I run across wishful, dreamy, not-very-realistic job seekers who aren’t getting interviews and don’t see that they are often causing their own frustration. Whether it’s the undaunted college grad applying for jobs requiring 7-10 years of experience, or the 30-year veteran pursuing entry-level opportunities, their hopeful reinterpretation of a job posting isn’t doing them any favors, and it isn’t the most effective use of their valuable job searching energies.
Knowing the difference between realistic targets and a wild stab gives your investment of time and effort a better shot at landing a new job. A dash of self-honesty goes a long way. What’s more important, that disappointment (and who needs more of it?) could have easily been avoided. It’s critical that jobseekers know what they are, know what they are not, and pass on jobs where they have none of the emphasized requirements.
A job search demands a sharp resume, plus constant networking, compelling online storytelling, savvy research on hiring managers and devoting your valuable job search time to positions where you are truly qualified. Employers list job requirements because they know what they’re looking for, and what they need. A job description isn’t the size of a barn, it’s a dime-sized target.
If you have boundless cheer and no expectations that anyone will call, it’s fine of course to apply to anything you wish. But no frowning when those interviews don’t materialize. In addition, do you really want your resume tagged in an company’s online application system as having applied for something so off the mark your judgment is questioned?
A delightful quality of many in the marketing and creative industry is boundless exuberance and out-of-the box thinking, but you don’t want those peppy tendencies to marginalize you as a strategic and savvy candidate. Being realistic, not rosy, is the way to go. Here are some hints that it’s a position you should skip, no matter how fun it sounds:
1.) None of the words in the job title have been part of any prior title or responsibilities in your work history. It may sound neat, it may be of interest, but if you have no connection to the title, and dozens/hundreds of other candidates do, why apply? It’s an hour better spent on other job search strategies.
2.) Employers are weary of seeing 20-year experienced candidates apply for entry-level jobs, and college grads put in for director-level roles. It places your common sense in question. If that’s a company you wish to target, networking can help you meet current employees/decision makers who might know of yet-unadvertised opportunities that are a fit for your skill set. Attend events where company representatives are speaking (other co-workers from the office will be there, trust me), and ask your LinkedIn connections who they might know.
3.) So you’re the greatest newsletter editor in town, and a position for a Director of Marketing pops up with the first 7 bullet points covering strategic marketing plans, sales incentives, brand management, product launches. Bullet 8 is “supervise customer newsletter.” But you have no experience in the first 7 bullet points - realize that HR isn’t going to overlook that. If your top skill set is that far down on the list of required competencies, again, pass on this and work your other job lead avenues.
4.) If you’ve never worked around sharks and junkyard dogs, if you’re more of an introvert whose comfort zone is a polite work environment, you should likely avoid positions in professional services. It takes thick skin and extreme political savvy (not to mention backbone, aspirin and antacids) to deal with stressed-out major egos in the legal, consulting and financial field who make a million a year in partner compensation and are jockeying for sports loges, corporate sponsorships, and headlines they fear might go to some other rainmaker in the firm.
So how can you move into a new employment arena? Some game plans take more time than others.
Want more social media in your skill set because you don’t currently have any? Volunteer to tackle social media for a cause or nonprofit you enjoy, track your metrics and after a job well done, and collect a recommendation from a marketing or operations executive at that organization. Take a social media course from one of the many workshop providers in town, such as www.overnightgeekuniversity.com.
Want to move out of the nonprofit realm into more corporate work? The corporate focus on margins, cost out, shareholder value and relentless global competition is a tough transition from an arts, religious or health-focused agency. A smart job move can be to transition to a trade association that works within that industry, where you learn the business, the technology and the major players. Your time in this role will build your technical expertise and your Rolodex for your next job move.
Similarly, major local universities help you move into Engineering, Business, Law or Medical programs, where you can pick up industry knowledge, contacts at local employers, and great materials for your portfolio down the road.
Is there a certification you can earn? Some Project Management courses, an e-mail marketing program, an SEO workshop can help advance you in the candidate selection process.
Are your computer skills up to par? Technology agility is KEY – rusty skills from the 1980′s aren’t cutting it today in the job market. Don’t be the graphic designer without an online portfolio and digital skills, the marketing generalist who has never updated websites, the journalist who has never used PowerPoint. Courses and workshops are available at libraries, career centers and colleges to brush up your skills to ensure you aren’t lagging behind today’s competition.