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I see it all too often with my executive clients. They make too many job search mistakes, mostly because they don’t understand how it all works today.
Some of them have never needed a resume (or any career documents) to land jobs over their 30+ year careers.
Some haven’t been faced with job search for 5 or 10 years, or longer.
In the past, jobs fell into their laps before they were even considering a career move. They were hot commodities, pursued by recruiters, and could pick and choose between opportunities. They easily slid into new jobs.
Many don’t have a vibrant network in place because, securely employed (or so they thought!), they didn’t think they needed these advocates.
Even those who have experienced proactive job search in the past, may be ill-prepared to tackle the new world of executive job search. Deeply impacted by the digital age, an effective job search campaign today doesn’t look like it did even a few years ago.
16 Deadly Executive Job Search Mistakes
1. Not getting clear on what you’re doing and where you’re going next.
Ignoring targeting, the critical first step, is one of the biggest executive job search mistakes.
The most efficient and effective way to tackle job search is to start by selecting a number of companies or organizations to focus on. That is, employers that you feel will be a mutual good fit, based on your must-have criteria.
This keeps you from wasting time pursuing companies and jobs that probably aren’t right for you.
Another problem with NOT targeting is that, when you’re writing content for your executive resume, biography, LinkedIn profile, etc., you won’t know who you’re writing for.
- You won’t know which specific strengths, qualities and qualifications to zero in on.
- You won’t know which contributions of yours to past employers will resonate with your future employer.
- It’s nearly impossible to effectively define and communicate your personal brand. Your brand will be unfocused and won’t clearly resonate with anyone.
Instead, you need to:
- Know what kind of work you want to do and determine which organizations will fulfill your needs.
- Work from a target list of employers and key decision makers within them.
- Customize your personal marketing materials (resume, LinkedIn profile, biography, cover letters, etc.) to resonate with your target. Differentiate what makes you a good fit for them.
2. Sitting in front of your computer all day, burying your nose in the job boards.
Although job boards do serve a purpose, too many executive job seekers get sucked in once there, spending way too much time responding to job postings.
Job boards are not very good at helping executives (especially high-level executives) land good-fit jobs for several reasons, including:
- Jobs posted may not be legitimate openings.
- Job descriptions may not truly represent the job.
- Even if jobs are no longer open, they may still linger on the job board.
- You may not be able to delete your resume from their database once you land a job. This makes you forever appear as an active job-hunter and can jeopardize future jobs.
They’re addictive and it’s easy to convince yourself that blasting your resume to every relevant opening that “pops up” is an effective, proactive way to find a job.
A dismal estimated 10% or fewer of jobs at the executive level are landed through job boards. Most executive jobs by far (something like 80-90%) come through networking your way into your target companies.
It’s clear that networking offers the better ROI for your time.
3. Not researching your target companies and industries.
Once you have your list of target employers, move on to market intelligence research for due diligence, to uncover hiring decision makers, and to help you write powerful content for your LinkedIn profile, resume and other job search materials.
Your research will also help you perform better in job interviews and when networking.
You need to answer questions intelligently. Spend a part of each “work” day researching.
Here are just some of the places to conduct your job search research:
- Company websites
- Google Search – Employees, products, services
- SEC – Reports on public companies
- Yelp – Consumer ratings for various service-related companies
- Libraries – Librarians are trained research experts with access to materials you may not find elsewhere
4. Failing to re-connect and engage your neglected network while proactively reaching out to fresh faces.
If you’re like lots of people, you dread having to network, even though you know you need to do it.
But it’s the only way to access the “hidden” jobs at your target company that are never advertised.
LinkedIn was custom-made for power networking.
You need to bring all kinds of people into your LinkedIn network . . . and proactively keep yourself and your personal brand top of mind with them. Here are some suggestions:
- Executive recruiters in your niche
- Hiring decision makers at your target companies
- Other employees at your target companies, at almost any professional level
- Influencers in your industry or niche
- Business associates and vendors you’ve worked with
- Current and past colleagues
- Colleagues involved in the same volunteering and community projects
- Friends and associates
Conduct informational interviews, which are informal conversations with people working at the companies and in the fields in which you want to work, or people who are within a few degrees of separation from them. This is not a job interview and these people do not hold the reins on any particular jobs.
Give value to get value, and work on building trust to get others to feed you leads and inform you of opportunities.
5. Not treating your job search like it’s a full-time job.
Your job search is a personal marketing campaign to promote your company of one — Brand You.
Consider what Tom Peters, a business management guru credited with inventing personal branding many years ago, said in his article “The Brand Called You“. His advice still holds true:
“You’re branded, branded, branded, branded.
It’s time for me — and you — to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.
Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
Run your search like a business, with a strategic business plan, just like any company does. Your “9 to 5” job is to find a job.
6. Failing to set achievable daily goals.
Be realistic when setting your goals., but do your best to meet them.
Of course, the benefits are twofold:
- You accomplish something important to your search and
- You feel invigorated because of it.
7. Not developing benchmarks and metrics to measure progress.
Keep track of all your job search activities: Who you reach out to, who you meet with, jobs you’ve applied for, interviews you’ve had, etc.
Determine what actions work and what don’t work, and adjust your approach accordingly.
8. Missing the opportunity to move to the front of the pack with personal branding and a strategic brand communications plan.
Make no mistake. In today’s job search landscape, personal branding is required . . . It is no longer optional.
Executive recruiters and other hiring professionals may review the LinkedIn profiles and resumes of thousands of candidates for any given job. They often find themselves drowning in a sea of sameness. Few candidates stand out.
The wise job seeker knows that the more clearly and compellingly they can describe their overall good fit for the job and the employer, the better their chances to be noticed and contacted for interviews.
That means they need to clearly communicate to hiring professionals and their network(s) how their hard and soft skills are in sync, and how this combination of skills and personal qualities make them a good hiring choice.
And that’s what personal branding is all about.
Develop on-brand personal marketing materials targeting your companies/organizations of interest.
Defining your brand will also build self-confidence for the unique promise of value you offer potential employers. And it will energize you for the job search.
9. Failing to build a strong digital footprint.
On-brand online information about you needs to be easily found by recruiters and hiring decision makers who source and assess candidates by what they find (or don’t find) about them online.
Whether you’re actively job seeking or think you may be in the future, you need a strong, clean online presence. Even if you feel secure in your job, you need to be visible online. That’s just the way it is today.
You’re being tapped, tossed aside, or overlooked based on what they find (or don’t find) about you online.
Video is one of the quickest ways to push Google search results for “your name” to the top of the page. But job seekers have been hesitant to use video in their job search, perhaps because the vast majority of them are job hunting under cover.
Since video resumes, the most widely used type, are very job-searchy and could “out” them, they shy away from using ANY video. Videos that DON’T feature them on camera, like CareerBrandVideos™, are the answer.
10. Neglecting social media to promote your executive brand and value proposition.
- Not fully leveraging LinkedIn. Slapping up a perfunctory LinkedIn profile and then forgetting about LinkedIn and all it has to offer.
- Not spending some time regularly posting LinkedIn updates, and commenting or otherwise reacting to others’ LinkedIn updates.
- Ignoring the power of Twitter to position yourself as a subject matter expert and get on the radar of decision makers at your target companies.
- Failing to join the blogosphere. You don’t have to start a blog, although it’s a good idea. You can post articles on LinkedIn’s long-form (or Pulse) publishing platform. Also, consistently commenting on relevant blogs can have a powerful impact on its own. Guest blogging is another viable alternative.
- Conversely, spending too much time networking online. It can be intoxicating. It’s easy to squander an hour or two flitting about Twitter, with little to show for it. Create a time-limiting plan and stick to it.
11. Not balancing personal branding with personal SEO.
Both personal branding and personal SEO are critical pieces for successful job search in the digital age, and they go hand in hand.
But many people don’t know how to strike the right balance between them, as they write their personal marketing documents and online profiles – resume, biography, LinkedIn profile, etc.
Personal SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is all about the relevant keywords and phrases (typically “hard” skills) you possess that recruiters and hiring managers most search online to source and assess candidates like you.
Personal branding is also about those keywords, so branding does incorporate personal SEO.
But personal branding goes beyond that and incorporates “softer” skills – those personal attributes and qualities you possess that people rely on you for, and that indicate the kind of person you are, what you’re like to work with and how you get things done . . . that is, your personality.
More in my post, How to Balance Personal Branding With Personal SEO.
12. Not balancing virtual with real-life networking.
Online social networks are a terrific place to connect, but nothing builds trust like reaching out and sending an email, or better yet, picking up the phone from time to time.
When possible, meet with people in person.
And find networking events and job search support groups you can attend in person.
13. Being blatantly self-promoting or negative when you’re networking, online or in real-life.
You want to stay top of mind with people, but you don’t want to be memorable in a negative way.
And social media snark is never a good thing.
I’m talking about the lack of common courtesy and manners, and people spewing hurtful epithets and vitriol, instead of making life more pleasant as we all muddle through our daily challenges.
If you post comments on LinkedIn, you’ll see this kind of thing all too often.
Smart networking (that is, networking that presents you in the best light) is about giving value to your connections.
14. Being unprepared to interview well.
Whether you’re in interviews now, or you’ve been reading about them or experienced the process in the past, you know how challenging it can be to ace job interviews.
There’s so much involved with nailing interviews – from preparing for them, to performing well in them, to following up, to landing or not landing the job.
Along the way, lots of things can go wrong for a variety of reasons.
Being well prepared will help you in ways beyond nailing your interviews, including helping you network better.
Don’t be guilty of these things:
- Not having a personal brand positioning statement – your 30-second elevator pitch – to handle the sticky “Tell me about yourself“ query.
- Not having several well-rehearsed CARs (Challenge – Actions – Results) achievement “stories” in your back pocket to get into the conversation to handle behavioral-based questions. “Describe a time when you . . .”
- Not knowing which questions you should ask.
15. Not getting real about how long executive job search can take these days.
You may land a job quickly, but don’t expect to. Be prepared for it to take several months, maybe even a year.
Executive job search is complicated and it can take a long time to land a job you covet and deserve.
It requires plenty of planning and purposeful work . . . before you even begin the proactive process of networking your way into your next great-fit gig.
Most people in executive job search don’t know what to do, what not to do, what the first steps are, whether they need help, and basically, how to stage a successful job search campaign.
Consequently, it may take way too long, because of their job search mistakes.
Learn ways to minimize job search stress.
Even though you’re bound to get discouraged, work on staying focused and persistent. Budget and cut back expenses, if necessary.
16. Being too stubborn to seek help from a career professional.
With so much going on in today’s job search, the strategy is complicated.
Even if you follow my suggestions above and study up extensively on how job search works these days, you may not be able to do it all on your own.
And you still may make job search mistakes.
Navigating a search without professional help may prolong your search and make you miserable.
Consider hiring a professional to help you navigate the waters.
The best job search and career professionals know how to develop a personalized strategy around each client’s unique value to the employers they’re targeting. They:
- Ask their clients the right questions to uncover the compelling information that defines their career distinction.
- Help their clients prepare for job search with information-mining exercises that give them deep insight into their target employers’ needs and what makes them a mutual good-fit.
- Brand and differentiate their clients’ unique promise of value to their next employer.
- Incorporate the right key words, relevant to each clients’ target job, but still craft resumes that are an interesting read.
- Showcase the critical information hiring decision makers want to see and align everything in the resume around the requirements for each client’s target job(s).
- Create digital and paper documents that “sit” perfectly on the page, immediately capture attention, best position clients’ “selling” points, look appealing, and reflect the right brand image for each client.
- Know what recruiters and employers want to see in a resume, how it should look and how it should be formatted.
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Candace Barr says
Great list, #2 is key. Shifting from reactive to a proactive and targeted job search approach is something executive-level job seekers need to implement immediately. Less than 10% of your efforts should be spent on job boards, they are truly the “black hole”.
Meg Guiseppi says
Great advice, Candace. Thanks for commenting.
Sales Recruiter says
Meg, I like these tips. They’re all about being proactive, and using the tools available today that certainly weren’t there a few years ago but are essential now. LinkedIn is an especially good way to research companies, and you can also use it to contact hiring managers directly about job opportunities, rather than just sending a resume to HR.
Best of Luck,
Meg Guiseppi says
Thanks for your comments, Peggy.
It never ceases to amaze me how many executives who come to me are still ignoring LinkedIn, or worse yet, don’t even know about it! Given all the good information out there and solid results people achieve when they use it correctly, it’s kind of a no-brainer.