It’s September, a great time to start job hunting. Maybe you vowed two weeks ago to get that resume in shape, but you haven’t touched it yet. Maybe you planned to make that call to that contact, but you haven’t had the time.
You’re procrastinating on some element of your job hunt. Here are my top reasons why you’re not moving forward, and a few Jedi mind tricks to get you unstuck. (These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.)
Problem: It’s Too Important to You
Sometimes you really need a new job. Like, yesterday. Maybe you’re burning out from all the extra work. Maybe layoffs are on the horizon. You know this is a big deal, so why put it off?
Sometimes we procrastinate because of what Guardian columnist and author Oliver Burkeman calls the Importance Trap.
“The more an activity really matters to you, the more you start to believe you need focus, energy and long stretches of uninterrupted time in which to do it – things that, you tell yourself, you currently lack. And so the less likely you are to do it. Unimportant stuff gets done; important stuff doesn’t.” –Oliver Burkeman
Ugh, I do this all the time. I’ve been waiting for a stretch of time to quietly write this blog post, but now I’m sitting at a car dealership typing while getting my car’s oil changed.
Solution: Squeeze tasks into real life
Job hunts often have to fit into the nooks and crannies of our life. Think of it as the English Muffin approach. You’ve got to squeeze it in, but good things can happen in small spaces. Hello, melted butter.
You can train yourself to work on command if you practice. Cal Newport talks about this strategy in his blog and his book Deep Work. To do focused work like job hunting, you can practice setting a timer and focus on one task. Practice going for 20 minutes, then extend it if you can. Just get a few things done. Get the hang of it and you too will be typing away happily at the car dealership.
Problem: You Feel Like You Have to Be Perfect
This is a big one for people. They start their job hunt with updating their resume, and then they go online and get bombarded with a billion listicles (I regret I’m adding to the world of listicles with my listicle here). You feel like you have to follow every tip, polish every word, and you can’t seem to finish.
Solution: Get a Second Opinion.
If you’re fiddling endlessly with your resume, get a career coach like me to review it and give you tips, or a friend who geeks out on writing and grammar. Run it by someone you trust in your industry, or if you have the means, consider outsourcing it to a resume writer. Get feedback, and then decide it’s good enough. Then move on.
If you feel pressure to perform perfectly in another area of the job hunt, get help. Yes, I’m partly plugging career coaching here, because I do mock interviews with people, but it doesn’t have to be a coach. If you dread interviewing, get a friend to sit down with you so you can practice your answers out loud, or try a local Toastmaster’s group to practice speaking off the cuff. (They do these things called table topics. I swear it boosted my participation in meetings 110 percent).
Problem: Self-promotion bums you out.
Many of us dread the idea of elevator speeches, cover letters, rehearsed stories about ourselves in interviews. It all seems so fake and self-serving.
Job hunting can feel like a direct clash with our values, but it doesn’t have to be. You can get the word out about your skills and experience without selling your soul.
Solution: A good job hunt is a gift to others
No, really. Google just introduced artificial intelligence into the online job search this summer. I predict that’s going to make it even easier for applicants to find jobs, which will drive up the number of applicants to online job postings even higher.
Hiring managers and recruiters are already slammed with applicants. If you do a good networking campaign, you help them cut through the noise. Someone needs you out there, and you need to help him or her find you.
And you don’t need to practice rehearsed elevator speeches. Instead, start with a value proposition. Create a statement that describes your body of work, not you as a person. Think of your work as a separate entity. Depersonalize it. Then describe it in the most concrete, accurate terms you can.
Don’t worry about style, either. No need for clever phrasing or endless wordsmithing. Just get the facts down. If you’re an accountant who thrives in tough auditing situations and can handle numbers as well as the prickly personalities, then say that. Don’t worry if you haven’t increased sales by 56 percent. Be honest and down to earth, have normal conversations, and your job hunt will be about solving problems, not self-promotion.
Problem: It’s hard and you worry it shouldn’t be.
So many times I hear people blame themselves for not getting responses from a few resumes. Job-hunting is hard. If it were easy there would be no career coaches. A short job hunt is six months, but don’t be surprised if it stretches beyond a year.
Obviously, this is a depressing fact. It shouldn’t take this long, but it does for many of us. It’s a marathon not a sprint, and it’s a long time to handle rejection.
Solution: Put your job hunt in context.
Every job hunt is unique. As we progress through our careers, we collect a variety of skills and experience, which can make it more challenging to find the right fit in our next jobs. We may need to take our time to find the right fit.
We can’t fall into the trap of comparing our job hunts to other people.
Your brother-in-law brags at Thanksgiving that he found a new job in a month in IT. Bully for him. But it’s IT, and you’re a scientist working on a very specialized area. So before you blame yourself, do a little research and try to put your job search in context.
The US Department of Labor keeps great statistics on demand for workers in different jobs They’re toward the bottom of the reports, under “Wages and Employment Trends” so keep scrolling. Check out the stats on your industry and job function.
Once you realize you’re not alone, plan accordingly. If you’re unemployed, think about a stop-gap job to pay the bills. If you’re employed, prepare to settle in and work hard on the hunt while maintaining energy to do your job. Use it as a chance to angle for a better project to spice things up while you try to get out. Realistic expectations really can do wonders here.
Give some of these tips a try, and if you’re still stuck reach out to a friend, or your friendly neighborhood career coach. Sometimes all it takes is some information or a change in mindset.
Okay, (wave of hand) you can go about your business now. Move along.