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Avoid the 7 Mistakes that Job Seekers Make

If you are in between jobs or facing a redundancy, it can leave you feeling confused, anxious, fearful and stressed. Change can be pretty scary. The emotional roller-coaster of career change can erode your self-confidence and create confusion about what do to next.

If you're one of the lucky ones who lands a role within a few weeks, congratulations! However if, more likely, your job search is taking longer than you anticipated, it's time to regroup, rethink and reassess your strategy.

There are seven common mistakes that job seekers often make before realizing they need help. These mistakes can be avoided through careful assessment, research and planning. The secret is to turn those mistakes into a seven-step path to success.

1. Be positive

If you're still hurting from being in a difficult situation, it's a big mistake is to market yourself when you are feeling emotional and your confidence is at low ebb. After all, if you don't believe in yourself, who will?

The fix: It's best to market yourself after you have acknowledged the change, acknowledged that there are some things you cannot change and identified the things you can. Rebuild your self-confidence and get into the right frame of mind for the job search. The key is to remember you are still the same competent professional you've always been and you have a mountain of value to offer the right employer in the right environment.

2. Know what's important to you

If you haven't assessed what drives you in your career or what your specific skills, knowledge and key motivators are, you may be applying for roles that are not suited to you.

The fix: Work out what makes you tick and the reasons why a role appeals to you. Employers will want to know how close a "fit" you are to their needs, their corporate culture and team environment. Prepare well so that you can eloquently communicate your value, key drivers and be authentic in your responses.

3. Have focused communication strategies

It is tempting to save time by sending out the same generic resume and cover letter for every job application, but if you find you are not getting a positive response, this could be the reason.

The fix: Your resume and cover letter often are the first point of contact with the screener, so tailor them effectively for each and every role. Mentally prepare a strong positioning statement so if anyone asks "So, why are you looking for a job?", you have a good answer ready.

4. Look the part in person or online

Amidst all the scouring of job ads and sending off applications, it is easy to overlook the image you are projecting to others. Potential employers may be able to view your LinkedIn profile and other social media sites and will form an opinion of you before that first handshake.

The fix: Do your research to find out what will be appropriate attire for the interview and on the job. First impressions are so important and you only get a few seconds to make them, so think about what others will see when you walk into a room. On social media, be smart and discreet. Position yourself honestly and professionally.

5. Use all the job search methods effectively

There is a natural temptation to focus mainly on advertised roles, but this is really only one part of the story and it may not always be the one that will get you're the required result.

The fix: Brush up on your networking skills, touch base with those who might be able to help you or point you forward, and expand your network to uncover the hidden job. Recruitment consultants are another option, but you need to know what they are looking for, and to make it clear to them what you have to offer. Just being on LinkedIn is not enough, you have to be proactive and leverage it effectively.

6. Convey your value in interviews

Because job hunting is so arduous, it is easy to think that the securing a job interview is the hard part and that the interview itself will be easy or easier. But this is where many people fall short.

The fix: The key to successful interviews is to prepare, prepare, prepare! Employers are looking for someone to provide the functional skills and the soft skills required for the role, and one who is willing to work the way that fits with the culture of their team. To convey your suitability, you need to research, and practice your interview techniques beforehand. In the interview, listen carefully to the questions and answer with examples of your successes, without sounding overconfident. After the interview, follow up with a "thank you" email.

7. Know your true worth

An overlooked part of the job-hunting process is knowing what the market rate is for the role. When it comes to salary negotiations, it is hard to secure a good outcome for either party if you have no idea of the parameters.

The fix: Do your research to be sure you know what you're worth in the current market. At the same time, if you want to clinch landing the job, you have got to deliver a good outcome for the new employer as well as yourself. The deal must feel like a win-win situation.

Now you know the 7 mistakes that job seekers typically make, you can turn them around to your benefit! I wish you much success.


Jane Jackson is a career management coach and author of Navigating Career Crossroads: How To Thrive When Changing Direction (The OMNE Group 2014).

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