When Routines Replace Common Sense
Every couple of years, my husband and I get in a debate about the term “common sense”. I believe common sense is something people either have or don’t, and he believes that it revolves around skills that are learned. Regardless of wherever it comes from, the question still remains: why don’t more people use it?
Each week I receive communications from people that are in dire straits financially. Most have waited more than a year to think about changing their job search strategy. (Thinking about change typically occurs when the unemployment checks are about to run out, or shortly thereafter). It is still surprising to me that when I ask how they have been searching for work, many describe the same process.
The typical search involves getting out of bed around 8:00 or 9:00 AM and actually getting started by 10:00 AM. First step is to review job boards or lists and the next is to send out a couple of resumes each day. They might also work in the yard, go to the gym, meet people for coffee and run errands. Some might even invest time as a volunteer in the community, but typically do not have a plan for how that work/exposure can be incorporated into their strategy. Some get caught up in more of their children’s activities they would not ordinarily be involved with if they were working.
This routine continues with little change, day after day, week after week, month after month. Some people are actually driven by the rules around their unemployment benefits, rather than whether their search is successful or not. In our state, recipients of unemployment benefits are required to apply for three positions per week, so many job seekers actually believe they are doing more than is required by responding to two to three per day, even when nothing is panning out.
The problem with this routine is that nothing changes (except, perhaps, some resume re-writes). The candidates continue to look at job boards. They don’t qualify the applications they make to determine if the roles/organizations are truly a fit, nor do they make an effort to learn what the employer really needs. There is no review process to determine if their actions are contributing to their less than satisfactory results. (Doing things the same way but expecting different results is indicative of what?). One thing remains consistent: their reasoning for not getting their desired results is that the market is tight and there are no jobs in their area of interest. Done. End of story.
Ok, so this is where the term “common sense” comes into play. When what has been done still doesn’t work, is it reasonable to continue doing the same thing? Does doing the same thing the same way but increasing the frequency make it better? Or is it really time to dissect each part of the process to determine what can change? I think you can guess what my answer is.
Just because job boards exist, it doesn’t mean using them as a sole strategy is the most effective way to find work. Just because there are online systems for posting resumes, it doesn’t mean those are the most effective ways to reach decision makers. Just because you are interested in a line of work, it doesn’t make you competitive for it. If the role/line of work/industry you have the most experience in has fewer opportunities, it doesn’t mean you should continue to hold out for your same role. It also doesn’t mean you should apply for a role with the same title in a different industry. So what do you do?
Get unstuck: Look at every component of your process and ask yourself what can change. Can you change the time you get up? Where you are looking? What kinds of roles/companies you are looking at? Who you talk to? The days of week you work on your search or don’t? What you send?
Stop relying on job boards! Millions of people have access to the same job postings you see online. What is the likelihood that you will be chosen when faced with that many competitors? Keep in mind that 85% of all positions currently being filled come from a referral. It means many may never even be posted.
Change your game plan: Stop applying for random postings because they look “interesting”. Find out what you are competitive for and then develop a plan to move from that role to the role of your dreams. It doesn’t happen by magic or overnight.
Research: Learn how your skills can be applied in other areas. Even if your skills transfer, that doesn’t mean you will necessarily be competitive for the same level role in a different industry. It means you have to learn what you NEED to learn or demonstrate competence in to become competitive within a new field.
Volunteer with a purpose: Be prepared to have meaningful conversations with other volunteers or employees of the organizations you are working with. Learn about their networks. Find volunteer opportunities to learn new skills that will add to your resume.
Develop goals: Yes, I understand that your goal may be to get a job. That’s not specific enough. Look beyond the immediate and set a long-term goal. Whatever your immediate goal is needs to be tied to the long-term goal in some way. By keeping your eye on the ball it will help you see why you may have to start in a different place to eventually move forward. It will help you see the benefit of learning new skills in a different role to help you build toward the role of your dreams.
Get help: Still think you can do it alone? If getting help means you will get back on track in three to six months, or a year ahead of what you have been able to do on your own, then make the investment. If you are leaving money on the table each month because you are not working toward your goal, then think again about what it would be worth to you to have three to six months’ income sooner than later.