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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

5 Times You’re Judging the Job Search by Its Cover (and Missing Out on Great Opportunities)


A couple weeks ago, I spoke with a friend who claimed to be having zero luck finding a job. When I asked her why, she said that it was because there weren’t any openings in her industry. Considering she’s in marketing, I found that hard to believe.

But after more prodding, I found that the issue wasn’t that there was a dearth of positions—she was just being incredibly close-minded and one-track about her search. So in one way she was right—the opening she was looking for didn’t exist, and it likely never would.

People always talk about not judging a book by its cover, but I think the same principle applies to job searching. Too often, job seekers are quick to make snap decisions based on minimal information. And by doing that, they’re missing out on awesome opportunities.

Could this be you? If you’re a highly qualified person who’s also in the “no luck” boat—maybe! Luckily, fixing these mistakes only requires small changes in mindset.

1. You’re Networking With People Just Because of Their Job Titles

What’s wrong with networking with people solely for their job titles? First and foremost, titles change all the time, but personalities don’t. So while you may be able to deal with an unsavory individual because he’s the lead designer at Google, you may not be so eager when he quits that job to help with a bum startup that’s not going anywhere.

Second, it’s a pretty transparent move, and people can always tell when you’re reaching out for that reason. So, not only will you walk away without a helpful, long-term contact, but you’ll also run the risk of damaging your own reputation. And most importantly, titles don’t mean much. Obviously, there’s a different between an assistant and a VP, but what two marketing managers do can vary greatly from company to company. So, by ruling people out based on their title, you’re dismissing them based on very little.

Not to mention, an editorial assistant might not have an impressive resume (yet), but she could have much stronger connections (and more relevant connections for you) than an editor-in-chief at the same publication.

2. You Only Apply to Jobs at Name Brand Companies

Yes, Google, Facebook, and Apple might have shiny names that you can brag about to your old high school friends via social media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best fit for you.

By limiting yourself to only applying for jobs at companies with a big marquee, you’re effectively shutting out 99% of companies out there, many of which will probably be exactly (and potentially even more) what you’re looking for. When you’re looking at these places, you should always ask yourself: Would you really want to work for this organization if its name changed tomorrow and nobody knew what it was?

Trust me: Being able to genuinely say that you love your job when you head to the office each morning feels a whole lot better than feeling cool for a few minutes when you bump into an acquaintance who tells you that your company is “soooo great.”

3. You Won’t Consider Companies Without Perks

Fact: The majority of companies you encounter won’t have a bounce house in their headquarters, personal Starbucks baristas, wall-to-wall fusball tables, or any number of larger-than-life perks that some bigger companies and “cool” startups offer. That’s just life.

And truth be told, similar to the earlier point about not applying only to companies with big names, just because a company has out-of-this-world perks doesn’t mean you’ll actually like working there (or even use those benefits!).

For example, my friend landed a job as a marketing manager at one of these places and couldn’t stop talking about how the company offered free gym memberships to every employee. “But you haven’t done any sort of physical exertion since before Obama took office,” I reminded her. But she swore this was a serious turning point. Unsurprisingly, after a short three-day stint of trying out the local gym, her membership went unused for the rest of her three-year tenure at the company.

Yes, perks are awesome. But they’re only the icing on the cake. And if the actual cake’s stale, dry, and a flavor you hate, that icing won’t really make too much of a difference.

4. You Don’t Send Thank You Notes After Bad Interviews

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I’m consistently surprised at how many people take a “Why bother?” approach after coming out of a bad interview—or even a less-than-great networking meeting.

Regardless of the situation, sending personalized, meaningful thank you notes and follow-up emails is crucial. Just because you and your interviewer don’t mesh well doesn’t mean that person saw it the same way—or that he can’t help you out in another way. (Or, that you can’t use it to make up for missteps.)

During an interview for a freelance writing position, it quickly became obvious to me that the hiring manager was looking for something entirely different. I still sent a thank you note and followed up as I normally would. That hiring manager ended up recommending me to her colleague who was looking for a freelance social media coordinator. Boom, I ended up with a job after all.

5. You Won’t Look at Job Listings That Don’t Check Off 100% of Your Criteria

OK, yes, in an ideal world, you’d be able to do what you love every single day. And while you shouldn’t go in the opposite direction and apply to gigs you’ll hate, it’s important to remember that most positions are a happy medium. You’ll do some work you love, some work you’re not a huge fan of, and some work in between.

Instead of picking through job boards trying to find the “perfect listing” (Newsflash: It doesn’t exist), do your research and see the pros and cons of working in your field. Which responsibilities are non-negotiable—in that you absolutely need to do them or absolutely won’t do them—and which ones are you not as thrilled about but can manage?

For example, a big part of working in digital editorial now is understanding how social media works. That’s just a fact. So if that’s a deal breaker for you, then so is the career. Or, on the topic of social media, if you’re managing accounts, you’re probably going to have to work weekends occasionally; that’s just the nature of that type of position.

When it comes to your job search, keeping an open mind and leaving as many options open is critical to landing a gig you love. You’ll be amazed at how many opportunities magically appear when you choose to open your eyes and look beyond the cover.