Your story is not unheard of, and you’re not alone as you read this. Millions of people out there had or have the same problem (yup, count me in, too).
You craft your resume and send it out to dozens of employers. Some reply and invite you for a chat. The human resources guy who interviews you promises that he will call, but he doesn’t. You follow up after a few days, and then weeks, still nothing. The rest don’t even know you exist.
It feels like a date that went wrong, and you want to know why. Could it be something you missed in your resume? Something you said during the interview? Maybe this is divine intervention telling you to stay longer in your current job. Perhaps it’s a sign that you should pursue a master’s degree? You simply wonder.
But it’s been five months (well, almost six) and they say that it takes around that time to look for a new job, but you haven’t made a dent. You’re starting to become desperate, but you know that you have standards to keep. You don’t want to settle. What could be wrong?
Here’s a checklist to help you examine if you’re doing the right (or likely the wrong) things in the job-hunting game.
1. You’re looking at the wrong places; you don’t even have a LinkedIn account
I roll my eyes when I see people complain that it’s hard to get a job and say in the same breath that they don’t have a LinkedIn account. Understand that many recruiters worldwide now fill in job vacancies through LinkedIn and are moving away from traditional employment sites like Jobstreet or Monster (even those sites also have LinkedIn accounts!).
LinkedIn is the way to go for many reasons. Statistically, you have a higher chance of getting noticed as recruiters receive real-time notifications for every application. This is better than having your email drown in the recruiter’s inbox containing hundreds of email applications. Because every LinkedIn user’s professional background is summarised for easy viewing, candidates can be deliberated upon on the spot just like Tinder, minus the swiping.
Also, remember that Google search loves LinkedIn, which is one of the most search-friendly platforms in the social media universe. Google your name and your LinkedIn profile appears on top of the search results more than your Facebook account or any website that mentions you. This is a very handy trick when you want to be more visible to recruiters, and you want to put your best “professional” foot forward.
Also, have you submitted your resume to a headhunter yet? If your resume is well-decorated, then let people do the job-hunting for you! Headhunters and executive search agencies are still alive and kicking, and all you need to do is to visit their website and drop your resume. In many cases, they will also interview you to validate if you’re worth the pitch to prospective employers.
2. Your resume doesn’t clearly show your expertise and personal brand
The first step to landing your dream job is to submit your resume. It’s your golden ticket to getting an invitation for an interview.
But since most of us think that the universe revolves around our existence, we tend to forget that our resume is just one of hundreds of others waiting to be opened. The recruiter obviously doesn’t have enough time for this. On average, it takes him six seconds to skim through and decide if you’re worth a chat. You’ll lose him if your resume isn’t feeding the facts to him.
Look at it this way: if you’re a bottle of ketchup sold in the supermarket alongside dozens of other condiments, you are expected to be bright red with a big sign that says ‘ketchup’. This way, shoppers won’t second-guess or mistaken you for mustard or mayonnaise.
The same condition applies to your resume. Ask yourself: does your resume possess the same undeniable clarity? Are the first five inches of space in your resume immediately state that you are an engineering graduate specialising in mechanical design and with five years of experience in a Fortune 500 company?
Or are you placing the burden on the recruiter to figure that out only after she has finished four pages of your resume (which she won’t read anyway)? That one-line summary stating who you are must be the first thing the recruiter sees. Nail this, and you’ve won half the battle.
3. You’re limiting your job search to a specific position or industry
Logic tells us that your chances of getting hired are proportional to the number of jobs you apply for. But you complain that there aren’t many jobs advertised online. Wrong. There aren’t enough jobs because you think you can only apply for those you thought you should apply for. The strategy is to think out of the box and be open-minded to more opportunities.
For example, a fresh graduate of a tourism degree shouldn’t limit himself to hospitality-related ranks (for example, guest services officer, event planner). Fortunately, many companies involved in airlines and hotels may also be keen on hiring you for business positions since you already possess some knowledge of the industry.
The online search strategy is this: don’t just search by job keywords (for example, “engineer” or “designer”). Search instead by company related to your industry and view all its positions offered. You are likely eligible to apply for more jobs than you initially thought.
Finished literature, journalism, or English studies? Don’t just stick to broadcast media as most do. Try also advertising, copywriting, and social media marketing since language expertise is crucial in these fields.
This is search strategy tip No. 2: While the low-hanging fruit is to search for jobs within your industry, work smarter by searching through other related industries. As a marketer myself, I can say that folks who have had careers in psychology, sociology, and statistics can easily shift to careers in business, marketing, and sales.
4. You’re not maximising your network to look for vacancies
If there’s something I learnt slowly in the corporate world, it’s the practice of filling in job vacancies through personal referrals. Look around and notice that there’s at least one employee in your team who wasn’t hired online or through executive search. Rather, she formerly reported to your current boss or was referred by one of your teammates. This is the power of network-based hiring.
Job-hunting shouldn’t be done alone in the dark. Yes, it does require a level of discretion, but you will still need a Robin or Chewbacca to co-pilot the journey. Be humble enough to admit that you will need help, so utilise your network.
Scan your list of Facebook or LinkedIn contacts. Do you have former colleagues who recently got transferred to a new company? Ask them for job vacancies. Have an opportunity to travel for an industry conference soon? Attend it and connect to every person during coffee breaks, lunches, and elevator rides. Spread your business cards liberally like butter on bread.
This is why networking is important even when you’re not looking for a job: the people you just met today may soon be useful for your career’s future.
On a final note
If you’re the type who prefers to let destiny have its way and believes that you’ll get the job if it’s “meant to be”, then you probably don’t deserve the job worth fighting for.
Every piece of success requires hard work, so do your part. Be ubiquitously visible online, be strategic in your search, and most importantly (but often forgotten), be brave and relentless to ask around.
Don’t be ashamed. The aspiration to look for greener pastures is everyone’s business, so inquire personally for job vacancies within your network as much as you can. Remember that the universe won’t give you what you want or what you need – unless you ask.
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