3 Tips to Stay on Track in Your Job Search

Many job seekers fail to plan.

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Miriam Salpeter
Miriam Salpeter
If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get there. When you’re looking for an actual destination, such as a restaurant, if you don’t have a location to program into your GPS, or a phone number to call to ask for directions, it’s unlikely you’ll accidentally arrive at the party on time. Most people would avoid wandering around aimlessly, hoping to find where they’re going without the necessary preparations.

But why do so many job seekers get stuck doing the equivalent of driving around aimlessly? Many job seekers fail to plan and do not outline an endpoint. Other times, they are indecisive about their goals.

If you’re looking for a job, here are three tips:

[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]

1. Decide what position you hope to land. If you’ve been working in a field where opportunities are few and far between, spend some time researching other industries where your skills and accomplishments will be useful. Visit job boards and use Google to explore potential opportunities. Include your skills in the search fields, for example: editing. When you search Google, add the word “jobs” to your search. Try different variations to help determine potential next steps.

2. Follow only one career path initially. Focus on how to make yourself look qualified and well suited for that type of job. Many job seekers make the mistake of splitting their efforts. For example, they’ll say, “I know I should be looking for a job as an architect, but there aren’t many opportunities now, so I’ll try to position myself as an administrative assistant, too.”

[See Employers Will Check Your Social Media Profiles.]

The problem with a dual-pronged approach targeting such different types of jobs is your online presence. If you demonstrate expertise as an architect in a LinkedIn profile, an employer receiving your application for an administrative job will be confused and wonder why you would want to apply for a position requiring less education or experience. Gone are the days of being able to portray yourself differently to various employers. Your digital footprint, and availability of information online makes it difficult to try to have a “split candidate personality.”

3. Avoid applying for jobs if you are overqualified. It makes you look desperate, and you are unlikely to convince an employer to hire you. Why?

[See 6 Ways to Stand out in a Tough Job Market.]

•    Employers worry the candidate will be too expensive.

•    Hiring managers may be concerned the overqualified applicant will leave at the first sign of a better opportunity.

•    No one wants to hire a potential “grumpy Gus” or “sad Sally” if the job does not meet the candidate’s needs.

While you may just want to land “any job” to be able to pay your bills, your best bet is to spend as much time and effort as possible trying to land an experience-appropriate position from the start. A job search is a full-time job in itself. Accepting an opportunity you aren’t expecting to stay in for the long term will just set you up for a difficult time down the road. When you get fed up and want a more appropriate job, you’ll be too busy working to spend the necessary time to land a more suitable position.

Planning ahead and having a direction is as important in your job hunt as it is when you’re about to leave on a road trip. Knowing where you are going and how to get there is key to success.

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success . Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.