Whether you contemplate beginning a job search, or have been engaged in one for a while, it is easy to scuttle your chances for success if you mistake many common myths for reality. Especially beware of these:
1. MYTH: Recruiters, career counselors or coaches get people jobs.
FACT: Recruiters identify and present top-tier talent to their clients. They get paid when their client hires someone they've brought to their attention. People get hired as a consequence, of course, but a recruiter's primary loyalty is always to the client company who pays his or her commissions.
Career counselors and coaches help clients get motivated and stay that way. They also provide extremely valuable information about how to go about each stage of the job-search process. They serve as great guides and mentors. They facilitate the job hunt, and often help their clients through the maze. It's possible that they might have connections to leverage within target companies, but when that happens it should be viewed as a "bonus" rather than an expected service.
Don't fall prey to the notion that a recruiter, career counselor or coach will "get" you a job. While in one way or another they might be great resources, you need to own and take responsibility for your job search from beginning to end. Your job is to get a job, and you should devote the same energy and creativity to it that you would provide to any employer.
2. MYTH: Posting your résumé on job boards will get you a job.
FACT: It's generally accepted that less than 10 percent of jobs are filled from employers or recruiters picking people out of job board résumé databases. Worse, it is nearly impossible to tailor your résumé for each position, leaving you with a "vanilla" résumé that doesn't align your achievements with the priorities of each job for which you want consideration.
Job board résumés are time-stamped, so the older ones raise red flags. Even those employers who are seeking talent through this medium flock to the latest and greatest. It doesn't take long for hiring authorities to begin to think: "Why hasn't this person got a job already? There must be some problem with him or her." How long it takes to get to this point differs, but it's more likely a matter of weeks, not months.
3. MYTH: Your elevator speech is all about you.
FACT: A typical elevator speech begins something like, "I have eight years as a [insert job title here]." You won't likely be hired for how long you've been doing whatever it is that you've been doing. What an employer really cares about is the value you bring. Demonstrate that right off the bat by changing the beginning of your elevator speech to something like: "I've racked up successes like A, B and C over the course of the last eight years, and I can help to improve your business in the areas of X, Y and Z."
4. MYTH: Networking is about asking for help.
FACT: Networking is about building and enhancing relationships with people. It is about sharing information, insights, personal and professional development. Effective networking is about "paying it forward" and "giving to get," not begging for anyone and everyone you know to help you get a job. It is key to your job hunt to build your network on an ongoing basis, and to be viewed as a resource rather than a leech. When you go about networking this way, people will be more than willing to lend a hand to you in numerous ways, including introducing you to others who can add value for your job-hunt.
5. MYTH: Your résumé needs to describe all the things you've been responsible for doing.
FACT: Your résumé is a marketing document. It should not restate your job description nor serve as your autobiography. It should present your branding statement, key skills and the accomplishments that distinguish you from your competition.
When you simply describe all the things you were supposed to do, you lump yourself in with all the other applicants possessing the same general background. Instead, your aim should be to distinguish yourself from them by conveying your unique successes and accomplishments, and to show how you achieved them.
6. MYTH: It is OK to take some months "just for yourself" after leaving a job before beginning a job hunt.
FACT: It is almost always easiest to get a job when you have a job. Multiple studies all confirm that the longer you are out of work the harder it becomes to gain consideration. Job seekers who have been unemployed for more than six months are rarely given the favorable treatment they would have received earlier.
These two lessons are simple, and oft repeated: time is of the essence in your job search, and you never have a second chance to make a first impression.
Success will be yours when you take ownership of your job hunt, take advantages of the professional and networking resources that can guide you on your way, carefully brand yourself and articulate your value.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.