Professional Development

What You Can Learn From My 5 Job Search Mistakes

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Job searching is never easy. Many people would even say that it’s harder than working. While you’ll likely be on the hunt many times in your career, it doesn’t have to be so laborious.

In this blog, I’ll show you five mistakes I made during my job search and what you can learn from my mistakes to improve your own search.

1. Don’t Treat the Job Search Like a Chore

It was before noon and Earl Grey-flavored ice cream was melting in my hands. After a morning interview, I had decided to reward myself with a cone from Denver’s famous Little Man ice cream. While I would never advise against ice cream, this indulgence represented my first mistake, which was to treat the job search like a chore. As a recent college graduate, the job search overwhelmed me. Each application and interview were used as an excuse to treat myself: from ice cream to reality TV breaks to naps.

Looking back, I was the most productive, and sending out the strongest applications, when I incorporated the job search into my routine: wake up, make a slice of peanut butter toast, open my laptop to work on the latest round of resumes and cover letters. Thinking about applications as just another necessary part of my day, and not something that always required a reward, gave me the discipline and focus the submit three or four applications a day, instead of one, or none.

2. Don’t Get Distracted

Before I ate breakfast every morning, before I started the day’s round of applications, even before I got out of bed, I would check my phone. An entire hour or two slipped by while I scrolled through Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, even Venmo, seeing what my friends were up to. While social media can help the job search, it can also distract from the focus on your own journey.

Even before I graduated, I was surrounded by distractions. It seemed that every one of my peers had a job lined up. Everyone except me, that is. Spending the summer looking through what seemed to be endless photos of happy hours after work and new lives in new places made me want to give up.

Social media is the best version of ourselves but it is never the whole picture. As my job search continued, I decided to focus on my own life and goals instead of obsessing over my phone screen. It wasn’t always easy but turning off notifications and going for a long walk energized me more much more than an hour on Instagram.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

In my effort to disengage from the virtual crowd, I reached out to create more connections in real life. While meeting alumni from my university, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, I learned to let others help you. Being honest about my successes—an interview, yes!—and failures—no, I hadn’t heard anything back yet—wasn’t always easy. Most of the time I wanted to grit my teeth and smile and say everything was fine.

Help and opportunity can come from surprising places. Making myself vulnerable and expanding my circle meant that many other people besides me were invested in my job search. I was lucky—someone that I met at a barbeque gave me the lead that led to my current job.

4. Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

An important part of my expanding circle that I overlooked was the people that were interviewing me for jobs. In the thick of the search, I thought of the people I met at interviews as either potential bosses and coworkers—and when I was rejected, I thought of them as people I would never see again. This negative mindset made me negligent about sending thank you and follow-up emails. I didn’t realize that everyone is a potential connection. 

Being gracious in the face of rejection keeps a door open. An email or call thanking an interviewer for their time and consideration could be the difference between a company keeping your file, or tossing it.

5. Don’t Forget You’re in Control

Out of everything I learned, this last piece of advice was the hardest to accept. It isn’t something I realized, it was told to me, one afternoon, while I was staring at my laptop, wondering when I should start applying to waitressing jobs. A friend interrupted my silent crisis, asking how the search was progressing. When I told him that I was still waiting to hear back from several companies about interviews and offers, he frowned. That’s what they’re doing, he said, but what about you? What opportunities can you create?

He was right. I felt powerless waiting for other people to make decisions about me, but during the job search, I had a power I didn’t recognize: it wasn’t only their decision, it was mine. What job I applied to, the number of applications I sent out, the amount of research I put into careers and companies; all of these factors I had control over much more than I realized.

My job search was challenging but it was also rewarding, and not just because I ultimately found a job. It made me reconsider my view of myself and my career path. I entered the process with the naivete of a recent graduate and while it seemed to take a long time, I was lucky to find a job relatively quickly. Although I’m no longer in school, each mistake and stumbling block turned out to be a chance to grow and learn.      

What have you learned throughout your job search process? How has your strategy changed over the years? I’d love to hear about your process. Tell me about it in the comments!

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