Today I had a coaching session with a bright and accomplished 2011 college grad who has not yet found a job. Before I spoke with this young woman (I’ll call her Jane), I was impressed with her internship and overall work experience, but could see room for improvement on her resume and Linkedin profile. After our conversation I found 7 reasons why her job search has stalled—and the difficult economy and job market are not on the list!
- 1) Not enough time on the job search job. Finding a job is truly a full-time job. You have to spend at least 40 hours a week on your search to get any significant action. Jane has wedged her job search in between temp jobs and simultaneous time-consuming unpaid internships. It’s good to get additional experience through an unpaid internship, and a temp job pads your wallet. But, keep non-search activities to 20 hours a week. If you can’t afford to limit the temp job, make sure that you’re maximizing your job search time in the evenings and on weekends.
2) Too much emphasis on (and fear of) in person networking. Jane seems to spend a lot of time worrying if she should be attending lots of networking meetings. There are benefits to networking meetings, but success depends if you just happen to meet the right person. Typically you invest an hour or more of your time, talk to two or three people and advance your job search very little. When you walk into the room, it’s hard to know from name tags alone who has connections in your field of interest. So I told Jane to limit in person networking to one or two events a month that are targeted to her desired industry—and go only if she can muster the persona to work the room and meet lots of people. Jane tends to be shy in big groups, so the networking meetings have not been a good use of her time.
- 3) Networking now and then. Jane has done the obvious networking—among friends and family and current/former employers. She met with her college career office after graduation and looked at alumni listed on the college networking site (which is usually a fraction of the alumni database). Beyond that Jane does not have a robust networking effort underway. She needs to extend her networking circles and think about people she knows from every aspect of her life (schools, clubs, religious affiliations, sports groups, etc.). When she has thought about all her contacts in each category, then she needs to think about who her parents, sister, cousins, next door neighbors, former teachers, etc. know in the same categories. My other advice was to go beyond the limited number of alumni listed on the college web site by asking career services people to refer her to alumni they know personally or can find in the broader database. And then there was the problem of…
- 4) Less than optimal use of Linkedin. First and foremost, Jane has not used all the space available in the Linkedin headline to sell her skills and experience. Though she has more work and internship experience than most recent grads, she simply put “Marketing Coordinator” in her headline. More details on her specific marketing skills and experience with start-ups will increase her chances of being found in a search. Her Linkedin summary is also insufficient–one line only—not offering potential employers an in-depth view of her many significant responsibilities and achievements. And her position descriptions are vague, not getting at the skills she used for each job. I told Jane it’s OK to write your profile in the first person, which would capture her great enthusiasm for start-ups. A Linkedin profile should tell an interesting story that engages people and encourages them to connect with you.
- 5) A black-and-white resume with no color. Here I’m not talking about actual colors of the rainbow, I’m talking about a resume that states simple facts and responsibilities without the “color” of contributions, achievements and success. Jane’s resume begins with an objective that immediately tells employers what she wants, not what she can offer. Instead she should have a summary statement that captures in three or four sentences and about 50 words, who she is and the skills and experience she offers. Each position description needs to show how she contributed to the success of a project or the company overall. Jane says for example, that she developed a direct marketing campaign, but there are no details on the size and scope, the elements she handles or the results of the effort.
- 6) Fuzzy job search strategy. Jane told me that she is interested in start-ups, but she did not project enough clarity on the skills she offers employers and the type of marketing job she is seeking. I advised her to work on her “60 second elevator speech” that will then be the basis for networking emails/ conversations and Linkedin invitations/messages. Finding a job is filling a specific gap for employers, and Jane is falling a bit into the “I’ll do anything” trap that is more of a negative than a positive. Without a well formulated strategy, Jane can’t zero in on the companies and opportunities that are a fit for her profile—making her job search time more scattered and less efficient.
- 7) Low-energy communication. Jane has a lot to be proud of, but as she spoke to me she lacked enthusiasm and confidence. She spoke softly, mumbling at times—and did not project conviction about the business skills she has carefully honed through many jobs and internships. More than anything else, I told Jane that employers are looking for energy, confidence and enthusiasm. Though there are many job search musts in this blog post, strong job search communication skills top the list. If you feel, like Jane does, that you need help projecting confidence, find a professional coach (one that you hire or one that you consult through your college). Like Jane, you probably have great skills and experience—but no one will believe it until you do.
This blog first appeared on 9 Lives for Women on 02/08/2013.
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