BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Persistent, double-digit unemployment has spared no industry, and with millions of Americans out-of-work, competition for a paycheck is fierce.
The key to landing a job isn't so much what you do, says career coach Ford Myers, as what not to do.
Myers, author of
(John Wiley & Sons, 2009), spoke to
about 10 common mistakes made by job hunters.
MISTAKE 1: RESPONDING TO ONLINE JOB POSTINGS
Myers says online job postings, much like print-based "want ads," may seem a direct conduit to employers, but often have little value.
He doesn't say they should be ignored. Ads in specialty trade publications and on niche websites can offer good leads. In most cases, however, he suggests spending no more than 5% of your time on public job postings.
"During the last five years, I can only think of two clients who ever got a job from an online job posting, whereas I have hundreds who got their jobs through other means. Does it work sometimes? Yes, but very rarely. I just don't believe in it unless you are talking about a job at
MISTAKE 2: MAILING UNSOLICITED RESUMES
Unsolicited resumes are often discarded or filed away in a drawer and soon forgotten, Myers says.
"It is what I call the 'confetti approach,'" he says. "It is like you are taking your resume, spreading it around the world like confetti and just wondering where or when one of those little pieces will land. It is a desperate measure, and it comes off as one. Is there a chance it might land on just the right person's desk at just the right time? Yes, there is a chance. But that chance is so small it is absurd to even try. It doesn't come across as sophisticated or business savvy to be dropping your resume all over. It is just wasting trees."
MISTAKE 3: LOOKING ONLY FOR JOB OPENINGS
The best jobs are rarely announced openings, Myers says, estimating that more than 40% of positions are created for, or tailored to, an impressive applicant.
"Every business has needs, problems and challenges," he says. "If you are smart enough to uncover them and connect your assets, strengths and experiences, then that will lead to a job offer. Why hang out with 500 other job applicants? I'd rather be the only one who is contacting a company with solutions to their problems."
MISTAKE 4: INEFFECTIVE NETWORKING
Networking should be the primary focus of every job search, Myers says. Personal introductions can open doors for opportunities that might otherwise escape you.
He stresses that networking doesn't mean just putting out feelers among those you know in your profession.
"Make a list of everyone on the planet who knows your name," he says. "You would be amazed at how many people, even executives, get their job from the most unlikely people and sources -- their barber, the mailman, their auto mechanic, their dry cleaner, their next door neighbor or their kid's friend's parents. That's the way the world works. You have to talk to everyone, not just people in your field or who are in a position to hire you."
MISTAKE 5: LEAVING YOURSELF OPEN TO MANY KINDS OF JOBS
Myers says another key to a successful job search is to focus on finding the right job, not "just any job."
Job-hunters need to factor in satisfaction, growth potential, location, cultural fit, a pleasing environment and competitive compensation.
"Most people would say, 'This is a terrible job market, I'd better take anything and apply for everything,'" he says. "I don't believe in that at all except in the most extreme situations. Even in this very tough job market, you need to be more focused than ever."
MISTAKE 6: LACK OF PLANNING
Various studies have shown that most people spend more time planning a vacation than a job search.
A successful job search will require a well-thought out methodology, daily solitude and planning, space in the home dedicated to the search and self-policed accountability, Myers says.
MISTAKE 7: SEARCHING ALONE
Myers, as expected, recommends obtaining professional help with your job search. It doesn't have to be costly, however. In addition to professional career coaches, job search help can be found inexpensively, or free, from a variety of organizations, libraries and even churches.
MISTAKE 8: LETTING OTHERS CONTROL YOUR SEARCH
Although he is a proponent of getting professional and qualified job-hunting help, Myers says doing so shouldn't detract from your own efforts.
"Only you can sell yourself effectively and land a job," he says. "Even if you are working with recruiters, you need to control the process. You need to manage the recruiter the way you would manage a team of employees."
MISTAKE 9: NOT PREPARING WELL ENOUGH FOR INTERVIEWS
"When you boil it down, all job interviews are comprised of five basic elements: articulating your value, conveying your knowledge of the company, asking intelligent questions, negotiating compensation and following-up," Myers says. "Each of these items has to be practiced in advance so you can ace the job interview. Winging it just won't do."
He adds that a good interview should "be a 50/50 active dialogue where you have two professionals checking each other out to see if there is a potential match and mutual benefit."
MISTAKE 10: NOT KNOWING YOUR MARKET VALUE
Research and assess your value in the marketplace before you attend even an initial interview, Myers says, adding that you should never initially disclose your salary requirements.
Get the employer to name the salary or range first. When they have made it clear that you are their top candidate, negotiate as needed. Otherwise you run the risk of undervaluing yourself or, conversely, pricing yourself out of the job.
-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.
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