10 Ways to Take Control of Your Job Search!

Robert HellmannContributed by Robert Hellmann

Some clients who first come to me for help after a long and frustrating search attribute their difficulties to something they can’t control, such as age, experience (i.e. over- or under-qualified), weight, ethnic background, gender or, less often, some other physical feature. Yes, these biases do surface at times in the job search. But, once these clients start describing their search in more detail, nine times out of ten, I see that the problem is actually in their job-search strategy or execution!

So, if you have that “out of control” feeling, here’s a checklist of 10 things to make sure you are doing, to help you get back into the driver’s seat, and on the road to the job you want.

1. Are you “positioning” yourself correctly? That is, are you focusing on how you can help your target audience? This means dropping the jargon that is only relevant to your current or last job, and using the language of your next.

2. Are you too general, or trying to be all things to all people? This strategy can be tempting because this way you don’t rule anything out. The problem with the too general approach, however, is that people are not going to take the time to figure out how you can help them. Or, they will put you in a place you don’t want to be! Having a specific resume and pitch for each job target is the way to go.

3. Are you too scattered, trying to go for many different job targets at once? It really helps to focus on one thing at a time, with some overlap. You want to be perceived as an “insider” in the industry or profession you are targeting, and to do that you need to focus and build your network within your target. Become known, have conversations with lots of people!

4. Are you going out and getting what you want, or just waiting for the ad to show up or the headhunter to call? The way people find most jobs these days is via leveraging their network and contacting people directly who they don’t know. LinkedIn can be a great help with these latter two approaches.

5. Are you being proactive at all stages of your job search? That means, you need to be following up, and keeping in touch, with people in your network or people you have met with. Don’t let these contacts disappear into a black hole! A client once followed up with 23 phone calls (not messages– just leave 1 or 2!) before he got to speak to the person he was trying to reach– and then they thanked him for being so persistent and gave him an interview!

6. How are you communicating? Is your “message” getting lost because of poor delivery? Get feedback from someone on how you come across in all your communications channels – resumes, emails, phone-calls, cover letters, and interviews.

7. Are you meeting with both the right people, and enough of the right people? At the Five O’Clock Club, we say that you must have six to 10 “things” (i.e. conversations) in the works with people who are in a position to hire you at any one time, because five of those six things will fall away through no fault of your own. Don’t just hang all your hopes on that one position you are interviewing for! Building up enough volume is key– if you are doing everything else right, it’s still a numbers game.

8. Are you targeting enough positions? If you have only 10 companies that you are going for, each with two positions that would be suitable for you (whether the position is open or not), that means only 20 positions you are targeting. It will thus take you forever to get a job because you have to wait for one of the 20 people to leave (or for a new job to be created)! The Five O’Clock Club recommends as a rule of thumb that you target 200 positions. Again, it’s a numbers game.

9. Are you spending at least 35 hours a week on your search if you are unemployed, and 15-plus if you are employed? I tell clients to treat their job search like a full time job. Get to your desk at 9am and leave at 5pm! Don’t kid yourself that you are in a serious job search if you spend only one or two hours a day on it!

10. Are you having fun? Take breaks from this search and go do what you enjoy doing! If you’re not taking care of yourself, it will come through in your interactions with potential employers! Spend at least a couple of hours a day doing something you enjoy.

A certified Five O’Clock Club career and executive coach, Robert Hellmann is vice president and associate director of the Club’s Guild of Career Coaches. The author of Your Social Media Job Search: Use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Other Tools to Get the Job You Want!, he will lead a workshop on Getting Interviews 2.0: Best Methods for Uncovering the Hidden Job Market at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies on Tuesday, October 4. To register, go to or call 212-998-7150.

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