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How long has it been since you either became unemployed or began looking for a new job while stuck in one you hate?
If the answer is somewhere between “a while” and “way, way too long,” it’s worth rolling up your sleeves and asking some uncomfortable questions about why you haven’t landed somewhere new yet.
Is it the 8.3 percent unemployment rate? The economy?
Although these factors may play a part, 90 percent of people have managed to find or keep jobs. So what makes you different?
No, this is not meant to make you feel terrible about yourself. The goal here is to figure out how you can do better so you can get on with your life and career, already.
Consider the following three job-hunt mistakes:
1. Feeling Entitled
The thing about entitlement is that no one thinks they’re the entitled one. To check whether some subconscious entitlement issues are snagging you, ask yourself: Is your problem that you actually could get a job right now if you walked into a store or a fast-food chain or handed out dog-walking service flyers in your neighborhood—but you don’t want to do any of those things? Then your problem probably is that you can’t get the job you believe you deserve.
What makes taking a job “settling”? There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to settle. You should have a high standard for yourself. But isn’t working and making some money still a better alternative than staying at home and job searching? If your answer to that question is “no,” be honest about the role you’re playing in your own continued unemployment.
Doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you don’t want to work, then volunteer. If you have been unemployed for a while, take an internship—yes, even if you’re in your 30s. There is no such thing as “bad work” as long as it’s not illegal or damaging to you, others or the environment.
If you’re worried about what other people might think of you, remember that you are not your job title.
2. You Market Yourself Poorly
Put yourself in the shoes of recruiters. They look at hundreds of resumes a day. How much time do you think they really have to spend on each one?
To get attention—and a job—you’ve got to get people interested in you. Two great ways to do this:
First, do something other people aren’t doing and make it immediately obvious on your resume. This may be volunteering or interning or doing your own projects. If you want to get a job in advertising, there is no one stopping you from creating your own ad campaigns and building a portfolio.
Secondly, build a presence for yourself. The first thing people do these days to learn more about a person is to Google them. What comes up when people Google you? Are you making the impression you want? If you don’t have an online presence, why not?
3. You’re Bad at Selling
Selling is the most important skill you need for getting a job.
If you’re cringing right now, it’s because you associate selling with being sleazy. You picture a pushy used car salesman, and you’re just not that person. And that’s good—you shouldn’t be sleazy, ever.
But ethically sound salespeople are everywhere, and in lots of unexpected forms.
Think about how your friends sold you on the idea of going out Friday night, or your parents or a teacher sold you on going to college. These people had your interests in mind. They were selling you things you wanted: a good experience and a good opportunity.
So how do you apply the concept of good salesmanship to yourself and your job hunt?
Have the best interests of your potential employers in mind. Yes, really: make it about them. Why would you be a great candidate for them? What are their needs? Are you passionate about their work? Are you personable, and can you create a great work environment for them?
If you keep these three simple but critical ideas in mind, it won’t be much longer before you land in a good gig.
What other job-search mistakes do you see people making often?
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. If you’ve been putting off your own greatness, check out the 8 Most Practical Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Are You Bored at Work?