Meaning: They spend too much time on the activities that are least likely to land them a job. And not enough time doing the things that are most likely to result in actual employment.
For example, are you spending your days fine-tuning your cover letter, scouring the want-ads, shotgunning your résumé all over the Internet, and chasing down posted job openings?
Those activities sure feel like looking for a job, and they can’t actually hurt. The trouble is they take up time you could be devoting to far more productive pursuits. Like networking. And researching potential employers. And—most of all—directly approaching those potential employers.
We’ve all read the newspaper articles about the position that 500 people applied for. We’ve seen the photos of the long lines at job fairs. It’s discouraging. It makes getting hired seem like winning the lottery.
Better to forge your own path by (a) identifying the companies that need your skills and experience, (b) choosing, from that list, the companies you’d like to work for, and (c) pitching yourself to those companies.
Here’s a secret: Employers want to reduce the time and money and risk associated with the hiring process. Make it easier for them by proactively seeking them out—catching them at that point where they’ve identified a need but not yet moved to fill it—and showing them you have what they need.
It’s hard work. But it might get you what you need: A Job.
Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at karenburnsworkinggirl.com .