Is your New Year's resolution to get a new job? Avoid these mistakes, and you'll make it happen.

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Year after year, one of the most popular new year’s resolutions is to get a better job. One that has you excited to wake up in the morning. One that doesn’t make you curl up in the fetal position in the shower. But just like that gym pledge, “getting a better job” can be elusive without a solid plan, and unfortunately, some will fail.

The good news is you can beat the old adage that new year’s resolutions never stick. 2012 can be the year you get a better job — as long as you avoid these six mistakes.

1. Your idea of “job searching” is applying online… and only that

Job searching is more than submitting application after application online. I’ve heard many a frustrated job seeker say, “But I’ve applied to over 45 jobs online!” For the most part, relying solely on online applications — and just that — won’t cut it. Sure, it might help, but it can’t be the crux of your strategy.

Instead, your job-search strategy should be a multi-pronged approach of applying online, reaching out to your network, making new connections, doing informational interviews, using social media in your job search, and more. There’s no silver bullet, and you never know which avenue will pay off. Pursue them all, including getting out from behind your computer.

2. No one knows you’re job searching

When you’re looking for a job, the majority of your close contacts in your network should know it. Sure, there are times when you might want to keep more of a lid on your hunt if you already have a job and don’t want your employer to find out. But even in that case, there are probably at least 3 to 5 people in your network — former colleagues (or even close current ones), friends, family, mentors, etc. — who should know you’re looking for new opportunities.

Even better, be specific about what you’re looking for. The more specific you can get, the better your contacts will be able to help you. Tell people the types of opportunities that would catch your eye, send them your resume, ask that they keep you in mind if they hear of anything, and keep them updated as your search progresses.

3. You’re looking for the wrong job

If you’re really struggling to land a job, you might want to question whether you’re looking for the right type of position. Maybe you graduated with a certain major and feel pressure to look for jobs in that field, but they sound, well, boring. It’s hard to be motivated when you’re bored. And while job searching is never easy, it can be even tougher if you’re not looking for a gig you’re really passionate about.

Before investing more time in your job hunt, take a step back and really think about whether  you’re looking for the right kinds of opportunities. Making a change here could be what you need to stay motivated.

4. Your resume is boring

Updating your resume means more than adding your most recent job or volunteer position. Shop it around to at least three people you trust and give them several days to get back to you with constructive feedback.

Even more importantly, make sure your resume is more than just a series of job descriptions. Give life to yourself! Quantify whenever and wherever you can, and use bullet points that show you’re creative, proactive, a team player, and can execute on your ideas.

Also, while words are important, so is design. The overall look of your resume speaks a lot to employers and can signal whether or not you’re detail-oriented. Does it look polished?Are your margins or spacings off? Is there something small you could do to stand out? If you’re not design-savvy, check out sites like Elance or Behance for a freelance designer to give you a resume makeover.

5. You have no social media presence or a horrible one

First of all, don’t let your social media presence work against you. Nearly 80 percent of all recruiters will scan your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to look for red flags before they hire you, so make sure no offensive pictures, language or comments are associated with your name.

But even more importantly, social media can actually help you find a job or get you recruited. Lots of recruiters scour websites to recruit based on the skills and interests in your profile. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the big three. Make sure you have a complete LinkedIn profile with a clear, professional picture and good headline. Create an enticing Twitter bio and reach out to recruiters on Twitter who work for employers you like. Participate in recruiting and job hunt Twitter chats. And if you’re up for it, go above and beyond to use social media to get the attention from employers that you deserve.

6. You don’t know how to use an informational interview to your advantage

One of the best things you can do when you’re job searching is find and connect with people who have a similar job to the one you want, work at a company you want to work for, or simply have great connections in your industry. An effective way to do this is through the informational interview.

How do you find these people? Ask your network (and ask them to make an intro for you), search on LinkedIn (and look for shared connections for the intro) or Facebook or Twitter for a start. Introduce yourself over email and give a quick 4-5 sentence reason why you’re contacting them. Ask for a meeting (ideally, if in the same city) or a phone call. ALWAYS make it convenient for them and put a time limit on the call.

Try saying something like, “I’m sure you’re really busy, but if you have 30 minutes in the next two weeks, I’d be interested in buying you a cup of coffee at a location convenient for you or stop by your office for a quick chat. I’d love to hear how you got started in the field/company X!”

Most people know the purpose of these meetings and many will be open to meeting with you. After all, people usually like to talk about themselves and work they enjoy.

When you’re at the meeting, tell them about yourself and what you’re looking for and then focus mainly on them, asking questions about what they do. The key to these meetings is to follow up; never send your resume up front unless they ask for it, but attach it in your thank you email with a note like, “Great meeting with you and hearing about your experience in the field! I’ve attached my resume to this email in case you do hear of any opportunities.” This person is now part of your network and you should do upkeep with this relationship as you do with any other.

Looking for a job is always a challenge, but maybe you just need a jumpstart or regimen to get you started. 2012 can be the year you get a better job! Here’s to this resolution being one that comes true.

Ashley Hoffman is the director of marketing and communications at Brazen Careerist, and co-host of BrazenU’s online educational bootcamps.


  1. red canvas

    These are brilliant tips and I couldn’t agree more with the one about only applying online.

  2. Jrandom42

    As a senior systems engineer, nothing aggravates me more than wasting my time answering inane questions that could be answered by some research in the “informational” interview, which itself is a waste of my time.

  3. Christina Wood

    Fantastic post. Informational interviews were extremely helpful in landing the job that I have now. It’s those informal meetings that can help you make those connections with your dream employers. I would also add that “freelance” work on the side can also help maximize your opportunities to bring attention to the type of work you do. I read an interesting article about this this morning.

  4. Jennifer Walker

    Great article! As a Recruiter I wish applicants would do the informational interview, it would make my job and their job search much easier!

  5. Catherine

    What you left out on the resume front is that people need to tailor their resume for each specific job they are applying for with the same keywords used in the ad. Gone are the days of doing one resume and sending it out to everyone. Resumes need to be tailored and specific to the job you are applying.

    Bolding the keywords that tie in with the job description can really help a prospective employer see that you are qualified for the job. Eliminate job functions from your resume that don’t tie in to the job that you are seeking.

    Be sure to act like not getting the job is not an option — meaning BE ENTHUSIASTIC — make yourself be enthusiastic. I don’t care if the job is sweeping floors. Be the interviewee that is the most passionate about sweeping floors.

    • Tom Southern

      Catherine! Spot on! Generic resumes/C.V.s are the quickest way to becoming invisible. Tailoring these to specific job requirements is essential. Also, include examples of how you carry out these requirements and add a couple of real-life hot examples of how you’ve also achieved results that will spark an employer’s interest and get them thinking, “Aha! Someone who could do that for us, and has initiative.”. That alone will make you stand in the dull slush pile of same-old, same-old resumes/C.V.s.

  6. Greg Miliates

    Doing freelance and consulting work on the side is a great way to learn about job opportunities–though you may find that you can grow your freelance/consulting business to the point where you don’t even need a job.

    Besides learning about job opportunities and your niche/industry, freelancing/consulting lets you make connections, and shows potential employers that you’re a go-getter and will take action, rather than just sit home in your pj’s trolling the internet.

    Greg Miliates

    • One Price India

      Hello Greg

      Really nice reply from you. There are plenty of ways to get jobs through online. Better than the write up.

  7. Edward - Entry Level Dilemma

    Informational interviews are a good theory, but more and more people who you would reach out to for one are refusing.

    • Ashleychoffman

      Thanks Edward — though I think that article you linked to is referring more to colleague to colleague talk, people in the same position at other companies or who simply want in intel and free intellectual property. I was referring more for personal perspective and information (less “how did you guys figure out how to do X” and more “What’s the path you took to get to where you are”). I think that’s a pretty significant difference.

      • Edward - Entry Level Dilemma

        I agree that there is a substantial difference. However, I participated in a conversation on Facebook recently regarding this article and the consensus seemed to be a trend against it at all levels.

  8. beth

    I too think that the informational interview is going to great lengths just to get a job. Is this what it is coming too? We have to contact complete strangers, ask them to answer questions we should already know (most of us apply to jobs we have done or know we can do), and then hope they will vouch for us based on a 20 min coffee talk? If that is the case, I’d love to see the statistics on how effective this strategy really is….perhaps I’m just old school and prefer relying on relevant experience and actual people that have worked with me that can vouch for my character as well as work.

  9. Earth

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  10. insitedesignlab

    Awesome article, unbeatable title. I love the “no one knows you’re looking for a job”. All too often people expect results that are unrealistic due the the lack of effort they’ve put in.

  11. viaRomania

    Well… 2012 must be a good year for a new startup then :p

  12. Ben Winters

    So true, I especially agree with the online application only. What ever happened to going in as a human and talking to another human?? I guess I’m a little old fashioned then

    • kikimonster

      When you try to do that you get stopped at the door by security and are told to submit your resume via email.

  13. once I built a railroad

    These are all classics, but I’m not sure they mean much these days, not for STEM jobs where we are all treated as faceless commodities.

    I’ll happily take an informational interview with an employer – but NOT with a recruiter, unless they buy lunch.

    Of course I agree the resume should shine, and a lot of engineering types don’t do a great job, but that’s super-basic stuff.

    And I have very nearly *zero* results submitting resumes online. However the inverse process works reasonably well for me, posting the resume on job sites. Didn’t even see that mentioned.

  14. che_lives

    maybe if the IEEE didnt support neo-liberal trade policies we wouldnt be in this mess.

    • Max4764

      Great idea…IEEE should act more of the club it is by ensuring its members are in the best positions available, at any given time. The IEEEjob site is more like any other ad page. The dues paid should enhance members’ employability, for one, having a standard IEEE resume as a ‘standard’ for engineering firms.

  15. George Peters

    Social media like linkedin is going the way of the personal web page… too many people asking to be “linked” that have no link with me AND too many recruiters trying to get that “link” so that they can use it to datamine your connections too. I pulled the plug on my personal web page in 2000 and looks like linkedin will go away in 2012. I never saw the value of facebook – so did not bother with that and won’t bother with their stock either as i hear many others talking of quitting fb too.

  16. jt1974

    FTA :: “reaching out to your network, making new connections”

    I love it, lets go out and make superficial relationships with people we think will be successful so that when our own failed projects go bad at our company we can be the first person to jump ship and not take the blame. Only to leave behind a steaming pile of lack of responsibility and immaturity for the next generation to deal with, but its not your fault cause your a “winner”.

  17. Dkoronios

    These are great tips! But what about finding a job in those “hard to find” fields like fashion or styling? I have a friend who is college educated and is trying to find a job as a stylist for magazine shoots. There are no traditional recruiters for a job like that. So how do you find a job in a very specific niche like that?

    • Tom Southern

      Truth is, being niche focused is short-sighted.

      A new era of doing business, including getting hired, is web-patterned.

      No, not just a pun on the www. but a concept that makes the narrow focus of niches; pinning a particular market down to as small a place as possible in hope of targeting people who’ll buy, redundant because we are no longer in this kind of world.

      Everything and everyone is joined to everything and everyone else.

      Which means Dkoronios, your best chances lie in seeing how your skills as a stylist for magazine shoots relates to as many other jobs and companies requirements as possible.

      It’s no longer good enough to think out-of-the-box. Thinking across as many boxes as you can, is the key to success now.


  18. Jrandom42

    Speak for yourself! I’ve already gotten a better job this year, and not only a better job, but one with killer benefits. Working for a technology giant has its’ perks!! Being senior enough to get all the perks and enjoy them doesn’t hurt either! 🙂

  19. O Salary

    i heard somewhere that only 20% of jobs are advertised online but something like 80% of people spend the vast majority of the job search looking at online postings

  20. ronnie

    finding job. this article help me a lot

  21. Davidjames

    Nice post.. .Informational interviews were extremely helpful in landing the job that I have now. It’s those informal meetings that can help you make those connections with your dream employers.

  22. Anonymous

    and first of all to get a better job, because it’s unhappy 2012… doomsday((((

  23. Anonymous

    So true, I especially agree with the online application only.

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  24. Samuel Wankish

    this post is pure crap. the fact of the matter is there are no more jobs. the economy is beyond devastated. No more jobs.

  25. adammarleymtts

    I participated in a conversation on Facebook recently regarding this article and the consensus seemed to be a trend against it at all levels…

  26. Kish Montecillo

    hey guys there are tons of hidden jobs out there you just have to know more about hidden jobs finder in career confidential.

  27. Joel Rigonan

    You can only get the job you love if you know yourself. The Internet is a wide world of possibilities and there is no way you can’t find your way through the vast. An advice I got from a mentor: “You boat to get to your job, you fish for your job, you cook your job and you do it all over again. It’s a process until you get the whale.”

  28. Young-ji Rhou

    Great Resource!

  29. Carlisle Tan

    Motivate yourself to be able to look for a better job. Set a goal for your career that is attainable so you won’t feel frustrated in doing this goal.

  30. Tom Southern

    Ashley, so true! It’s all about showing potential employers how much you stand out from the unproductive crowd.

    Employers want to know what employees will do for them. They want maximum results for minimum investment (preferably no investment at all, just an out-of-the-box “get on with it” person.

    Personally, I’ve found getting hired is a matter of making it easy for an employer to recognise how useful I’ll be to them, and what little investment they’d need to make on me (not forgetting payment, of course!).

    I do this by researching what’s out there on a potential employer, then researching what isn’t, e.g. what’s hidden in media, such as news items and trade press.

    I research the industry/market they’re in to get background on where their industry is and future predictions, including anything about where my potential employer is going.

    I use both these information sources to Wow! the employer and make them sit up when they read my covering letter included with my C.V./resume.

    Then I look at the job I’m applying for, what are the requirements. I use these to match my skills, etc. to, then I give one or two examples of just how I’ve used my skills and included what results I got. I include an example where results weren’t so good, but made me reflect and learn from why results weren’t so good.

    This method of matching employers to my skills, ensuring I can deliver, has got me almost every job I’ve applied for. The one job I didn’t get (because I didn’t have enough experience), they offered me a locum position so I could get the required experience.

    Employers want to know what makes someone different. So show them, give them examples. Make it easy for them to recognise you.


  31. Priscilla

    Bummer. I don’t know anyone I would even want to do an informational interview especially since I’m currently employed, when can I sneak out to do that? Where I currently work, it certainly helps to know someone, but we’ve also hired people straight from the internet, so there’s still a chance there. *sigh* I just want a 401k, pay that’ll afford me a home, and a place where I’ll be able to learn from smart people, so much to ask for? Yup.

  32. yepi

    I glad I came across this. Im glad I took the time to read on past the first paragraph. Youve got so much to say, so much to offer. I hope people realise this and look into your page.

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