Wins & fails: How recruiters, job sites, and LinkedIn worked (and didn’t work) during my job search

What it’s really like to find a job in 2019, Part 5 (of a 5-part series)

My recent, months-long job hunt was for a mid-to-senior level digital marketing job in New York City. I was let go unexpectedly and it was the first time in my career I was confronted with a full-time job search and no paycheck to fall back on.

Wins and Fails: Job sites

Win: LinkedIn

With the plethora of job sites out there, I found LinkedIn to be my tried and true. I focused on eight job title searches in my location (New York City) and set up notifications so I could get new listings pushed to me daily. I optimized my profile regularly, updating my experience and LinkedIn headline with targeted keywords and enhanced details of previous career experiences so I could pop up in more searches. My profile views climbed and interest from recruiters improved.

Fail: Indeed, ZipRecruiter and were total fails for me. The special features around uploading your resume and getting matched to relevant job postings didn’t work well at all, at times sending me completely irrelevant jobs. I moved on quickly.

Win: Recruiters

I found external recruiters useful and brought to the table higher caliber opportunities and a direct line to hiring managers. I wasn’t able to find enough openings through recruiters to rely on (only 2.3% of my 217 job applications), so recruiters ended up being supplemental to my search, which heavily relied on finding and applying to jobs online. I’m not saying it’s the best way, I’m just saying it’s the way it turned out for me. I learned that in my full-time job search, I needed volume to fill my funnel and find the right job in the right amount of time. If you’re on the hunt and getting hit up by recruiters, take the calls—even if the role isn’t quite right. Often, something else from the same recruiter or firm popped up during my search.

Win: Social networking

During my job search, I used LinkedIn as an actual social network. I moved the app to the home page on my phone and it was the first and last thing I checked most days. Sharing interesting industry articles and ideas helped me stay front of mind with my network. I experimented with sharing something every day for a few weeks, while also messaging colleagues, joining groups and leaving comments to increase interest in my profile. I can’t quite measure ROI in a direct way, but there is definitely a correlation between more profile views and more interest from recruiters.

Fail: Online networking

LinkedIn lets you send a custom note when you connect with someone. This is a crucial workaround to paying for LinkedIn Premium just so you can message people you’re not connected to. You can network before or after you apply to a job and when there’s no job posted. But in every situation, cold LinkedIn outreach got me nowhere. Sometimes, people would accept my connection but not respond to my message or follow-up. It felt like a big black hole.

Win: IRL Networking

Meetups, conferences, coffee, and beer meetings were a regular part of my job search. I even paid my way to an industry conference (a tough decision when finances are a bit tight) and ended up developing a few strong leads and networking contacts. I learned a thing or two at Meetups, but the networking wasn’t on point. One on ones with recruiters, old coworkers, friends, and family were always worthwhile. My goal with each conversation wasn’t to get a job—it was just to make a connection. People I met with were happy to open their networks to me and make intros.

Putting it all together

Talking about unemployment, personal finances and how that relates to a job search feels like one of the last taboos in American society. I wasn’t bold enough to wear my unemployment like a badge of honor, but I didn’t shy away from the truth. Applying to jobs can feel like sending your resume into a black hole, with more than 60% of my 217 job applications getting ignored. There’s no easy way in, simply good old fashioned hard work. As for the keys to my success (3 offers and one new job that I’m excited to start on July 8!), perseverance and flexibility got me to the finish line. Pair that with a focus on timing, skill, customization, optimization, and fit, and you’ll be working smarter not harder should you find yourself unemployed and on the hunt.

Part 1: The Black Hole of Job Hunting in the 21st Century

Part 2: How I Scienced the Crap Out of My Job Search: A Data-Driven Analysis

Part 3: This Small Detail Can Make The Biggest Difference In Your Job Search

Part 4: 7 Keys To Job Search Success

Thanks for reading! Slide into my DMs on Twitter or LinkedIn. I’d love to hear about your experience.

Dan Ucko is a marketer and writer living in New York City with his wife and adorable French bulldog Murphy. He turned his journalism degree into a marketing career, working at startups and in the media industry. He now focuses on e-commerce marketing at PepsiCo. His views are do not reflect those of his current or former employers.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.