3 Habits Of Highly Ineffective Job Seekers

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: December 15, 2008 - 5:25 PM

Job seekers are given plenty of advice. "Do this, do that." But what about the mistakes to avoid? What things can and often do harm your job search? Here is a list of some common mistakes. If you want to find a job quickly, avoid these mistakes!

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?

  • a Business Consultant, or an Efficiency Expert who saved $2.3 million in 2008?
  • an Administrative Assistant, or an Office Manager who reduced training time 16% and makes managers look good?
  • an IT manager, or a Disaster Recovery Expert who saved $4.1 million by setting up a recovery plan?

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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