5 Myths That Are Crippling Your Job Search

Do you believe any of these myths about job searching?

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Alison Green
Do you believe any of these myths about job searching?

Myth: You can only get a job through connections these days.

Fact: Plenty of people—I'd guess the majority—are getting jobs by spotting an ad, sending in a resume, and interviewing. It may not feel that way, because there are so many people in the job market competing for a limited number of jobs and this means that most people are going to get fewer interviews and even fewer offers. But plenty of those offers are going to people without connections.

[See 21 things hiring managers wish you knew.]

Myth: If you can find the right gimmick to make your resume stand out, you'll get the hiring manager's attention.

Fact: You may get attention, but it won't be the kind you want. Fancy designs, having your resume delivered by overnight mail, video resumes, and other gimmicks don't make up for a lack of qualifications and can put off some hiring managers. If you want to stand out, write a great cover letter and have a resume that (a) demonstrates a track record of success in the area the employer is hiring for, and (b) presents your candidacy in a clear, straightforward way.

[See 5 ways job seekers sabotage themselves.]

Myth: I have my degree, so I don't need to start at the bottom.

Fact: Degree or no degree, most new grads are still starting at the bottom rung, which for most people means entry-level work. Employers aren't going to hire you for higher-level positions until you've had time to get some real-life work experience. When employers require a degree, it's often not because the degree itself prepares you for advanced level work; rather, it shows that you meet some baseline minimum qualifications for the entry-level jobs. To get to the more interesting jobs, you'll generally need to add work experience on top of the degree.

Myth: You can't show any weaknesses in the interview.

Fact: The jig is up! Interviewers know you have weaknesses, even if you want to hide them. So they're not going to be shocked to hear you have some. The question is just how they'll fit with this particular position—and that's something you should care about too, because you don't want to end up in a job you'll struggle in, or even risk getting fired from.

Candidates who can’t or won’t come up with a realistic assessment of areas where they could improve come across as if they're lacking in insight and self-awareness—or, at a minimum, just making it impossible to have a real discussion of their potential fitness for the job.

[See 5 things to consider before you quit your job.]

Myth: If you can't figure out what you want to do, you can just go to grad school.

Fact: You go to grad school if you want to pursue a career that requires it. You do not go to grad school because you don't know what else you want to do or because the job market is bad and it's somewhere to hide out for a while.

Grad school is expensive. It's time-consuming. And it generally will not make you more marketable, unless you're going into a field that specifically requires a graduate degree. What it will do is keep you from getting work experience for that much longer, meaning that when you're done, your peers who have been working full-time while you were in school will be more competitive than you. It might also limit you by requiring you to find a higher-paying job than you might otherwise need, in order to pay back those loans (without actually increasing your earning power). And if you apply for jobs that have nothing to do with your graduate degree, employers will think you don't really want the job you're applying for, since it's not in "your field."

Don't use grad school to prolong the day of reckoning.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.