Recent grads: Avoid these 3 big job search mistakes

In a recently published article a college grad was expressing her frustration with the current state of the job market.

Her perspective was based on the results of her unproductive job search strategy. It went something like this:

Before graduating, she sent out nearly 500 applications to various organizations across the country and “got no responses.”

My tough love response?

Come on. Are you serious? That is not a strategy!

It’s an activity.

Grad school is not a strategy either.

I hear so many grads talk about going back to graduate school – and racking up another $40,000 in debt – when they haven’t even made a serious attempt at a job search!

So how can you avoid the job search cul-de-sac that is trapping so many? Or avoid taking on more debt? Steer clear of these three major faux pas in your search.

1. Thinking the job search is a numbers game.

Like the recent grad in the story above, it’s not about how many resumes you send out. This is not a job market that caters to a machine gun approach to sending out resumes and cover letters and hoping “the odds will be ever in your favor.” It’s not about a volume approach to job searching.

It is a market that demands you FOCUS on the specific needs of employers for whom you can help solve business problems.

And, that you craft resumes, cover letters and marketing materials that demonstrate your capability to meet those needs for those specific employers. And ONLY those specific employers.

2. Looking only online.

Too many grads are comfortable with the “online only” approach to job searching.

Here’s the problem. It’s the least effective way to find a job.

Research shows only 7 to 10% of jobs are sourced through online applications. That means if you spend the majority of your time, on the effort that gets the least result, you’ll spend a lot of time and have nothing to show for it. (Source: Richard Bolles)

The major job boards are like the lowest common denominator for job searching. The critical mass aggregates there. You are lost in the din of hundreds of applicants for a single job. And, if your resume doesn’t have the right stuff, you never make it through the screening process.

Then you’re eminently discouraged and before you know it you’re talking about graduate school.

You have to target employers where you can fit, solve problems and add value. Estimates are that up to 60% of jobs are placed through personally networked referrals. That means you need to get off-line, and start having some focused, real live conversations.

3. Not having a plan.

On average, a job search in the US takes 22 weeks. That’s average. That’s a long time to get up every day and look for a job. It’s even longer if you don’t have a project plan to guide your day-to-day action.

When I ask most people how they know what they are going to do each day, they don’t have a good answer.

A good job search strategy means you have activities across all job search spectrum. Online, off-line, networking, informational interviewing, job seeker groups, targeted employer strategy and more.

You must know what activities you will undertake each day to move your search forward. You need some kind of project plan to keep track of the people, applications, conversation and leads you leverage in your search.

Find a better way.

If you are struggling with your job search, please find an alternative way to make progress and break through the gridlock you may be feeling. There are myriad job search and career coaches (including me) who will help you get new perspective and really accelerate your search. And make you more productive in it.


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Before you think about grad school, think about spending a fraction of that amount getting help in your job search. Find someone who can help you find a better way to job hunt. I can help you. But it doesn’t matter if it’s me. Find someone.

You can find more information on my Find a Job Faster System for recent grads here.

Before meeting Lea, I was completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t count how many jobs I had applied for and not heard anything back.

– T.B.     [Graduated June 2012, now gainfully employed!]

Posted in: Blog, Interview, Job search, Your Job Search

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