Outside of a few lucky souls sporting highly marketable credentials, I’m here to assure you that any trepidation you’re feeling about the job hunting challenge today is absolutely, wonderfully normal. The process is scary. It’s confusing. There's a ton of pressure involved. And the reality is that most people have almost zero formal training in looking for work, so they question themselves at every turn and wonder if they’re doing things the right way.
To combat these tendencies and improve your odds of success, I’d suggest you commit to a mantra of “when in doubt, do.” Don’t overthink things. Recognize that we all face mental roadblocks, rationalizations and avoidance mechanisms when, in reality, it’s time for aggressive action and output.
Here are a few tips that will help you avoid “analysis paralysis” as you throttle up your search efforts.
Recognize that it’s a numbers game.
When you’re job hunting, like it or not, you’re in sales for yourself. And, as any successful sales person can tell you, the key to building a solid sales pipeline is volume. Once you embrace that you will likely have to blaze your way through 50 or 100 “nos” to get a single “yes,” you’ll realize that speed counts.
If you’re only sending out a handful of applications each week, hoping for success, it’s time to accelerate your efforts. Focus on quantity, not quality, and use all of the job-hunting channels at your disposal (online ads, recruiters, networking, direct company inquiries, LinkedIn) to crank up your output. With 140,000 employers in the Puget Sound area alone and millions of networking contacts at your disposal, it’s unlikely you’ll run out of fuel.
Don’t worry about job quality or cultural fit…yet.
Another common mistake job hunters make is to worry a ton up front about whether a given company or culture is the right fit. When presented with a list of 50 potential target organizations in their field, for example, clients will often ask me questions like “how do I know I’d like working at these places?” or “what if they’re not hiring?”
All of these questions may seem reasonable at first, but when you step back and examine them carefully, you’ll realize they’re usually just smoke screens for inaction. These types of questions simply don’t matter at this stage of the game. Not only do you not have a decision to make yet in the form of a viable job offer, you’ll have ample time later during the interviewing process — and negotiation stage — to determine an opportunity’s fit.
There’s no reason to get hung up on these issues now. Take a chance, get the ball rolling and see where things lead!
Instead of getting stuck in the "analysis paralysis" trap, change your mindset to focus on high-volume execution and a regimen that involves getting lots of materials out there, each day.
Tune out most resume feedback.
Perhaps surprisingly, as a professional resume-writer myself, I’d encourage the average job hunter to be cautious about asking people for resume feedback. As you’ll quickly learn (if you haven’t already), resumes are far from an exact science.
Ask 100 people for advice on the subject and you’ll get 100 different answers. As a result, you can easily be sucked into the dangerous limbo state of constantly revamping your resume instead of focusing on the “outbound execution” steps that actually lead to job leads and opportunities.
It’s an easy trap to fall into and one that, in my opinion, the career counseling industry reinforces with a great deal of fearmongering. So sure, get some constructive feedback on your resume from a few people you trust. That’s a smart move. But if you catch yourself constantly backsliding to this step, asking everybody for advice and feeling like your resume is never good enough to send out there, ask yourself whether you might be succumbing to a common job-search avoidance mechanism.
Embrace the emotional roller-coaster.
If there’s one thing I almost never encounter, it’s an out-of-work professional who claims job searching is easy and that they’re experiencing no confidence issues, insecurities or second-guessing. The vast majority of people out there cycle between good days and bad days as their job-hunting journey unfolds, depending on the positive and negative feedback they receive.
Once you recognize this reality, do your best to embrace the ups and downs. Concentrate on getting tons of stuff out on your good days — when you’ve received a positive response to a networking request, had a recruiter contact you or received a compliment on your resume. On down days, when you’ve had a setback, allow yourself to lick your wounds and be a little less productive.
Even though high volume is important, there’s nothing wrong with “surfing the emotional waves” and averaging your efforts out over time. Be uber-productive when things are going well, then downshift a little — and allow for a little slack time — whenever you run into a temporary setback.
Outhustle your competition.
Another powerful argument for ramping up your job search and embracing the quantity vs. quality philosophy? It’s the best way to overcome any weaknesses you may have as a candidate — a potential job-hopping perception, employment gaps, age bias, under/over-qualification or the lack of a college degree.
Again, while some percentage of employers penalize candidates who lack certain credentials, it’s unlikely they ALL will. Some companies are forced to relax their qualification requirements due to an urgent need or time-sensitive problem they’re facing. Other organizations are simply too small or off-the-beaten-path to be super picky about resume pedigrees. Others, still, are more open-minded and willing to hire people based on their passion and transferable strengths.
Common sense dictates that the more employers you contact, week in and week out, the more likely you will be to trip across one that isn’t dogmatic about formal qualifications. If you only send out a handful of applications each week, on the other hand, you’ll often have to be a near-perfect match to achieve success.
In closing, yes, it’s counterintuitive. Whereas the key to overcoming many challenges in life is to engage in careful planning and strategy, that’s not often the case when you’re seeking new work. If you overthink things and try to predict where every single activity will lead, you’ll only drive yourself nuts and get hopelessly bogged down.
So instead of getting stuck in the “analysis paralysis” trap, change your mindset to focus on high-volume execution and a regimen that involves getting lots of materials out there, each day, to as many relevant companies and contacts as possible. At the end of the day, job hunting success is not a function of time — it’s about productivity.
And with each new seed you plant, your odds of success increase!