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Ask A Career Coach - Ten Career Mistakes To Avoid - Part Two

workplaceIt is becoming increasingly difficult to advance your career or make a job change. With there being so much available information and differing opinions about what is right and wrong, it is hard to know how to conduct a successful job search. In this second part of our two-part series, we continue discussing common mistakes job searchers should avoid:

6. Not Being Proactive

Some career coaching professionals will suggest that applying for open positions online is a passive activity. In other words, we wait for a job to be open and posted before we take action. A more aggressive, proactive approach is to identify target employers and take steps to become known before a job opening is posted. In fact, the best clients do both. Just posting your resume on a target company's site isn’t enough. Most agree that networking into the firm using LinkedIn or even cold calling is a good way to start. Remember, the largest job market includes positions that are filled by unsatisfactory employees, open slots not yet filled or even positions that get created for spectacular candidates who become known in some way by hiring executives.

7. Making Common Interview Errors

We won’t even discuss the candidates who show up with a list of their demands or whose only question is about days off. However, I can think of no better way to prepare for an interview than to do a detailed side-by-side analysis of the job description and how each requirement is met or exceeded.  What a confidence builder!

Then, to all those ramblers out there, remember nothing else but this point: People hear and retain no more than 3 sound bites at a time. Two is better than 3, and 1 is better than 2. Think for a second or two and answer questions in impactful sound bites. Avoid rambling, wordy answers.

Finally, prepare some key questions to ask. The most important question is: “ Do you see any obstacles to my being offered this job?” The second most important is: “How would you like me to follow up with you?” Ultimately, be enthusiastic about the job and ask for it! 

8. Setting Unrealistic Expectations

I remember a client who made a dozen calls and had 15 resumes on the street the day he was laid off. He had the idea that he was going to collect his severance as well as a new larger salary in days! He knew everybody in the industry. However, after a couple of months of unreturned calls, he was depressed. He wanted to change his resume and wanted a list of recruiters who would find him a job. Two more months went by. Not only did he make some of the other mistakes I've mentioned, but he also made the mistake of having unrealistic expectations.

There are articles out there that say you should expect one month of search for each $10,000 of income. I believe that is unrealistic too. Factors that directly impact the length of search are:

  • Degree of occupation change
  • Number of different paths explored
  • Limited geographic options
  • Change in geographic location
  • Degree of specialization
  • Limited opportunities in current location
  • Activity level of search
  • Lack of focus
  • Pay demands in relation to the market
  • Luck

The last one can be very important. Although, good luck most often comes to those who do things the right way.

9. Lack of Consistent Effort

Everyone is different, but one thing that often results in an unsuccessful job change is taking a couple of months off. The network gets cold, your skills get rusty, the strategy gets murky, the severance gets used up,  the market changes, the pressure gets higher and it becomes harder to quickly get back into a routine.

The most proven approach is to begin early, follow the process we have discussed, spend 20-25 hours a week on the job search, gain some balance in your life, get the strategy and communication tools ready and then get into it. If a vacation is planned, take 2 weeks, but then get back into the job of finding a job.

10. Forgetting to Acknowledge Help with Thanks

Failing to acknowledge ideas, suggestions, introductions, referrals, criticisms, or any kind of feedback is a huge mistake. By thanking everyone, they will be much more open to reconnection later and to future help.

One more bonus tip:

11. Failure to Consider using a Career Coach

For professionals who haven’t been in the job market in the past year or two, navigating the job market without help is difficult at best and fruitless at worst. There is a proven comprehensive process that works. Most people going on their own fail to prepare properly and just wing it over several weeks, ending up more and more frustrated. A good recommendation is to at least talk to a good career coach. Investing in a career coach with supporting tools always results in a fantastic ROI and will also result in your ability to successfully manage a career for the remaining years.


Missed tips 1-5? Click here to review more common mistakes to avoid.

Steve Basinski is a Vice President - Senior Consultant with The Frontier Group. His practice specialties are career coaching, outplacement and executive coaching. He operates in the Charlotte market.