Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Job Search / Networking

4 Hard Job Search Truths You’re Just Going to Have to Accept

woman on computer

You embark on a job search because you want a new (better) position. It’s the very opposite of an “enjoy the journey” endeavor. You’re not in it because of the joys of interviewing: You’re sticking it out for the end result.

But like so many goals that involve an arduous process (going back to school, training for a long-distance race, launching a side gig), there are days when you just want to quit. You want to cut through the inefficiencies that are there “just because,” and find a friend and a bottle of wine so you can rant about how stupid and hard it all is.

On the bright side, you’re completely entitled to the friend, the bottle of wine, and the rant. But, that daydream of opting out of every annoying part the job search process? While pretty much everyone would agree with you that certainly aspects totally suck, they too know that there are boxes you just have to check to be considered for a new role.

With that in mind, here are four hard search job truths you’re going to have to accept in order to be successful.

1. You Need to Reach Out to Your Network

There are lots of reasons why people want to skip this step. They want to “do it for themselves.” They don’t want to be seen as “users.” They find networking to be terribly awkward.

And these are understandable feelings, but you have to get out there and reach out to your contacts anyway.

Here’s Why

Muse writer Adam Saven pulled together six little-known facts about applying for a job. Among them: More than three-quarters of jobs are found through networking, referrals count for almost half of all new hires, and hundreds—literally hundreds—of people will apply for an average open position. This means that being in touch with others is a crucial part of finding the right role, getting your application seen, and can even increase your chances of landing an offer.

So, don’t let your hatred of networking hold you back, instead reach out in a way that works for you.

2. You Need to Complete the Application

Of course, some people take the above advice too far and figure if they email all of their contacts, they shouldn’t have to follow the traditional rules as well. After all, it is totally annoying to fill out a multi-page online form, just to attach your resume that contains the exact same information. Are you hesitant to spend time customizing a stellar cover letter, when there’s a chance it’ll never even be read? Wouldn’t it save everyone time if you just emailed in a paragraph about why you’re the right fit and called it a day?

You’re right to ponder these questions and find all of these aspects completely annoying, but if you want an interview, you have to complete the steps anyhow.

Here’s Why

The answers you submit through that cumbersome form are probably going right into an applicant tracking system, so if you give one-word responses, your materials might not get filtered through the system for human review.

Regarding cover letters, as Muse Master Coach Jenny Foss explains, “Done poorly, there’s no big deal at all. Done well, a cover letter gives you the chance to speak directly to how your skills and experience line up with the specific job you’re pursuing. It also affords you an opportunity to hint to the reviewer that you’re likable, original, and likely to fit in around the place should you land the job.” (Hopefully that also clears up why you can’t send a “Hey, you hate reading these, I hate writing them, but I’m a great fit” paragraph: That counts as a cover letter “done poorly.”)

So, take the time to cross your T’s, dot your I’s, and complete every part of the application. And if you’re worried your cover letter isn’t hacking it, consider working with a coach.

3. You Need to Prepare for Your Interview

Preparing for an interview seems kind of stupid. You know who you are and what your work experience is—after all, you’ve lived it! Why should you have to practice talking about yourself, instead of just showing up, and being yourself? And why is it on you to research the role and come up with up questions? Won’t the hiring manager tell you what you’ll be doing?

You’re allowed to think rehearsing your life story feels unnatural and thinking up questions shouldn’t be necessary, but you’re not allowed to skip this step.

Here’s Why

I’m not saying this to increase your pre-interview jitters, but the truth is, you are being graded based on your answers. Like any test, if you come in well prepared, you’ll feel more confident. If you give solid answers to those initial, predictable questions, you’ll establish a rhythm that’ll help you feel more comfortable (and ready to answer something less-expected as well). If you decide to wing it and stumble over the first several responses, you’ll spend the rest of the meeting preoccupied with the idea that you need to make up ground.

And yes, you need to research the company, too. Muse Writer and former recruiter Richard Moy shares the opportunities you’ll miss if you don’t—like making sure you’d actually enjoy being part of that company.

4. You Need to Send a Thank You Note

I get it: In your personal life, you pretty much only send a thank you note when someone has given you a gift (or a check) or shared in some major life event or done some colossal favor like help you move—across the country. Conversely, interviewing for a job takes work. Maybe you spent money on a new outfit (or getting an old one dry-cleaned); you spent hours preparing; you answered questions in front of a firing squad—and now you’re supposed to express your gratitude?

Sure, it doesn’t fit with the other scenarios in which you need to write a thank you note, but you have to send one anyways.

Here’s Why

Put plainly, it can make all the difference. Yes, you might’ve met with a hiring manager who thinks thank you notes are old school, but you could also have one who simply won’t hire a candidate—no matter how perfect she is—if she skips this step. And unfortunately, there’s not sign on the office door telling you which interviewer you have.

So, you must play it safe and send one. And good news, it doesn’t have to be that difficult, just follow this template.

Looking for a job isn’t easy. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes a willingness to accept that not all of the steps are things you’ll look forward to (or think make sense or even consider fair). But, you have remember that they will help you reach your goal, and when you get to go to work at a new job every day, it’ll be worth it.