by Michelle Tullier
Do you feel like you’ve done just about everything humanly possible to find a job, but nothing has worked out? Have you sent out so many résumés or gone on so many interviews that you really think you should’ve gotten an offer by now? If your patience and savings are wearing thin, don’t give up hope. Try following these seven steps to jumpstart your stalled search:
1. Think quality, not quantity
I don’t want to hear that you’ve answered 200 ads or listings or that you’ve mailed your résumé to 500 companies. That just shows you’ve mastered your word processor’s mail merge function.
A job search is not about numbers — it’s about quality contacts. There’s no way you can personalize and customize your résumés and cover letters to appeal to 500 employers. So, keep the number down to a manageable amount. You’re better off contacting 20 employers per week than 200, if those 20 contacts are quality ones.
You can ensure that these are quality contacts by:
- taking the time and effort to carefully research the organization before applying
- writing a cover letter that is tailored to the employer’s needs and the job requirements, and shows your knowledge of that organization
- altering your résumé slightly to better highlight what that employer or position calls for
- following up after you apply by calling or emailing the organization to confirm that your résumé was received, to reiterate your interest in the position, to restate why you’re well qualified for the job, to find out what their timeframe is for reviewing résumés and interviewing, and – most important – to make a HUMAN connection.
Successful job hunters take an active approach, rather than a passive one. So, don’t sit back and expect the invitations to interview and the job offers to pour in. You have to expend some energy and be strategic before you can expect the phone to start ringing or your email box to fill up.
2. Troubleshoot the tools of your search
Make sure that the tools of your search are up to par. Problems with your résumé, cover letters, references, interviewing technique, or phone manner can turn off prospective employers in a flash. Go back over your written materials to check for typos, misspellings, and other errors and to make sure they’re strong marketing tools, not just dry documents. Get other people to look at them and pick up on any problems you’ve overlooked. Do the same critique of your interviewing style and phone communication techniques. Ask trusted friends or colleagues to conduct mock interviews or phone calls with you to try to identify any flaws in your approach.
3. Jumpstart your networking
Sometimes job hunting can feel like exploring the dark side of the moon. You’ve launched hundreds of résumés into cyberspace and left countless messages in the never-never-land of voice mail, but you’ve found no signs of life. What your job search needs is some old-fashioned human contact. Get up off your duff and go to a meeting, conference, seminar, party, or any event where you can talk to people who might be able to give you advice or leads to jobs.
If you’ve already been doing that, then try to be more visible. Run for office in a professional association (even if you’re new to a field, you’ll be welcomed with open arms if you want to help out and take an active role. If official leadership is not for you, then write an article for the association newsletter or offer to volunteer at an upcoming meeting or conference. You’d be amazed at the boost such an effort can give to your search and your career in general). To find a professional or trade association in the career field or industry in which you work or would like to work, use the Encyclopedia of Associations or the National Trade and Professional Associations directories found in the reference section of most libraries.
4. Check your attitude
If your job hunting is dragging on and you’re starting to get a negative attitude, do what you can to nip the blues in the bud. You may not realize it, but your anger, bitterness, apathy, or negativism can show through in your written and oral communication with prospective employer. Try not to internalize the rejection or to dwell on failures. Instead, try to learn from each rejection and move on. If you’re not even getting to the rejection stage because you haven’t gotten any nibbles, don’t wallow in self-pity or start blaming the world. Instead, take matters in your own hands and do some of the things recommended in tips 1-3.
5. Revive dead leads
Just because a lead didn’t pan out doesn’t mean you can’t contact that person or that organization again. If you received the name of someone to contact and it turned out that that person didn’t know of any jobs for you, don’t be afraid to call them back a few weeks or months later to see if anything has changed. You have to stay fresh in people’s minds in order for them to be on the lookout for opportunities for you.
Do the same with places where you interviewed but didn’t receive an offer. Most people are afraid to contact organizations that have rejected them, but that’s a big mistake. It could turn out that the person who was hired didn’t work out and left after a few weeks or months. If you happen to call again, you might be in the right place at the right time to step into the newly vacant slot.
6. Get professional help
Job hunting can be a lonely and confusing process. You may not have the knowledge required to troubleshoot your résumé and brainstorm new search strategies. You may need some moral support before you venture out into the sometimes intimidating world of networking. If you don’t want to go it alone, or think you could benefit from some expert advice, consider meeting with a career counselor or professional job search coach.
7. Consider going to Plan B
If you’ve exhausted all possibilities for finding the job you want and are running out of time, money, and energy, it may be time to go to Plan B. Plan B could be changing your career direction, doing temp work or an internship, relocating, or taking a somewhat alternative path such as the Peace Corp or other work or study abroad.
If you put some thought and effort into these seven steps, you may see that your job search is not so hopeless after all. Some simple adjustments and corrections or a new attitude may be all it takes to get the interviews and offers coming your way. And, whatever you do, don’t give up hope.