You don’t want to admit it. You don’t want to even think about it. But the reality for some (maybe you) is this:
You’ve been looking for a job for so long that you don’t even remember what it feels like to not be looking for a job.
Sure, maybe you’re still employed so, perhaps, you’re not in dire economic straits. But for even the most well-adjusted among us, a job search that drags on endlessly can wear you out or make you start feeling, well, sort of loser-ish.
You’re not a loser. So, stop thinking that. It’s much more likely that your strategy’s missing something fundamental, or you’re going about job search in a way that’s simply not productive in the year 2015.
Let’s flip the lid on a few of the most common things that cause job search to drag on, and what you can do to fix or improve upon them:
1. You’re Relying 100% on Online Applications
If your entire job search can be summed up as “Find a job advertised online. Fill out the online application. Submit. Wait” then you could be in for a looooong process. You absolutely must realize that you’re entering the race as a commodity (rather than an individual) when you submit an application with a giant blob of other candidates who also just saw that job ad. You do not want to be a commodity in job search.
At the very least, take one extra step each time you apply for a job online. Go over to LinkedIn, type the organization’s name into the search box, and see if you have any first or second degree (or Group) connections at the company. Assuming you do, find a way to touch base with that person and ask if he or she has any details about the role, or suggestions on how you should approach the application. In the best case, that contact introduces you directly to the internal recruiter or hiring manager. In the worst case, you’re in the exact same spot you were before you sent the message.
2. Your LinkedIn Profile Isn’t Angled Toward Your Target Audience
Wondering why your friends (working in the same jobs, same industry) always get contacted by recruiters via LinkedIn, and you don’t? Take a hard look at your profile. Is it positioning you well toward the types of roles for which you’d like to be found? Is it complete? Are you including a photo and relevant keywords? Does the summary position you as an interesting human who a stranger would like to know?
More than 90% of recruiters use LinkedIn regularly as a sourcing tool to find candidates. If you’re not there, barely there, or not positioning yourself as a strong fit for the types of roles you want to land next, you’re squandering an incredible opportunity to be “found.” Step one: Adjust your headline. Step two: Rewrite your summary. Step three: Optimize your keywords for search.
3. You Aren’t Branding Yourself as Someone Who Matters
One of the absolute best strategies for any professional (active job seeker and non-seeker alike) is to be present among the key players in your industry, in your geography. You can’t possibly expect to be discovered for this job or that if you’re an unknown in your sector. This doesn’t mean you have to attend every Meetup, networking event, and professional conference known to man. That’s both unrealistic for most busy professionals and, frankly, overkill. But your current and future searches will likely progress more smoothly if you behave like a thought leader in your field.
Sleuth out LinkedIn groups that are relevant to both your industry and your current geography (for instance, if I’m a marketing person in Chicago, I may check out the Chicago Public Relations and Marketing Network). You can often find upcoming events being promoted in the discussion forums. This is also a great place to see who the “players” are. Who is commenting intelligently and positioning themselves well? Pay attention to how they’re doing it. Then, find a few conversations and jump in. Bonus points if you write a relevant, related LinkedIn article to accompany your points.
4. You’re Not Finishing Strong
Are you landing interviews, yet still not landing the job? If so, your search may be dragging on because you’re not taking deliberate steps to ensure you go the distance. Realize that you’re competing with people who are rested, hydrated, and pacing themselves to take this bad boy to the finish line. Don’t be the one who sprints it hard at the beginning and then fizzles in the interview process or when it’s time to close the deal.
If you’re getting invited to interviews, congratulate yourself because you’re clearly doing something right. And then dissect the steps that follow that turning point. Are you walking into the interviews prepared? Are you dressed in alignment with that company’s culture? Are you coming across as passionate, interesting, and engaged in the interview? Are you asking about next steps before you leave the meeting? Are you sending a customized, thoughtful thank you email the millisecond you get back to your computer? Your competitors are paying attention to every step in the process. Make sure you are, too.
These tips may sound elementary. And I’m certainly not suggesting that there’s a magical fix for every rugged, lengthy job search. But many times, making a few fundamental tweaks to your strategy will result in immediate, positive momentum. And when they don’t? Consider spending an hour with a professional career coach or job search strategist. If you find one who understands the recruitment process intimately, she may be able to help you pinpoint what’s going wrong, recommend more productive strategies, and eliminate weeks and weeks of frustration.