Four common mistakes when looking for work

Many people that I have met recently, during my career workshops or coaching, who have been out of work for a while are fighting a huge battle – primarily with themselves. The longer they are out of work, the more their confidence and self-belief is damaged, so it seems like a huge mountain to climb. Most of us were never trained in how to market ourselves effectively, so it’s no surprise that we make simple mistakes when starting to look for work, which can mean that we find it difficult to get placed. If you have valuable skills and experience which can easily transfer to a variety of situations, you need to believe that someone somewhere needs those skills. If you can get off to a good start then the strategies below can help you avoid being left on the shelf for too long… Here are some common problems I’ve noted from people I’ve talked to…

  • Lack of focus – when I left school in the 80s (during the last recession) we were taught to do a CV which was really your life story.  These days you should think of the CV as a “client proposal” – if you were giving a quote or proposal to a client for a piece of work, you wouldn’t give exactly the same one to a hundred people, would you? Job seekers often tend to try the “scattergun approach” sending their CV to a hundred prospects, and keeping it as general as possible, covering all the bases, but this leads to a potential employer not knowing where the candidates strengths are and what they do best. So choose a specific type of role, or if you have a variety of experience, choose perhaps two or three types of  role, and TAILOR your CV to each specific employer or role – it is your proposal to them of what benefits you can deliver to them as an employee or member of their team. You might as well go for the kind of job you really want, as your genuine enthusiasm and motivation will help you sell your skills most effectively.
  • Not having a proactive plan – this means that the job search is like looking for a needle in a haystack. People spend days and weeks trawling the internet looking for the elusive job ad, and depressing themselves in the process. By all means search online, but the most effective method by far of landing a job is through your existing network – more of this later. Develop a clear written plan for the type of role you want, any changes you may need to make e.g. certification or retraining, the types of organisation who would require your skillset, what types of organisation and situations you want to work in – this will help you develop an action plan to find work, even on a voluntary, trial or short term contract basis, so that you can prove yourself and build up your skills. Each week have some actions, people to meet or outcomes you want to achieve, so that you feel you are making progress towards your goal. Take personal responsibility, don’t rely entirely on agencies to do your work for you – be proactive and make contacts yourself.
  • Failure to use your network – when we talk about networking, this conjures up images of networking meetings, and using social media,  all of which are extremely beneficial. But for people who have at least a few years experience in their chosen field,  in each previous role we’ve had, we all have several former colleagues, clients, associates, managers. However many jobseekers ignore their existing network of people they already know. Once you have a list of ideas for where you really want to work and the type of work you can do and want to do, you can see how you might connect with some of the right people through your existing contacts.
  • Looking for the same job again – many people try to find exactly the same type of job again ie permanent, pensionable…. but just how certain is anything (including permanence and pensions) in the current market? Open your thinking up to consider how your skills can transfer to different sectors and geographic areas. Or consider being an independent contractor or starting up on your own Some of the worksearch groups I’ve talked with use the phrase “looking for work, not necessarily a job”…  Obviously everyone has their personal circumstances and goals to take into consideration, but we need to be flexible and open to compromise.

To help people address the last point, I’m running a Career Clinic workshop in Dublin on the morning of Saturday March 26 called “Finding your new Career direction”, to help people think about their career and possible job opportunities in a new way.

If you or anyone you know is interested in coming along, you can find more details and booking on

Hope to see you there! Liz

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