I’ve helped a lot of people find great jobs and careers. But sometimes, there are those who can’t be helped.
I remember there was this one student, who no matter how hard I tried, she simply refused to follow basic instructions and let self-doubt and gut instincts consume her job search strategy.
She even started doing the worst possible activity in a job search – going door to door and dropping your resumé off at the reception.
Of all the plans and action items we agreed during our sessions, she probably executed just 10%.
In the end, she came to the conclusion she needs more education, and went back to school to get more unnecessary certification.
I get that job searching is hard at times. It can be depressing, especially if you’re not even called for a job interview. It is so easy to fall into a trap of making wrong decisions when this happens, and these decisions will not help you, and set you down a dark path in your career, where you will waste years doing something you hate.
Here are three warning signs you need to watch out for.
Sign #1 You tell yourself “I need more education”
This is the most common one I hear. In fact, I’m going to be speaking to someone next week, and her first question to me is going to be “What IT courses should I take?”
I get why most people feel more education will get them a better job.
The first reason is culture. In many Asian cultures, more education equals better jobs.
Not in North America. Over here, the hiring priority is 1. Personality 2. Experience 3. Qualifications.
(The only exception may be new graduates)
The second reason is control. It’s easier to stay in your comfort zone and tell yourself “Let me improve my qualifications. Then the job will come.”
But in reality, the hiring manager may not care about that shiny new certification. You’re losing out to candidates far less qualified than you. They steal those jobs from you because they get into conversation with decision makers as often and as quickly as possible.
You have to realize that a job search is about influencing decision makers, and it’s very hard to influence someone on paper. If you want to take control. take control of other’s perception of you by selling your skills and experience to them directly. At best, improving your qualifications on paper awards you a keyword when your resumé is scanned by machines.
Hey I’m not discrediting education. I believe in the value of acquiring new knowledge. But if your only goal of getting new education is to get a new job, first assess if that certification is trending on job descriptions. If not, you’re wasting your time and money.
Sign #2 You tell yourself “I’ll take any job”
There’s a saying in marketing, “Selling to everyone is selling to no one”.
And since a job search is a like a marketing campaign, where your goal is to convince others to invest in your skills and experience, you need to brand yourself with a single target job title.
You might be tempted to think if you cast a wider net, you’ll catch more fish (job interviews).
But if you start applying to multiple job titles, your resumé is not going to be focused, which means its keywords will be all over the place, and you will not be shortlisted.
Your networking will suffer – your connections won’t recognize what you do. Are you a project manager or are you in sales? Are you in finance management or accounting?
If you don’t brand yourself as a specialist, a hiring manager will give preference to a candidate that does.
Don’t be a jack of all trades.
You can stretch your skillsets after you get the job. But in a job hunt, be a specialist.
Sign #3 You tell yourself “I’ll start from scratch”
Here is why this does more harm than good – you’ll be branded as overqualified.
Sure, if you’re moving to a new country and getting into a regulated field that requires you to be re-qualified, that’s a different story. Changing careers may also be the exception.
But for most corporate jobs, your resumé is going to show you have way too much experience to apply for junior roles. The recruiter is going to presume you’re taking this job out of desperation and will leave the moment something better comes along. (If you think about it, they’re not wrong)
“Starting from scratch” are reserved for those who made a mistake.
You’ve not made a mistake. You just need a better job search strategy that gets you in conversation with decision makers, a keyword-optimized resumé that converts, and job interview skills that confidently sells your experience and skills and markets you as the problem solver the hiring manager is looking for in this role.
So if you start to hear that negative inner voice nagging you with any of the above statements, it’s time to shake it off, and kick up your job search to a whole new level.
You don’t have to settle, if you put in the work.