Ready, Fire, Aim!

By Dana Carman CTW Features

Searching for a job in today’s market is difficult enough without sabotaging oneself. But, that’s exactly what many jobseekers do when they spend too much time trolling online job boards, don’t adequately plan the next steps or expect recruiters to find jobs for them. Avoiding a few pitfalls may go a long way toward shortening the job search.

The No. 1 mistake jobseekers make is engaging the mouth before the brain, says Julie Bauke, a career coach and speaker who runs Congruity Career Consulting, Cincinnati. “They act, they don’t plan,” Bauke says. She explains that oftentimes, an employee who has just learned he or she is laid off takes to the phone or to e-mail and begins contacting anyone and everyone to tell the sad story. “They want to feel better,” she says. This is not the best approach, however, says Bauke. “You need to give a non-bitter account of what happened and that’s not possible on the first day,” she says.

There are three planning tools a job seeker should have in place before picking up the phone (outside of a finished, polished résumé), she says. Be able to give an unemotional account of what happened at the previous position; be able to properly communicate who you are; and be able to articulate in a convincing fashion what you want to do next. “Start with the end in mind and plan from there,” Bauke advises.

Once a search is well under way, it may be appealing to sit around in one’s pajamas and farm résumés out to online job boards, company job postings and recruiters. However, most jobseekers spend way too much time online, says executive career coach and president of Toledo-based Call to Career Cheryl Palmer. “Most people don’t get jobs this way,” she says. Bauke estimates that only four to five percent of job seekers find a job via online sources. Both agree that utilizing online resources is fine but not to spend a huge amount of time there. “The thing is, you never know where your job is going to come from,” Palmer says. “It doesn’t make sense to close off any one avenue but at the same time, don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on something that won’t yield the results.” She says that 60 to 80 percent of all jobs are found through effective networking.

Bauke, author of “Stop Peeing on Your Shoes: Avoiding the 7 Mistakes that Screw Up Your Job Search (BookSurge Publishing, 2009), sees networking as an area where jobseekers could use improvement.

Networking events are not opportunities to “work the room” but to make one, and hopefully more, meaningful connections. The goal is to get people to want to help you, says Bauke, so jobseekers should do more than “scratch the surface” when they strike up conversations. Avoid at all costs coming across as desperate, or asking point-blank, “Can you find me a job?” “People do that way too often,” says Bauke. “They’re shooting themselves in the foot.” While Bauke thinks networking events have their place, she’s a bigger fan of more individualized networking. “I believe you can get a job without networking meetings but not without one-on-one networking,” she says. “Start with people who already know you. We forget about the relationships we already have.”

Connecting with other people face to face presents the opportunity for face-to-face rejection, which is why jobseekers often rely on the Internet. It’s safe. Similarly, enlisting the help of a recruiter is an easy, but not necessarily effective, means for a careless jobseeker to feel they’ve offloaded some of the burden of a search. But it’s a mistake to place significant weight on the power and efficacy of recruiting companies.

Palmer advises her clients to allocate the most job-searching time to the device most likely to find the job: networking. Much further down on the list, she says, are executive search firms. “People need to understand what their [the recruiter’s] role is,” Bauke says. “They are not paid in any shape or form to help you.”