“Stuck” is how you might feel when you’ve followed your career coach or other career experts’ advice, worked as hard as you have in any other job, explored and summarized your skills, pounded the pavement, but still full progress evades you. This broken record in your head echoes downers like, “Wouldn’t someone else have landed by now?” and “What am I doing wrong?”
You’re in the world of the advanced job seeker. You have been through the wringer a few times, know the principles of job searching backward and forward and, as a result, you are choosier about what you accept. You’re facing the complicated concerns of a more demanding job seeker.
Perhaps it’s time to go beyond past learned principles and develop a strategy that fits your current situation. Your complaint of “nothing works for me” may be temporary if you can identify and attack that problem. Here are two typical roadblocks advanced job seekers often face, along with solutions for getting unstuck.
Roadblock 1: My network goes round and round … and nowhere.
John told me that his network list was used up and that the folks he’d been contacting were too. Some of them had heard from him multiple times. John knew he was getting a “pest” reputation. He also worried that with time, those network contacts’ perception of him had diminished. Why hadn’t he gotten a job yet? This was in John’s own mind. Feeling back to zero, he wondered where to find a new network.
Networking gets exhausting for both you and your contacts. You are stuck in a rut of your making and have to leave people alone for a while. Don’t assume that networking is the end product of the job search. It’s a method, an imperfect one. It’s like being a salesperson and assuming that talking to a lot of people will lead to sales. Not necessarily true.
Don’t network till it hurts. If you really don’t want to make that next contact, don’t, because you’ll just be going through the motions. Like mass mailing of resumes, such product-line networking will yield very low returns. Numbers seen, hours spent, and calls made do not translate to results.
Take a close look at how you have been networking. Are you making friends, or are you making poor use of people’s time? Are you doing anything that might turn folks off? Are you asking them questions that you could have answered for yourself by reading their literature? Are you asking for more help than they can reasonably provide? Networking and informational interviewing are the fine arts of getting help from people in ways that feel painless to them. Your technique may be a little rough around the edges. Maybe because you are tired, you are not concentrating anymore, just rushing from one contact to the next.
Get away from networking for a while. Go back to making direct applications. You may have been relying too heavily on “help” from others. Such help can sometimes lead you to relax and expect that others will do the work for you. Direct application will force you to sell yourself more strongly. Refer to your target list and head in their direction. Don’t ask anyone to help introduce you.
Broaden your range of potential employers. Perhaps you’ve been too narrowly focused on a single field. If you like to sell, try other products than you’ve been targeting. Even if you prefer a certain industry, give others a chance, to see if they could use your abilities too.
Roadblock 2: There’s too much competition.
Sandra told me, “There’s too much competition for the jobs I want. I have good interviews, but someone else is always better qualified. I can do everything I am supposed to do in job search, but still come up second best. Why beat my head against the wall? I knew I should have picked an easier field to get into.”
Like Sandra, you may be faced with a highly competitive field. If so, I advise you to broaden your reach in one of several ways:
- Geographically – widen the territory in which you are making contacts.
- By level – maybe you are shooting too high; try the next level down to see if you can hired and then promoted.
- Organizations – search for employers that do similar work, perhaps smaller companies or firms in related areas.
If all this still leads to blank walls, decide what you must do to become competitive in that occupation, set those steps in motion (education, part-time experience, acquisition of skills, volunteer work, etc.) and seek an interim job while you are building your case for the longer-range goals. You haven’t lost the competition. You’re simply going to enter the game at a later date.
If you are just starting out or have not covered the field yet, you may be exaggerating the depth of the competition. It is easy to get scared off by other people. Don’t take secondhand information. Go directly to the “experts” and ask them what they think your chances are and how you can best prepare for successful entry.
Don’t be deterred if you lack a particular degree or credentials. Check to see if there are people hired recently who did not have the credential that relates to their work. Ask them how they got hired.
I imagine that if you looked hard enough, you could always find someone who is better than you. But not everyone is out job searching at the same time you are, not everyone is as motivated as you are, not everyone is in the same location you are, and even people with “better” qualifications often conduct the search poorly or don’t fit with a particular company culture.
Remember, for any given job, most people don’t want it, most don’t have the talent for it, and even fewer are willing to try to obtain it. So, if you have ambition, talent, and persistence, the odds are almost always in your favor for any career.
If your assessment of the competition is accurate, that simply means you must position yourself for the next move. You must decide what you lack, find a strategy for correcting the situation, and then while you are getting yourself in shape, make yourself visible to those people who may be interested in you or in the nature future.
In each of my next two posts, I’ll cover two more potential roadblocks and solutions for advanced job seekers!
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