From Mired to Hired: How to Get Your Job Search Unstuck
Ever got your car stuck in the snow before? (If you’re reading this in Minnesota, where I am, the default answer is, “You betcha!”)
If so, you know that a sure-fire way to get your car unstuck is to rock it back and forth, by shifting from drive to reverse again and again. By going in the opposite direction first, you can create momentum and propel your car forward, out of the snow.
If your job search is stuck, why not try a similar approach?
By asking yourself questions that take you away from your job search goal, you can free up your creativity, create momentum and go forward, towards your next job.
Here’s an example. Ask yourself: “What could I do to wreck my job search?” Your answer might be, “Stay at home, make no effort to meet new people, and keep sending out the same resume, even though it hasn’t produced any calls from employers.”
Then, start doing the opposite.
Here are more contrarian questions to get your creative juices flowing, so you can get more employers calling you with job offers …
Question 1: How could I find even fewer job leads than I am now?
Answer: Easy. Do nothing else but wait for openings to appear in the Help Wanted section of the newspaper. While you’re at it, search only the biggest employment Web sites, where there are 10 million other job seekers competing with you, like Monster.com.
Why this does NOT work: Because employers advertise job postings only after exhausting other ways to find new employees, like hiring internally or asking current staff to refer others. That’s why networking works — it lets you get into the mind of the hiring manager before he or she ever places a classified ad.
What you should do instead: By all means, keep responding to advertised job openings. But limit those efforts to about 20% of your day. Spend the rest of your time networking with and serving as a resource to friends and family — they will reciprocate by sending you job leads.
Question 2: How could I make my resume less effective than it is now?
Answer: Be vague about the job you seek — force employers figure out what to hire you for. Remove all the results from your resume — force employers to figure out how you’ve made money or saved money on the job. And be long-winded — force employers to wade through excruciating language like this: “Develop business proposals, strategies and plans targeting the enhancement, streamlining, troubleshooting and/or replacement of internal accounting and financial controls…”
Why this does NOT work: Employers are busy. They would rather do almost anything than read resumes. So the last thing you want to do is write a resume that requires tremendous mental effort to understand. Hiring managers won’t take the time — they’ll pitch your resume and move on to the next one.
What you should do instead: Write a resume for every job you apply for, that showcases one set of relevant skills, proves those skills with specific results, and is easy to read. How? Read your resume out loud when you’re done writing. This will uncover run-on sentences, irrelevant language and other areas to fix. Then, show your resume to at least three people you trust. Ask them, “Does this resume prove my case? Where could I improve it?” Revise accordingly.
Question 3: How could I blow my next job interview, with 100% certainty?
Answer: Show up unprepared, with a hangover, chewing gum, and get every manager’s name wrong. Then fail to write a thank-you letter after the interview.
Why this does NOT work: A job interview is a big thing, ranking slightly above your first day of school and just below auditioning for American Idol. If you come across like a Category 5 moron in the interview, you’re going to do even worse on the job — that’s what employers are thinking.
What to do instead: Prepare for your next interview as if you really were auditioning for American Idol. That means research what’s worked for others before, know what you’re going to say, practice saying it, keep your cool and expect the best. There are plenty of great Web sites online and books in your local library to help you prepare — it’s shameful if you don’t use them.
Now, does this advice sound absurd? Good. If your job search has been going nowhere for months, any excuse to laugh at the situation is valid. Grin — and repair it.
Besides, going in the opposite direction, by brainstorming how to make your job search worse, can loosen up mental blocks and help build momentum in the right direction, just like rocking your car out of a snow drift.
Try it and see!