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Mistakes will hurt job hunt



Published: Mon, February 10, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Last week's column discussed five of the 10 most common, and costly, mistakes made by job seekers:

1. Having no focus and no target list of employers;

2. Being market-driven;

3. Being passion-driven;

4. Managing paperwork badly;

5. Not following up.

Now, let's look at the rest.

Mistake 6. Relying too much on the Internet.

Of course it's a wonderful tool. But using the Internet is not the same as looking for work. In fact, for quite a few people, I would say using the Internet is a good way to hide from looking for work.

Ouch. If that was too direct, I apologize. But ask yourself: How many people do you know who have gotten a job on the Internet? Case closed. That doesn't mean you should shut off your computer -- just don't use screen-time as a substitute for face-time.

Make the most of the Internet by using it to research companies and to keep up with issues in your field. Use e-mail for one of your contact methods, but not as the only way to connect with employers.

And be very selective about responding to jobs posted on the Web. Most Web forms are just glorified applications, and few offer enough contact information to allow you to follow up. If you can't follow up, how will you get an interview?

Talk to people

Mistake 7. Not networking.

If you have become tired of this term, or confused by it, call it "talking to people" instead. Because that's all that networking is.

What you say and who you say it to are optional, but the actual talking is not. You have to choose some people to ask for advice, and some to ask for leads and some just to be supportive.

Without this net (think "safety net") of people to help you, you will never hear about the unadvertised jobs or get referred as the must-see candidate.

Start your networking by telling everyone you know what kind of work you are seeking. Then assign yourself to at least one gathering per week, whether it's a community meeting or a workshop. Once there, talk to at least one new person. Repeat until employed, and long after.

Mistake 8. Not strategizing interviews.

Strategizing is not the same as practicing, although both are important. To practice is to go over key points in anticipation of likely questions.

To strategize is to identify those key questions and points and to place them in a context. Which will be most important, and why? How do you know? Whom have you asked?

To build your interview strategy, ask yourself: What does this employer most need in this position? Which of these things do I have? What examples can I give? Who else will be competing for this job? How do I stack up? How will I stand out?

The answers differ for every opening, so create a new strategy for each interview.

For now, take any job

Mistake 9. Not taking interim employment.

If your job search is going to take more than a month or two, you need at least a part-time job. Even if your wages are swallowed up by child care and transportation, you will still benefit from increased contacts and self-esteem.

What about the damage it will do to your job search? If you maintain at least 20 hours a week for contacting employers, you will still be outstripping the average job seeker.

In fact, you may be more disciplined when you don't have "all day" to make your calls.

And it definitely sounds better to tell a prospective employer that you've been working part-time than to say that you've been looking for work for ... how long?

Mistake 10. Having no timeline.

When do you plan to be employed again? The keyword in that question is not "when," but "plan."

Without a timeline, you can't set a pace. Likewise, without checkpoints to monitor your progress, you can't troubleshoot your job search or move to a Plan B. Don't let another day go by without a goal date for re-employment.

XAmy Lindgren, the owner of a career-consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn., can be reached at alindgren@pioneerpress.com.




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