by Katharine Hansen Ph.D.
Are you in an active job-search but have no job? Are you having troubles finding a job?
Not long ago one of my former students contacted me in despair. It was six months after graduation and she still hadn't found a job. I started thinking about some of the common roadblocks to a successful job-search and I came up with this list of 10 important questions. Still haven't found a job? Ask yourself...
- Are you networking?
- Are you limiting your search?
- Are you targeting employers most likely to need your skills?
Job-seekers today can't rely on passive methods of job-hunting. You have to meet people and tell as many of them as possible that you're looking for a job (be specific). Take your resume everywhere and give it out to everyone you can. Try informational interviewing; it's a highly effective form of networking.
Are you relying strictly on want ads in the newspaper? Or have you decided that Internet ads will be the source of your next job? Don't search in only one sphere. Only a small percentage of job-seekers find jobs through either print or Internet want ads. So where do they find them? See Question No. 1 -- through networking. But don't even limit your search just to networking; incorporate every form of job-hunting into the mix. Get some hints in our article 10 Ways for Job-Seekers to Develop Job Leads.
A really effective job search begins with comprehensive employer research and development of a list of employers to target. Based on various research criteria you can target companies you most want to work for companies that are likely to have plentiful openings in your field and/or companies in particular need of the skills you have to offer. Once you've researched them you can approach them using various job-hunting techniques:
- Sending cold-contact inquiry letters the impress the employer with your knowledge of the company.
- Using your network to uncover people with an "in" into your target companies.
- Informationally interviewing people in your target companies.
- Watching for print and Internet want ads from the companies (but not relying solely on these ads).
Many experts believe job-hunting should in itself be a full-time job. If you're in school or employed while seeking a better job your time may be somewhat limited. But you should put as much time as you can into it. Try to contact people in your network every day with the goal of setting up interviews with your contacts or people they've referred you to.
Do you just send your resume and cover letters out into limbo and hope for the best? Or have you taken the time to make sure you're using the best possible resume template and following professional resume writing advice. What's more, do you make a follow-up call or send follow-up e-mail to see if you can schedule an interview appointment? Those who proactively follow up are much more likely to get interviews. Learn more about following-up.
If you're following up but still not getting interviews the problem could lie with your resume or cover letter. You may want to get a professional to review them. A good source is your college career-services office. Even if you're long out of school these offices often serve alumni sometimes for a fee. Or consult a professional resume writer. Our vast collection of resume resources should also be able to help you.
If you're getting lots of interviews but never make it past the interview stage your interview skills might need some polishing. Have a friend conduct a mock interview with you and critique your performance. Better yet find a professional in your field to mock-interview you. And the best choice is to see a professional career counselor who can not only critique your performance but also videotape it so you can see for yourself how you appear to others. Our interviewing resources may also be able to help you.
It's just common courtesy. Though a thank-you note won't make or break your job search it might. Let's say the hiring decision is between equally qualified candidates. One sent a thank-you note and the other didn't. Odds favor the candidate who thanked the employer for his or her time.
If you've sent a thank-you note and haven't heard anything by the time the employer said the hiring decision would be made by all means call. Be polite but persistent. This kind of follow-up shows your interest in the job.
After you receive a rejection from an employer do you ask what you did wrong or what you could have done better? Granted most employers won't give you a straight answer; they're afraid of getting sued. But occasionally you'll find a sympathetic person with whom you may have had good rapport in the interview. If only one person reveals something that can give you a more effective approach to your job search it will have been well worth asking. If you are rejected also be sure to let the employer know you're still interested in working for the company. That technique has paid off for many a job-seeker when the person the company hired didn't work out.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.