Help! I’m a talented programmer with great experience and a good professional track record. I’ve also been job hunting for months and still can’t find a job. Any idea what I might be doing wrong?
First, thank you for emailing me your question and good luck on your continued job search. The fact that you are seeking advice and looking for new ways to enhance your job search is, in itself, a strong step forward toward finding your next job.
To your question, there are a number of mistakes people tend to make that can accidently hurt their job search. These mistakes can be categorized into three primary categories; resume, activities, and mindset. A few examples of each are listed below:
Resume related mistakes: 1. Have old out-of-date technology on the top of their resume within the “Technical Expertise” section. It’s fine to have it within the body of your resume within the descriptions of prior positions, but having them highlighted at the top of your resume makes you look out of touch with industry trends. Additionally, it makes the newer, more marketable, technologies you are trying to highlight within your resume a little more difficult to find. 2. Having typos on your resume show carelessness and are very easy to miss when proofreading. Have a friend or professional resume writer view and read your resume. Not only may they find a typo or two, they may also provide you with some valuable advice. As an example, the auto-correct features in most word processors are great, but upon occasion they can place incorrect words in your resume. Because the word is technically spelled correctly and the spelling is close to the word you were expecting, it’s easy to miss. 3. Using the same general-purpose resume for all potential employment opportunities is a big mistake. You should customize your resume toward the needs and requirements of each potential job. I’m by no means suggesting being purposely inaccurate or deceitful. I’m simply suggesting that you put your best foot forward. For example, if you have significant professional experience as both a Project Manager and a Business Analyst, accentuate your Project Management experience when applying for Project Management jobs.
Activities-based mistakes 1. Not having a specific detailed job hunting plan can dramatically slow your road to employment. Yes, you should most certainly follow up on job leads that appear opportunistically. That said, creating a plan that includes targeted companies, a schedule of networking events and job fairs you plan to attend, specific websites to search daily and other related activities can keep you on task and moving forward toward your employment goal. 2. Not following up on potential leads has two dramatic consequences. First and most obvious, a potential job opportunity may be missed. Second, not following up on potential leads can be a symptom that your job search is wearing you down. If you find yourself not following up because you “don’t think it will make any difference”, take note that you may need to speak with someone regarding reinvigorating your search. 3. By only job searching online and not attending physical networking events, you miss tips from other job searchers and discussions with company employees that may know of open and/or soon to open employment opportunities. 4. Not using personal and/or family connections to help you find a job may sound individualistic and self-reliant. The problem with this approach, however, is that you’re excluding the people that are most likely to want to help you. Additionally, this approach puts you at a disadvantage to other job hunters who are willing to use their connections to find employment.
Mindset related issues: 1. Being too rigid as to the type of jobs you are willing and able to do can limit the scope of your job search. By this statement I don’t mean to look for jobs that are not of interest to you or positions where you are overqualified. I’m suggesting that you consider other type jobs and industries that value your skill set. For example, say that you have always worked within the financial services industry, consider ways you can use your skills and experience to pivot into health care if it provides potentially attainable employment. 2. When job searching, don’t be humble. If you are a great software tester, say so. If you are a Project Manager with a great professional track record document it your resume and describe it during job interviews.
There are, of course, many other things that people do wrong during their job search. Truth be told, like mistakes that can be made in a game of chess, the possibilities are endless. The true value of this column is not to use it as a checklist. You should use this column as food for thought and a reason to reflect and analyze your current job searching tactics and what you can do to maximize your job hunting effectiveness.
If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.
Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.