No job search is perfect. If you're sending out résumés and making calls, you're sure to make mistakes. It's useful to keep in mind, however, that your peers are also making mistakes. The beauty of a job search is that you press forward on a hundred fronts, you knock on a hundred doors—and all you need is one success, one door to open. Minimize your mistakes, and you're likely to have a door open sooner.
Here are five possible fixes:
The unedited résumé: Since many of us don't have the money for a professional résumé writer, you've probably written it yourself. You may even have had someone look over it. But has it been copy-edited? Trust a reporter: Copy-editing changes everything. If you're not lucky enough to have a copy editor as a friend (or as a friend of a friend), then call up your local newspaper and get connected with a copy editor on staff. Offer the editor $20 to look over and edit your résumé in his or her free time. Virtually everyone's grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction would benefit from having the educated eye of a copy editor taking a look.
The unpitched friend: Don't be shy about asking for help. If you have a close friend or family member who is a great connector—someone with lots of friends who naturally makes connections between people—try to inspire that person to become an advocate on your behalf. Take the time to share exactly what kind of work you're looking for. Someone once told me that the nine most powerful words in the English language are "I have a problem, and I need your help."
The uniform cover letter: You should be personalizing every cover letter you send to a potential employer. Each letter is one opportunity—and you don't get many—to stand out among a pile of applicants. HR expert and U.S. News blogger Alison Green explains well the attitude a hiring manager has toward applicants who don't personalize their cover letters:
I generally assume these applicants are just résumé-bombing, applying to such a wide range of jobs that they can't possibly tailor their applications to each job. I don't want these applicants; not only are they ignoring instructions in their very first contact with me, but I want applicants who are int erested in this job, not a job.
The unknown contacts: You cannot be afraid of making contact with people you do not know. You also cannot make judgments about how helpful those people will be before you deign to call or write them. If your friend Jim suggests you get in touch with this guy, Joe, who works in advertising 100 miles from where you want to work—call him up. To take pressure off the phone call, don't expect a job from Joe. Instead, the real reward here: You never know who might be a friend of Joe's.
The negative mind-set: There are a thousand thoughts that can derail your ability to search. Some examples: "I just lost my dream job." "The economy is tanking, and there are no jobs." "I just got laid off, but some colleagues kept their jobs, so it must have been for reasons they aren't telling me."
It doesn't matter a whit in your current job search whether these statements are true or false. Maybe your last job was your dream job. OK, find another dream. So the economy is in a downturn and the job search is tough. Well, most of us can handle tough challenges. Easy challenges are pretty rare.