Most of us have hit that job search wall, thinking that nothing is working and the right role will never arrive. In my experience as a career coach, when things stall in a job search, it can usually be traced back to one of these common mistakes. Great news! They’re super easy to fix.
1. You’re not personalizing
When sending cover letters and resumes, it can be tempting to send the same documents out over and over. But recruiters and hiring managers are unlikely to engage with a canned or generic application. If you’re excited enough to apply, take a moment to pick out the key points and responsibilities and highlight those in your resume and cover letter.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and create a brand new document every time — simply take a moment to notice how the bullets on the job description compare to your resume and cover letter and make changes to ensure alignment.
Instead: tailor your message and keywords to speak the language of the organization.
2. You’re going for ‘anything’
If you’re not clear on what you want, it can be hard to personalize submissions and activate your networking“>network. While I often hear from people that they are looking for ‘anything,’ that is very seldom true. You don’t need to have an exact job title to share. Instead, you can focus on key skills you’d like to use or the type of organization that is of interest. Sharing these details with people in your network can help them spot the right opportunities and make impactful introductions.
Instead: identify roles and responsibilities you’d be excited about and share the details to help others help you.
3. You’re only using job boards
Conducting your search solely on job boards can be both ineffective and demotivating. Consider spending 20% to 25% of your job search time online and the rest of your time networking and targeting companies that are of interest. Setting up keyword alerts (like the ones you can set on Fairygodboss) and receiving daily emails can be an effective way to use job boards without going into the rabbit hole of pages and pages of search results. A daily email will ensure you see targeted jobs as soon as they are available.
Instead: activate your network so your connections can also look for suitable opportunities.
4. You’re quick to dismiss
Keep an open mind when it comes to job opportunities. If a role sounds exciting, why not have a conversation? We tend to think that applying for a job means that we have to take it, but that isn’t the case. So, if you don’t tick all of the bullets or there is one thing that is giving you pause, throw your hat in the ring. There’s plenty of time to learn more about the role before accepting.
Instead: learn about potential roles and careers with an open mind.
5. You focus on receiving rather than giving
If you’re walking into networking conversations thinking about what’s in it for you and determining if people can be useful, you will likely be disappointed. Approach these conversations with the intention to get to know new people and learn about your desired role or industry. Approaching with curiosity will allow you to open up and welcome conversations rather than judging them instantly. People will be able to sense your intentions and openness and will shy away from a conversation that is focused on ‘what can you do for me?’
Instead: network with the goal of learning and supporting others.
6. You’re out of balance
I’ve had it with people saying that looking for a job is a full-time job. This does not have to be the case if you’re making efficient use of your job search efforts. Set clear goals around the amount of time you’ll spend on reaching out to people, applying for jobs and catching up with your network (in-person and online). During your downtime, it is essential to take care of yourself.
You’ll perform far better in interviews and keep better track of your search efforts if you are well-rested and have the time to do things you enjoy. Give yourself permission to have dinner out with friends, hit the gym or just relax during your search to ensure you can be most efficient with the time that you are searching.
Instead: have clear goals around your job search and take time to do things that keep you happy and well-rested. Remember: you can’t job search 24/7.
7. You’re stuck in your old role
When you’re thinking about moving on to a new role, are your thoughts focused on what you are looking for and the opportunities you will have when you leave, or are you stuck thinking about what you’re leaving, how awful your boss is or how sorry they will be when you go?
We often see what we’re looking for, so try to flip around the things you’re pushing away from. Is your boss a micromanager? Look for roles with more autonomy. Do you feel like a number in a large organization? Focus on roles that are at smaller companies where you can wear many hats. Worried about a career change?
Consider how your transferrable skills can be applied. To help you leave your role behind, you can write out a list of the thing you’ve learned in your role and how those things will help you in your job search. This can help you leave on the right foot rather than a bitter one. The sooner you release that weight, the easier it will be to welcome a new beginning.
Instead: focus on what you’re reaching toward and your long-term goals.
These job search mistakes can creep in when we least expect it. Take some time to reflect on how you’re conducting your search and if there are any opportunities to make small changes that will have a big impact.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.