What’s the first thing most of us do when we’re looking for a job?
The answer to this question is nearly universal: we hop on the Internet and look for job postings. Some of us even post our resumes on CareerBuilder and Monster, hoping that some eager HR person will find us. If we’re feeling really desperate, we might send our resumes out to as many prospective employers as possible, regardless of their qualities.
The obvious problem is that everybody else is using the exact same methods. When we’re job hunting, we’re trying to stand out from the crowd. Doing what they’re doing is exactly the opposite of what we need to do.
Read on to find out why the methods you’re used to are the absolute worst ways to get a job:
Bad Move #1: Applying to publicly posted jobs
The biggest problem with this tactic is how much competition we’re putting ourselves up against. If we look at obtaining employment purely as a numbers game (which it isn’t, but bear with me), the odds are stacked against us here.
There’s a term known as the “underground job market.” It’s said that nearly 80 percent of all job openings exist there. By definition, these jobs are not on online job boards. They aren’t even on employers’ websites.
These positions are almost always filled by people the employer knows personally or people who have purposefully demonstrated a track record for great work, delivering an effective value proposition. In other words, they are NOT advertised.
This is the “black market” for jobs. Only the “in” crowd knows about them.
So where should we spend our time? Instead of applying with the masses, we need to hone our skills, build the kind of experience employers care about and create social proof that we know what we’re doing.
Then we approach employers on our own with a solid value proposition that gives them reason to hire us. This is far better than competing with the masses, especially if we’re interested in smaller, more exciting companies.
While not entirely useless, we should only spend a very small percentage of our time applying to publicly posted jobs. If you’ve ever heard of the 80/20 rule, this is it in action. Because most people are going the public postings route, by spending your time elsewhere, you’ll stand out from the crowd and be more effective.
Bad Move #2: Posting your resume online
This is what I call the Serendipity Trap.
The Serendipity Trap is easy to fall prey to because we all deeply desire there to be some force out there working in our favor. Call it fate, destiny or a divine being—whatever our beliefs, this particular trap can cause pervasive laziness.
Disney movies are riddled with the Serendipity Trap: Prince Charming, true love’s kiss, magic swords, the chosen one. Listen up, people: those are fantasies! Life is not like the movies.
Most employers are too busy interviewing their internal candidates and people they know to take the time to go resume hunting. Think about it like this: employers are lazy, just like us. They don’t want to do more work than is necessary to get an employee, just like we don’t want to do more work than is necessary to get hired.
The truth is, we must help ourselves. Employers value initiative and maybe a little chutzpah. What they despise, more than anything, is laziness.
Bad Move #3: Blindly sending out resumes
This is similar to the Serendipity Trap, but more like buying a stack of lottery tickets. Yes, technically you’re improving the odds of finding a job with every additional resume sent out, but the baseline odds are so low, it doesn’t make much of an overall difference.
Assuming we do zero research on these companies—sending out “catch-all” cover letters and such—employers aren’t going to love reading through the B.S. we’ve written about how valuable we’ll be for “COMPANY_NAME.” (Oops, forgot to fix that before hitting “send.”)
Generic resumes and cover letters come off as… well, generic. Can employers tell the difference between generic and heartfelt? Absolutely. Think of any marketing email you’ve ever received. Sure, it had your name on it, but you intuitively knew it wasn’t genuinely for you.
Even if by some miracle we end up with a job at one of these random companies, what are the chances that it’s actually a good fit or that we’ll be happy? Compare this to picking a random item off a restaurant menu—it’s simply not a gamble worth taking.
We should always know as much as we can about the places we’re applying to. This ensures not only a good fit for the employer, but for us as well.
It’s easy to get downhearted in our job search, but there’s hope—lot’s of hope. The facts is, we have much better ways to get a job we’ll love. Here’s a quick run-down:
- Do projects and volunteer work for experience-building. (Hint: this can go on your resume.)
- Improve your skills via informal trainings and workshops (online or off).
- Obsess over events involving your industry or target companies.
- Get to know every damn person in your city.
- Build a portfolio to show off your work (not just for artists anymore).
Don’t make the same mistakes everybody else does. Be a job-hunting rockstar instead and start the career you deserve.
Ryan Chatterton is involved in many community projects, writing, reading and cultivating his various passions every day. He is currently showing college students and recent graduates how to hack their way into first-time jobs at Get Any Job.