a side hustle than those over 35.

I don’t agree with the headline framing the motivation for this side work as purely economic. “Helping Bridge the Pay Gap, More Women Are Taking on Side Hustles Than Men”, they say.

That may be the case for some workers, especially at the lower end of the pay scale, but the study also found that 25 percent of workers making more than $75K and 19 percent of those making more than $100K currently have a gig outside of their full-time job. I don’t buy the premise that these people are doing side jobs purely for the money. Especially when other research has shown that about $75K is the “happiness plateau” where a higher household income doesn’t have much of an impact on emotional well-being(2). Interesting, huh?

Consider common roles cited as side gigs – babysitter, chef/baker, dog walker, blogger, DJ – along with less-common roles like face painter, soap maker, and rapper. Yes, some people may do these side jobs purely for the money, but these also sound the type of side work that people may choose to do because they like it. Side gigs can be a creative outlet, utilize a skill or fulfill an interest that isn’t used in the day job, or a hobby that starts earning money.

Creative people like what they do, and often do even more of it in their off hours. They may do freelance projects in the same field as their day job, or something totally different. Maybe a graphic designer also really likes photography does it as a side hustle, or an attorney is also a skilled writer who works on freelance articles and editing in her free time.

Creative people like variety and opportunities to flex their creative muscle or learn new skills, all of which they can gain with side gigs. Top that with the fact the 35-and-under generations also are quite entrepreneurial. They don’t believe that just one type of work, one occupation, or one field defines them. In general, they want the stability of a day job, but also find ways to weave other types of work into their life.

The statistics in this research are interesting, but I think they missed the boat with an overall conclusion that the only motivation for side gigs is to “close the pay gap.” That may be true for some, but people also have other motivations to take on side gigs or build their own side hustle.

What do you think? Are economic factors the reason so many people have side gigs? What motivated you to start a side hustle of your own?

  1. Helping Bridge the Pay Gap, More Women Are Taking on Side Hustles Than Men;          Aug. 10, 2017

  2. Do We Need $75,000 a Year to Be Happy?; September 6, 2010 



 

Perfecting Your Craft: Does It Really Take 10,000 Hours?

By Kristen Harris

There is an oft-cited “rule” that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to become world-class in any field. People have latched onto this 10,000 Hours Rule, especially after Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling Outliers, because it’s short, simple and easy to remember.

Does this mean you can’t be world-class in less than 10,000 hours? Or that you’re guaranteed to be world-class if you put in 10,000 hours of practice? No, and no. It’s more complex than this.

  1. What’s true about the 10,000 Hours Rule? The original research(1) shows that it requires a lot of effort and practice, over many years, to become accomplished in a field where there is a history of people working to become experts. The exact number of hours invested may vary, but it does take intense study and practice to become a master in any field. This is most obvious in areas that traditionally require study and practice, like music, chess, writing, or academic research. The real insight of this study is that you must be focused and dedicated to commit this amount of practice to fine tuning your craft. Most people are not willing to put in the time and effort; those that do have the opportunity to become world-class.

What’s wrong with the 10,000 Hour Rule? It’s much too simple. Just because you are willing to practice 10,000 hours, or whatever amount of time is required for someone to become world-class at a certain activity, does not mean you will become world-class. Natural ability is a key factor that can’t be ignored. No matter how hard or long I practice, I will never become good enough to play basketball or dance professionally. I simply do not have the physical attributes and innate talent required. Putting in the required amount of practice does not guarantee you can become world-class.

This brings up the issue of what exactly is meant by “deliberate practice”. The study seems to indicate that there is a difference between what is gained through performing vs creating. Someone can practice playing a piece of music over and over, and get quite good at performing it, but that does not help them build the skills required to write new creative music of their own. Creativity and fresh ideas can catapult someone to success, with or without the required hours of practice.

Finally, the field in which one is striving to become world-class makes a difference.(2) Deliberate practice seems to be a higher predictor of success in fields that are stable, like tennis, chess or classical music. Everyone is following the same rules, so more practice helps you become more skilled. However, in fields that are less stable, like entrepreneurship, rock and roll, and creative design there are fewer rules. Rules are made to be broken, amirite? When the field has less restrictive rules or standards of measurement, a brilliant idea can trump years of practice.

So, does practice matter? Yes! It’s important to grasp the core message of the 10,000 Hour Rule...practice makes you better. When two people have equal talent and abilities, the one who practices more will generally achieve a higher standard of excellence. If you want to get really good at something, practice, practice, practice. Hone your skills and keep learning how to get better in your chosen field. To be world-class you must be willing to put in at least the same amount of work as those you are being compared to or competing with. Additional practice always improves performance; there is no top limit, the equation never maxes out.

But practice is not the only factor in your ability to become world-class. Physical traits, mental capability, innate talent, access to resources, and being in the right place at the right time all contribute to one’s ability to become world-class. Honestly assess your abilities and steer yourself in a direction where they can be put to the best use. Take advantage of available resources and opportunities, practice your craft, and keep developing yourself to become the best you can be in your field.

1 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Copyright © 2016 by K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

2 Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions. A Meta-Analysis / Research Article by Brooke N Macnamara, David Z. Hambrick, Fredierick L. Oswald. First published July 1, 2014.

Hiring: Plan Ahead, Ideal Fit Takes Time

By Kristen Harris

“Never make a decision until you have to.” – Randy Pausch

As hiring managers and job candidates, we’re all looking for an Ideal Fit. Whatever term you use to describe it, we all want to find someone who is a good fit for our team, or a work opportunity that feels “just right”. If you’re not sure how to assess an Ideal Fit, check out our article Hiring: What’s an “Ideal Fit”?

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time. It’s not something you can rush through, yet we’re often pressured to make quick decisions. Hiring managers need to quickly assess whether a candidate is the right fit for their team and realize that candidate is probably talking to other companies too. When you find the right person, you feel pressured to make an offer before someone else does.

On the other side, with all of the options and opportunities, candidates are getting offered roles more quickly and feel pressured to accept. They may get multiple offers and need to make the right choice for themselves and their career.

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time, but with all the pressure to make a quick decision, we don’t have time. How to resolve this seemingly impossible conundrum? By putting in our time beforehand, so we’re prepared to make a quick decision when the clock is ticking.

Never make a decision until you have to, but be prepared to make a decision when you need to. When you’ve spent time getting clear on what the Ideal Fit is for you, then it’s much easier to make that quick decision when the pressure is on.

For hiring managers, it’s important to be very clear on what matters to you, your company, and your team. Identify the must-haves vs nice-to-haves for any role you’re trying to fill. What is required for success in this role? What skills, experience or background are necessary? What type of personality traits or soft skills are you looking for? What’s important to your company? What is your culture like? Make a list of everything you’re looking for, ranked from most important to least.

For individuals seeking a new role, project, or work opportunity, you need to know what matters the most to you (and what doesn’t). Are you looking for higher pay? More interesting projects? The opportunity to learn new skills or grow the breadth of your work? To work with a particular person or for a certain company? Is flexibility or a specific work schedule important to you? Stability and predictability, or new exciting challenges every day? What kind of culture do you thrive in? Write it all down, in order of priority.

A prioritized list of what matters the most gives you a base to compare against when making decisions. Let’s be honest, no person or job is completely, 100% perfect. There will always be compromises. You need to know what matters most, your deal-breakers vs nice-to-haves.

When you’re clear on what’s most important, making decisions becomes easier, even under pressure. Compare every candidate or opportunity to your list. How does the person or role measure up against your must-haves? If all those boxes are checked, then look at the nice-to-haves. Those probably won’t all be covered, so decide where you’re willing to compromise. You’ve already set your priorities; you decided that the items lower on your list are less important to you. Now, take a breath, listen to your gut, and make your decision.

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time that we don’t have in the heat of the moment. By spending time beforehand to identify what’s most important, we can quickly make a better decision when the pressure is on.

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.