Courtesy of USAA
No matter what career you're seeking, finding employment continues to be a challenge. To improve your chances, career experts advise avoiding these common misconceptions.
Myth 1: Most jobs are advertised in newspapers and online sites.
Only 15% to 20% of job openings are publicly posted, reports Randall Hansen, publisher of Quintessential Careers website. The number of people actually hired through these ads is less than half that, he says.
To add insult to unemployment, many employers have increasingly found e-job applications more of a hassle than a help, says Christine Bolzan, founder of Graduate Career Coaching. "So many people automatically respond to the online offerings that employers are often reluctant to post a job," she says.
If you search online for a job, Hansen recommends going directly to prospective employers' websites or searching Google by profession, industry or geographic area. "Many industry and professional associations also run job boards," he says. "For example, the American Marketing Association has one for marketing professionals."
Myth 2: The Web is the modern way to search for work.
Use the Internet to gather information and promote yourself, but don't depend on it as a one-stop, e-shop for good job opportunities. Instead, focus on getting real face time. "Person-to-person networking has never been more important," says Bolzan, who offers these suggestions to advertise yourself:
Myth 3: Resume + cover letter = interview ± job.
- Sound out friends and family about openings.
- Schedule informational interviews with people in your field of interest.
- Catch up with former colleagues and classmates.
- Get involved in professional organizations.
Today, you have to market yourself and your skills, says J.T. O'Donnell, a career strategist and founder of Careerealism.com. Consider a career-focused website or blog as a way to tell your story, she says.
Use professional networking sites like LinkedIn to promote your experience, research what's current in your career field and develop professional contacts.
Myth 4: The more applications in play, the more offers on the way.
Put away the application shotgun and become a job sharpshooter, advises O'Donnell. Study the positions you want and identify the companies that have them. Then, aim carefully by crafting customized resumes and cover letters designed to hit the mark. "It's a matter of quality over quantity," she says.
Myth 5: Any job in this economy is a good job.
If the rent is due and your desired line of work still eludes you, taking a career detour may be unavoidable. At the same time, keep faith with your long-range professional goals and keep your skills current by staying active in related organizations, taking a class to add new skills or volunteering for an organization that relates to the job you're interested in.
Myth 6: Experience and qualifications matter more than character.
Most interviewers gauge how well candidates might fit in with their team. At your interview, smile, make eye contact, ask informed questions and demonstrate genuine enthusiasm for the position. Never undervalue authenticity and likability in your effort to win the job, advises O'Donnell.
Myth 7: It's not what you know, it's who you know.
It's more a matter of how well you know them, when you knew them and who they know, says Bolzan. "You need to stay in contact with decision-makers even when they aren't hiring," she adds. "You need to let them know you're still out there by gently touching base every 30 to 45 days."
Myth 8: The interview is all about you.
A job interview is more than a one-way audition of your skills and personality. You also need to show genuine interest in the company and position.
Learn everything you can about the company and the person who will be interviewing you, if you can find out that person's name. Scope out online information about the company through Google searches. Learn about your interviewer through LinkedIn company profiles and corporate Tweeters. Shared alma maters, favorite teams or professional memberships can go a long way to breaking the interview ice.
Myth 9: Dumbing down your resume is an effective strategy.
If you've been told you're overqualified, you might be tempted to remove dates and even advanced degrees from your resume. This would be a mistake, says O'Donnell. Such a move smacks of desperation and can be a deal killer if a background check reveals the truth.
A better approach is to explain in detail why you're enthusiastic about the position and the company and what specific needs you are uniquely qualified to meet. Also, demonstrate you have the flexibility and qualities to mesh with the team. Ask questions and show your readiness to learn what others have to teach.
Myth 10: Grad school is always a good fallback.
"Only go to grad school if you can 100% prove that you need those skills to advance your long-term goals," says O'Donnell. Using higher education as a place to wait out a down job market could leave you further behind financially and professionally.
Myth 11: Landing a job you love is the most important thing.
Instead of fixating on your vision of the ideal job, concentrate on how you like to live, learn and relate. Ask yourself:
- Do you prefer to work solo, or as part of a team?
- Do you thrive in high-pressure situations, or easygoing environments?
- Is your computer like an extension of your fingers and brain, or a necessary electronic evil?
Leverage this self-knowledge to target jobs and careers that play to these preferences and strengths. The resulting job might not be perfect, but if you are tackling tasks you enjoy on a daily basis, you might end up with the next best thing.
Myth 12: If you've been fired, your job prospects are toast.
Getting fired or laid off doesn't carry the stigma it once did. What counts is how you handle interview questions about the situation. Whatever you do, don't rip into your old boss or workplace. Take the rational, philosophical route. Think of jobs like shoes — some fit better than others. You can use that analogy when discussing lost jobs, says O'Donnell. "Tell the interviewer, 'It just wasn't a good fit.'" Then, finish that thought by explaining why this job seems tailor-made.