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Career Advice : Job Search Mistakes Even the Pros Make

Job Search Mistakes Even the Pros Make

Kate Lorenz, Editor

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When most people think of job search mistakes, they imagine a young person, fresh out of college and naively charging into the job market. After all, once you have been working for awhile, you know all of the ins and outs of finding a job, right? Wrong. In fact, even professionals who have been working for decades sometimes mess up when it comes to looking for a new job.

Jim Liston is the chairperson of the Business and Professional Exchange of Greater Indianapolis (BPE), an organization that provides support and resources to professionals who are going through career transitions. Liston says he sees many professionals who have been employed so long that they have forgotten how to look for a job. He likens their process of re-entering the job market to riding a bike. "You re-learn, but it is an awkward process," he says.

If you want to make sure you are on the path to a successful job search here are five errors to avoid:

1. Forgetting to keep it simple.
By the time many people climb to the top of the corporate ladder, they often become accustomed to having others listen intently to what they have to say. Therefore, some professionals develop a bad habit of over-answering, over-explaining and just plain talking too much. Not knowing how to sum up your qualifications, skills or desires in a short time can be costly in a high-pressure interview situation. "Giving your best shot in 30 seconds is a real challenge," says Liston. He says all professionals need to know how to present themselves and what they are looking for succinctly, clearly and briefly.

2. Being afraid to ask for help.
Admitting that you need help is hard for any professional, particularly someone who has been working for many years. Liston says he finds many members of the BPE don't want to burden others. "But people by nature want to help," he says. He notes that anyone looking for a job needs to pull out their Rolodex and start spreading the word that they are on the market. You never know when a friend of a friend of a friend will have the perfect lead waiting just for you.

3. Getting discouraged.
Liston says that an individual's job is often so much more than a paycheck. "For many," he says, "when you lose your job, you lose your identity." Once this identity is gone, some people have a hard time keeping motivated. They stay inside, stop socializing, stop looking for leads and become downright discouraged. No matter how long you have been working or out of work, staying active in your job search is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Join a professional organization, motivate yourself to get up and get dressed early each morning, and keep your social calendar full. The more people you meet, the better your chances are of finding the perfect opportunity.

4. Having an old, outdated or ineffective résumé.
Robin Ryan, a Seattle-based career counselor and job search expert, says that job seekers of all types make résumé mistakes. One of the most common is résumé length. Are multiple-page résumés acceptable for those who have been working for more than 10 years? Ryan says no, and says everyone should keep their résumés to one page. She points out that companies see hundreds of résumés for every open position, which means hiring managers must scan each résumé quickly. "You're getting a 15-second glance," she says. Clearly outline your most important skills and experiences on one page. It will ensure your most important information actually gets read.

5. Neglecting to run a focused job search.
Liston says he sees many professionals who have a hard time finding a job because they lack focus. In fact, he suggests that any job seeker think of the search as a job. Just like a job, you need a game plan in place that guides your actions, tasks to complete each day, goals to work toward and accountability. "The ones who succeed in finding a job more quickly are the ones who treat the job search as a project," says Liston.

Looking for a job is never a piece of cake, regardless of whether you have two years of experience or twenty-two. But knowing some of the mistake to avoid can help get you on your way to running a job search that any professional would be proud of!

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article.

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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