Share this article:
Bookmark and Share

3 Habits of Highly Ineffective Job Seekers

Written by Kevin Donlin contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2"

After speaking to and counseling nearly 10,000 job seekers since 1996, I've witnessed many successes. I've seen people sail smoothly from one position to the next, in good times and in bad.

Unfortunately, I've seen many failures, too. Some folks spin their wheels and struggle for months to land a job, no matter what the economy is doing.

That's just life -- failure is more common than success. But it need not be common for you, if you're willing to learn from failure.

With that in mind, I've done some thinking and found that unsuccessful job seekers have three habits in common.

Avoid them if you want to find work fast ...

Ineffective Habit 1.)

Begin with no specific job in mind Many people, thrust into the labor market, immediately turn to the job listings (online or in the newspaper) and start looking for jobs.

Which job? Any job will do -- they have no clear idea of what their target position or ideal employer look like.

As a result, everything about these people is unclear: their resume, cover letters, networking conversations, how you can help them find work, etc.

Here's a test: Show your resume to three friends and ask them what job you're looking for. If any of your friends -- someone who knows you -- gets the wrong idea after reading your resume, how can you expect employers to know?

Solution: Get specific about the job you want, right down to the title.

It's not enough to say, "I'm looking for anything in retail." Anything means nothing. Instead, say, "I'm looking for a position as a retail store manager."

Ineffective Habit 2.)

Fail to differentiate But it's not enough to know what you want. You have to stand out from the crowd.

Pop quiz: Which of the following people would you hire?

It's no contest. The person who makes a specific, measurable promise to employers is the one who gets called for an interview.

If you call yourself something like a Business Consultant or Administrative Assistant, you're failing to set yourself apart from the thousands of other people saying exactly the same thing.

Don't have one more networking conversation or write another cover letter until you do two things to differentiate yourself:

  1. Tell people what you really do.

    Instead of saying you're a Sales Manager, Customer Service Rep, or Accountant, use more-vivid descriptions, like Profit Producer, Guest Happiness Agent, or Numbers Cruncher.

  2. Prove it.

    If you describe yourself creatively, you'd better back it up with specific proof, like this: "Guest Happiness Agent who delivered 98% customer satisfaction, ranking #2 among 34 personnel in 2008."

    Use this two-part method to create a vivid, memorable description of what you can do.

Then start using it in your email signature file, your online profiles, your blog, your networking conversations -- anywhere, anytime you talk to anyone.

Ineffective Habit 3.)

Take only comfortable actions To get a job you've never had before, you must do something you've never done before. Which may make you feel uncomfortable.

For example, you may need to make a networking phone call to a manager you've never met before who works at your target employer.

And taking new actions involves the possibility of failure.

Like the first time you tried walking and crashed headlong into the coffee table. Nobody likes failure (or smashed-up furniture) but did you or your parents give up? No. Failure was simply a stop along the way. Giving up was not an option.

If the fear of failure is keeping you from making networking phone calls to strangers, that's your inner two-year-old trying to protect your ego.

But the longer you avoid taking uncomfortable actions in your job search, the more likely you will experience serious problems, like bankruptcy or a stress-induced illness.

Put differently, the rejection you feel if someone hangs up on you is fleeting and intangible. But the pain of losing your home after the unemployment checks run out will be long lasting and very real.

In light of that, wouldn't it be better to make just one more phone call today than you did yesterday?

If you're stuck on how to network, pick up the phone, call the 5 most-connected people you know, and ask them how the found their last three jobs. Be ready to tell them what job you're looking for (see Habit 1 above). And ask them whom they would call if they were in your shoes.

This exercise will give you 15 job-search success stories, in addition to a couple more names to call. Repeat as necessary.

- Kevin Donlin

Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free glimpse, visit Guerrilla Job Search System DVD.