The career search is a mysterious process, and as the seeker it is easy to feel as if you have no control. And the longer the search goes on without a positive outcome, the more you can feel like the system is rigged against you. Christine Kelly, director of career development at Claremont University, offers some sound tips for successfully navigating your job search. Check out her article below, originally published on Inside Higher Ed.
Kelly, Christine. “Are You Sabotaging Your Career Search?” Inside Higher Ed. (link) Feb 19, 2018
Do You Have a Clear Career Focus?
It’s not surprising that career seekers make mistakes, as most of us were never taught how to conduct a career search. It is helpful to distinguish between searching for a job and searching for a career. Jobs are work you can get without much investment of time and generally aren’t the types of positions that have long-term potential.
A career search takes thought and planning. If you are targeting a specific geographic area, you need to know what industries are located there. You need to conduct a thorough skills/interests/values assessment so that you understand what you want and what you can offer. You also need time to build a network in your chosen field.
Did You Read the Position Description?
Position descriptions are not easy to write, usually involve input from many voices, are a combination of needs and wants, and often take longer to get posted than the hiring manager would like. By the time you read one, the person hiring probably has been without someone in that role and is really hoping to find the ideal candidate quickly.
As you read it, please keep in mind what went into writing it. If the description is lengthy, look through it and determine the employer’s must-haves. The number of mentions and location in the description are indications of the importance of that item. If the description is short, find people on LinkedIn who have similar titles to see what duties/skills they list to give you a deeper understanding of the position. Look at the company’s website to see what additional information you learn about the role of the department and its people in the organization.
You should also make sure your cover letter follows industry expectations; outside academe, letters are rarely longer than three-quarters of a page. Proofread to eliminate typos, incorrect word use or other evidence of a lack of attention to detail that may sink an otherwise excellent application.
Don’t draw attention to areas where you don’t match the description; focus on where you do. And, most important, express enthusiasm for that specific position with that specific organization.
Did You Prepare for the Interview?
Looking good on paper will only get you so far. If you don’t perform well in the interview, you won’t get the job. Most interviewers can distinguish between a candidate who is nervous and one who didn’t prepare, so a little shakiness does not usually sink your candidacy.
Remember, during an interview you should not say everything you think, and what you do say should be professional. There are ways to leverage your location as a benefit to the organization and a move from being an independent consultant to joining a team without discussing personal information.
Always remember: your future employer is more concerned about what you have to offer the organization than what you get out of it. Before the interview, conduct more company research and reread the documents you sent and the job description. And when answering questions, make sure you answer the one asked, use examples and never throw current co-workers or your employer under the bus. Bad-mouthing a current employer puts you in the do-not-hire pile.