Most people make a plan before setting out on a road trip. They know where they'll stop for the night, how much they'll spend on meals and, most importantly, where they're going and when they expect to arrive.
The same can't be said of a job search. Instead of choosing a destination and a schedule, an awful lot of people just start out, r & eacute;sum & eacute;s in hand, hoping a job will be advertised soon that fits their skills.
If you don't want to spend your job search wandering aimlessly, you need to avoid such mistakes. Following are five of the 10 most common, and costly, errors made by job seekers. Watch next week's column for the other five mistakes.
Mistake 1. Having no focus and no target list of employers.
The best job search starts with a job target. What do you want to do, and for which companies?
Answering this question is a back-and-forth process. You might know approximately what you want to do, but not what it is called. Through research, you might discover a general name for it, and some companies that need it done. Now you need to check each of those companies to find out what they call this job, who manages these workers and how to reach that person.
Once you know these details, you can customize your r & eacute;sum & eacute; to reflect the specific skills you have that your research has shown these companies need. At this point, you are ready to contact these employers, regardless of whether they are advertising a position.
To maintain a good pace, try to develop a list of 50 target employers, and contact at least five each week.
A question of skills
Mistake 2. Being market-driven.
When you think about your next job, do you study the statistics to see what is "hot"? Beware! Choosing a hot field when you have no affinity for the work can be disastrous.
If the field collapses, you will be forced to search high and low for a job you don't even want, in competition with people who would do the work for free. And if the field thrives, you will be trapped into building skills you don't enjoy using.
Instead, choose your target work by analyzing your skills and preferences. Then combine these elements in different ways to come up with a variety of job titles to consider. Research will help you determine which titles, and which companies, will be the most rewarding to you. At this point, you can round out your list by cross-referencing it with hot jobs or industries.
Mistake 3. Being passion-driven.
Are you looking for a job you will be passionate about?
The time to do that is after you are employed and have the luxury of shopping around. In the meantime, if you need an income, you'd better get down to brass tacks and get a job that will pay your bills. That's something you can get passionate about.
Targeting your r & eacute;sum & eacute;
Mistake 4. Managing paperwork badly.
One very good reason to target your job search is so you can use your r & eacute;sum & eacute; to highlight the specific skills and experiences that will interest most of the employers you plan to contact. Unfortunately, candidates who apply for a broad range of jobs often send a mistargeted r & eacute;sum & eacute;.
Instead of highlighting specific skills, it relates all the candidate's experiences, on the assumption that every employer will find a little something of interest. Or, worse, a job seeker will switch job goals but send a r & eacute;sum & eacute; highlighting skills needed for the previous goal. Job seekers also err when they send a cover letter to a position, rather than to a person.
Mistake 5. Not following up.
Speaking of follow-up: It is the single most important job search task. Perversely, it is the thing most job seekers do the least.
When you send a r & eacute;sum & eacute;, whether a job is open or not, you must follow up to ask for a meeting. Jobs are rarely offered without a face-to-face meeting, so you want one -- even if you have to call or e-mail or stop by several times to get it. After you meet, you must continue following up until it becomes clear that you are at a dead end, or until you are told you are on the right track.
XAmy Lindgren, the owner of a career-consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn., can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.