Job searching today isn’t what it was decades ago when our parents were forging ahead and building careers for themselves. Heck, it isn’t even the same as it was when I embarked upon my first search many years ago. While some things seem to stand the test of time—can you imagine not needing a resume?—others are best left in the past.
As new industries and roles surface, the hunt must change as well. Muse career coaches offer their thoughts on outdated job search strategies that aren’t likely to get you ahead, much less get you a job offer.
1. Apply Without Making Connections
Your goal should be to speak with someone before applying so that you can send your application directly to a person—not through an automated system that prompts you from an organization’s website. Getting in touch with someone who works where you’re applying enables you to develop rapport with a person entrenched in the company’s day to day, allowing you to gain insight on the opportunity. This will help you better position yourself; you can’t do this when you just apply online and there’s an absence of human interaction.
2. Your Skills Matter More Than Your Personality
Many job seekers focus too narrowly on having the right qualifications and technical skills. What they taught you at the college career center is true: You must be good at what you do and be able to showcase your credentials to an employer. But you need much more than that. If you really want to get ahead, you’ve got to know how to impact and influence people, navigate relationship dynamics, and add value far beyond what’s detailed in the job description.
3. Stay Put
Stay at a company and work your way up used to be sound advice. And, sure, if you see a pathway for growth at your current company and you know how to get there, by all means, you should stay and climb that ladder. But if you don’t have room to grow, don’t waste too many years in one place in one role; keep your eye on the market and don’t let better opportunities pass you by! Being nimble and jumping is often the name of the success game today.
4. Don’t Negotiate
When I started out, I was told to be grateful for my first job offer. I was instructed not to show disrespect by trying to negotiate. Boy, is that so off-base, particularly for women who face a wage gap. The gender wage gap costs a full-time working woman a lot of money over the course of her career, and it starts with her first job. Always negotiate on principle, especially if you’re a woman.
5. Apply to Everything You See
Quantity over quality: That’s what career services used to advise, saying that applying to anything and everything would lead to success. Today, job seekers are much better off targeting specific brands or companies in a more strategic fashion and starting a conversation rather than blanketing the universe with resumes. It will payoff to have the right start to your career in the long run than throwing your hat in the ring for every opportunity that comes along.
6. Show Up at the Office Without a Scheduled Meeting
It used to be that calling the hiring manager, or stopping by uninvited just to meet them, was viewed as a great way to stand out from other applicants. However, showing up unannounced demonstrates a lack of respect for the hiring manager’s time, and puts the person on the spot, forcing them to engage in a conversation they may not be prepared for. It frankly also demonstrates a lack of understanding about modern office etiquette.
7. Follow the Straight and Narrow
The way to your dream career is not always a straight path—what’s important is that you’re traveling in the right direction. In today’s market, you may not land the job of your dreams right away. Use creativity to find a role in an alternative field that’ll help you grow relevant skills and qualifications. It’s perfectly OK, maybe even common, to take a few random turns on the way to your ideal job.
8. Send the Same Resume to Every Company
Gone are the days when you can rely on crafting one perfect resume. Think about it: Are you not a good fit for so many different jobs? Likely you are. And these positions all have different keywords in their job descriptions. So you must customize your resume, or create a new version to fit each job you’re applying for. Keyword optimization is a critical first step to avoid being shut down by an applicant tracking system, too.
9. Skip Networking
The days of logging onto a company’s website, going to the careers section, clicking on ‘open jobs,’ selecting the one you’re interested in, and then submitting your resume are over. Sure, you can still do this, but the odds of getting hired this way are slim to none. What you want to focus on is building relationships with people who work at the company, used to work at the company, or are somehow affiliated with the company. You can do this but tapping your network (alumni, friends, family, associations, etc.) or using LinkedIn to identify key people. Remember, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows what you want.
Photo of man on laptop courtesy of Lucy von Held/Getty Images.
Stacey Lastoe started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author