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Year after year, one of the most popular new year’s resolutions is to get a better job. One that has you excited to wake up in the morning. One that doesn’t make you curl up in the fetal position in the shower. But just like that gym pledge, “getting a better job” can be elusive without a solid plan, and unfortunately, some will fail.
The good news is you can beat the old adage that new year’s resolutions never stick. 2012 can be the year you get a better job — as long as you avoid these six mistakes.
1. Your idea of “job searching” is applying online… and only that
Job searching is more than submitting application after application online. I’ve heard many a frustrated job seeker say, “But I’ve applied to over 45 jobs online!” For the most part, relying solely on online applications — and just that — won’t cut it. Sure, it might help, but it can’t be the crux of your strategy.
Instead, your job-search strategy should be a multi-pronged approach of applying online, reaching out to your network, making new connections, doing informational interviews, using social media in your job search, and more. There’s no silver bullet, and you never know which avenue will pay off. Pursue them all, including getting out from behind your computer.
2. No one knows you’re job searching
When you’re looking for a job, the majority of your close contacts in your network should know it. Sure, there are times when you might want to keep more of a lid on your hunt if you already have a job and don’t want your employer to find out. But even in that case, there are probably at least 3 to 5 people in your network — former colleagues (or even close current ones), friends, family, mentors, etc. — who should know you’re looking for new opportunities.
Even better, be specific about what you’re looking for. The more specific you can get, the better your contacts will be able to help you. Tell people the types of opportunities that would catch your eye, send them your resume, ask that they keep you in mind if they hear of anything, and keep them updated as your search progresses.
3. You’re looking for the wrong job
If you’re really struggling to land a job, you might want to question whether you’re looking for the right type of position. Maybe you graduated with a certain major and feel pressure to look for jobs in that field, but they sound, well, boring. It’s hard to be motivated when you’re bored. And while job searching is never easy, it can be even tougher if you’re not looking for a gig you’re really passionate about.
Before investing more time in your job hunt, take a step back and really think about whether you’re looking for the right kinds of opportunities. Making a change here could be what you need to stay motivated.
4. Your resume is boring
Updating your resume means more than adding your most recent job or volunteer position. Shop it around to at least three people you trust and give them several days to get back to you with constructive feedback.
Even more importantly, make sure your resume is more than just a series of job descriptions. Give life to yourself! Quantify whenever and wherever you can, and use bullet points that show you’re creative, proactive, a team player, and can execute on your ideas.
Also, while words are important, so is design. The overall look of your resume speaks a lot to employers and can signal whether or not you’re detail-oriented. Does it look polished?Are your margins or spacings off? Is there something small you could do to stand out? If you’re not design-savvy, check out sites like Elance or Behance for a freelance designer to give you a resume makeover.
5. You have no social media presence or a horrible one
First of all, don’t let your social media presence work against you. Nearly 80 percent of all recruiters will scan your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to look for red flags before they hire you, so make sure no offensive pictures, language or comments are associated with your name.
But even more importantly, social media can actually help you find a job or get you recruited. Lots of recruiters scour websites to recruit based on the skills and interests in your profile. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the big three. Make sure you have a complete LinkedIn profile with a clear, professional picture and good headline. Create an enticing Twitter bio and reach out to recruiters on Twitter who work for employers you like. Participate in recruiting and job hunt Twitter chats. And if you’re up for it, go above and beyond to use social media to get the attention from employers that you deserve.
6. You don’t know how to use an informational interview to your advantage
One of the best things you can do when you’re job searching is find and connect with people who have a similar job to the one you want, work at a company you want to work for, or simply have great connections in your industry. An effective way to do this is through the informational interview.
How do you find these people? Ask your network (and ask them to make an intro for you), search on LinkedIn (and look for shared connections for the intro) or Facebook or Twitter for a start. Introduce yourself over email and give a quick 4-5 sentence reason why you’re contacting them. Ask for a meeting (ideally, if in the same city) or a phone call. ALWAYS make it convenient for them and put a time limit on the call.
Try saying something like, “I’m sure you’re really busy, but if you have 30 minutes in the next two weeks, I’d be interested in buying you a cup of coffee at a location convenient for you or stop by your office for a quick chat. I’d love to hear how you got started in the field/company X!”
Most people know the purpose of these meetings and many will be open to meeting with you. After all, people usually like to talk about themselves and work they enjoy.
When you’re at the meeting, tell them about yourself and what you’re looking for and then focus mainly on them, asking questions about what they do. The key to these meetings is to follow up; never send your resume up front unless they ask for it, but attach it in your thank you email with a note like, “Great meeting with you and hearing about your experience in the field! I’ve attached my resume to this email in case you do hear of any opportunities.” This person is now part of your network and you should do upkeep with this relationship as you do with any other.
Looking for a job is always a challenge, but maybe you just need a jumpstart or regimen to get you started. 2012 can be the year you get a better job! Here’s to this resolution being one that comes true.