I once took my six-week-old daughter on a job interview.
The magazine bureau chief who asked me to come in knew I was on maternity leave and said it was fine if my baby tagged along. But I never anticipated she'd start screaming halfway through the conversation and I'd have to excuse myself to nurse her. Not surprisingly, I never heard from the editor again.
That's one way to sabotage a career search.
There are plenty of other ways to undermine your efforts to find a job--whether you realize it or not. Here are some mistakes that midlife job seekers make, along with recommendations from recruiters and other career experts about how you can avoid missteps.
1. Think of yourself as "unemployed." In an age when most people will have multiple careers before retiring, if you're not currently working, you need to stop thinking of yourself as unemployed, says J.T. O'Donnell, career strategist, workplace consultant and founder of the CareerRealism.com blog. "It's a negative word. It's a defeatist word. It sounds definitive and it drags you down and impacts your job search," she says in a post on the subject. Instead, think of every job as a temporary job, so it's only natural to have points in your life when you're between jobs.
2. Submit a generic or error-riddled cover letter. When it comes to resume cover letters, one size does not fit all. By using a fill-in-the-blanks cover letter, you also run the risk of filling in the wrong name. Instead, customize each letter to the specific job you're applying for.
3. Interview for a job you don't understand or want. Every job that comes along will not be the right position for you, even if you've been job hunting for a while. You can save yourself, and the companies you interview with, time and trouble by contemplating the type of work you want and studying available positions to see if they're a match before showing up for an interview, says Jonscott Turco, an HR management consultant with BPI US Partners in New York.
4. Blow off a job interview. Don't agree to an interview and then blow it off. "You have no idea who these employers know in their personal and professional networks. Make sure you don't burn a bridge with anyone," says Lauren Berger in a recent post on her blog, The Intern Queen. Though aimed at college students, her advice applies to anyone who accepts an interview but can't make it. If you are sick, found another job or just changed your mind, call or e-mail to let the company know--it's not just good manners; it's the right thing to do, Berger says.
5. Undercut your abilities. Some people have the right skills and experience to land a job but are so insecure in interviews, they turn off a recruiter or hiring manager, Turco says. One financial services professional he helped had great experience but little polish and "gave off an 'I'm not sure if I'm good enough' vibe," Turco says. "Not surprisingly, things didn't go well." With some coaching, the executive was able to change his behavior and focus on what he had to offer potential employers, which helped him in subsequent interviews.
6. Put too much faith in yourself. On the other hand, some people have too much confidence, which can come off as arrogance in a career search. "I've seen countless execs approach a possible career move with the sense the world will beat a path to their door," and if things don't work out, it can be a real ego buster, Turco says. Networking is a good way to immunize yourself against overconfidence, he says. "Execs need to network as much as junior counterparts, if not more."
7. Fail to prepare for good news. Job candidates often blow it by letting news of a job offer paralyze them with tension and fear, says Pat Meehan, owner of The Meehan Group, an Evansville, Ind., outplacement specialist. Avoid that situation by preparing for a good-news phone call as you would any other part of a job search. Every time your phone rings, greet the person on the other end "with extreme friendliness" in case it's a prospective new boss, Meehan says. When an offer comes, express how thankful and excited you are, but ask to think about it and get back to them. That gives you time to digest the details, consult your job coach or mentor and decide if there's anything you want to negotiate. "Learning not to panic is key in handling a job offer correctly," he says.
Have you been your own worst enemy in a job search? Please share your experience. It may help others learn from your mistakes.
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