BusinessWeek recently ran a story about the “lost generation” – young people that, because of the economic downturn, are unemployed or underemployed. As a result, their lifelong earning potential as well as their job search optimism is declining.
The article explains in-depth something that most of us already know: the economy sucks and young professionals are hurting. Many of the job seekers in the story lament about the hundreds of applications they have sent out with little or no success. But with job searching, quantity does not equal quality- or in this case, job search success.
I have no doubt the job seekers in the article are trying their best to find the right position. Yet, their stories serve as reminders about the importance of key job search strategies.
Know What You’re Looking For
How do you find something if you do not know what it is you are looking for? When searching for a job, you need a job target. Figure out what you want to do and what kind of organization you want to do it in. Then, have a plan B and C. The key is to have a job target with some well-thought out, related alternatives.
Don’t waste your time applying for positions that you are not really interested in, or positions you are underqualified or overqualified for. Instead, put that energy into more time-consuming, in-depth job search strategies (informational interviews, attending conferences, networking, and leveraging social media, for example) geared toward your job target and the related alternatives. Again, quantity does not necessarily mean job search quality.
Erase “I’ll Do Anything” From Your Vocabulary
To an employer, an “I’ll do anything” attitude does not equal flexibility- it equals desperation. And desperation is not sexy.
Think about the dating world. When you meet someone who comes across as desperate, what do you think? Probably that they don’t necessarily want to date you- they just want to date someone. Anyone. Because they are not truly evaluating whether or not a relationship with you would work, it’s more likely they will bail when your new romance hits a bump in the road or a more attractive mate comes along.
Employers think along the same lines. An employer wants to attract candidates that are a good fit for his or her company- which you can never be if you are trying to be a good fit for ALL companies. If you seem desperate, they will assume you are fake, not committed and likely to leave once the job market improves.
Notice I wrote “seem desperate” above. Sometimes job searching, especially if you have loans, a family to care for and other financial, emotional or health concerns, does result in desperation. But just like dating, you have to play it cool – don’t let that be the one thing employers remember about you.
Naturally, the job seekers in the BusinessWeek article are frustrated. In addition, the comments are filled with readers who are in the same boat- or worse, are all too eager to complain at length about the economy and place blame for the bleak job market. While healthy debate about any issue is important, dwelling in blame is not. Nor is it helpful.
I’ve written before about how complaining and blaming aren’t productive, especially for job seekers. Nobody wants to be around someone, or help someone, who is constantly negative. It is essential to do what you can to stay positive as much as possible.
Remember Debbie Downer?
Get a Life
Take some time away from your job search to do things you enjoy. Not only will it re-energize you, but it will keep you interacting with new people. You never know if the new person in your yoga class has the power to hire. Don’t wait for a networking event to meet people who might be able to help you- or at the very least, lift up your spirits.
Plan For the Long Haul.
If you are not in the job market yet but plan to be soon, prepare for a long search. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job search is somewhere around six months. Mentally preparing yourself for a search of that length will help you stay positive. Take time now to financially prepare yourself for the possibility of half a year with little to no income.
Conducting a job search in a tough economy isn’t as easy as these few steps may make it seem. But staying positive, giving off a confident (non-desperate) vibe, having goals and taking some time off when necessary will hopefully help you shorten your search and not end up a frustrated member of BusinessWeek’s lost generation.
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Kelly received her masters degree in Higher Education/Student Personnel Administration from New York University, and her bachelors degree from UW-Madison, where she majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.