There are many misconceptions about job hunting and how to advance your career. For 5 weeks between January and February this year (2021), I was on my Facebook Page every Wednesday doing live and free coaching sessions, busting one myth per week for five weeks. This was a fun project for me, and at the time of writing over 4000 have watched these videos.
I compiled the best of each of the five sessions to write this article.
Myth 1: The perfect resume and cover letter will get you the job.
The first myth that I discussed and busted is that professionals assume they will get a job if they have a perfect resume and a cover letter. That is not true.
If you have a great resume and hear crickets back, don’t be surprised! It’s not just the resume that gets you the job. A resume is just one of the many things you have to do as a job hunter to progress in the recruitment and selection process.
I have created a free worksheet – The Optimized Job Search Schedule – that you can download RIGHT HERE, where I teach you how to optimize your job search; you will see that there’s a range of activities that you should be doing every day, or every week, to optimize your job search, and move faster towards your next role.
This myth can also be an emotional crutch for you, making you not even looking for work because you believe you don’t have a perfect resume and a cover letter. It can keep you from moving forward or moving faster in your career.
The other problem is making resumes and cover letters that you believe look perfect but are entirely unsuitable to the 2021 job hunting market. A good resume in 2021 needs to be read by humans and by bots. Sometimes a straightforward resume will have better results than a pretty one with a pink side banner and lots of pies and charts, especially if bots do the first reading!
Finally, there is never “one perfect resume” that fits all your job applications. But you can have a master document that will be a framework for you to work from every time you’re applying for a role. You really have to invest time in tailoring and curating your resume and cover letter for the job you are applying for. However, not many people know what exactly needs to be done or how to do that efficiently.
Myth 2: You need to have perfect answers to all of your interview questions.
This misconception is that your job interview starts when you’re sitting at the office or the zoom meeting with the interview panel or recruiter. Nope, not true. Your interview starts from the moment of the first contact.
I’m going to let that sink in for a little bit…
Throughout your career, as you chat to anybody, be it your colleagues, managers, clients, suppliers, neighbours, they will be considering you (or not) for future opportunities and collaborations. Understanding the power of that, how it goes both ways (you have power over other people’s career as well), and how to be responsible and empathetic towards others, as well develop a good professional image over time, is what will make your career sustainable.
But how about the actual interview?
Prepping for a job interview is the most underrated activity of all. Recruiters agree that my consultation service at an hourly rate is a great solution to help professionals when they need it most. But if that’s not something you can invest in, you should at the very least be doing your own interview prep!
And prepping to answer questions in the STAR format will only take you so far. We have plenty of research showing that what comes out of your mouth is only a small percentage of the cues you’re sending out to your potential boss or employer, hiring manager, and recruiter. There’s more you need to train for and get better at doing. Most importantly, it would help if you learned to relax and not let the nerves get the better of you.
Practicing to answer questions in that STAR format takes practice not to sound robotic, artificial, or fake. It would be best if you were ready to adopt a story-telling narrative rather than say something that you’ve rehearsed over and over again because the questions could be slightly different from the ones that you’ve prepped.
Myth 3: You are not ready for a promotion.
The comments that I hear from people that reach out to me are, ‘look; I don’t think I’m ready for the promotion or a new job.’ There have been situations when they’ve been tapped on the shoulders by their managers for opportunities, and they have come to me and said, ‘I don’t feel ready.’ You may be sending mixed messages out there to the world!
Why does that happen to us? Why is it that we don’t feel ready? The voices in your head saying you’re not good enough, you’re not ready… that’s not you! Those voices in your head are called resistance, fear, inertia, laziness, de-motivation, procrastination, and perfectionism.
Please put all of that aside. Then think about what you really want for yourself. Some people want to advance in their careers. They want leadership roles. Others want a job that pays the bills, gives them security or flexibility. Figure out what you want, and then invest in making sure that people know what you want.
Because sending the right messages about your career goals when you’re working with people who can help you get there, is really important.
And remember: You don’t need to be ready to do the job. But it would help if you were ready to take on the challenge. That’s the difference.
Myth 4: There are too many candidates out there, and this is why I’m not hearing back.
Even before COVID, between 60 to 80% of the job applications were not good enough. The problem is if you’re not cutting through, you’re probably in that pool. And this is what needs fixing. So you need to qualify. And the qualification is your online application.
How do you make your job application stand out?
- You need to clearly demonstrate with your online application that you are a good fit for the role. An application process is not showcasing what you’ve done; it’s showcasing what you can do.
- Have you followed the application guidelines? Following the application guideline is so important! If a job is advertised on LinkedIn, make sure you go back to the organization’s website, click on the Careers or About us tab, and check if they don’t have guidelines for job applications. Many organizations do.
- Do you understand the power of technology and how it’s impacting your online application? Do you know how LinkedIn and what you have on your profile are affecting your online LinkedIn application? If you apply through LinkedIn, your LinkedIn profile has to be done in a certain way for you to rank well for that role that you’ve just applied for. Your resume design or CV design and how it may affect the readability by bots and how important it is for it to be nicely read by the human eyes.
Myth 5: I’m too young or too old for the job market.
We are living longer and getting healthier, even as we age. So it would be expected that professionals can work longer. If you are over 50, you have a lot of excellent experience under your belt. There will be roles that would need that. These opportunities would be looking at trustworthiness, mentoring, and leadership that you bring to a team. So, how can you best highlight those strengths to make your application stand out?
On the other hand, you may think you are too young for a promotion. But these days, information is so easily and freely available to everyone that if you are an up-and-coming rising star and want to excel and have ambition, you definitely have the tools at hand to learn to develop yourself. You can move faster than others, so go for it, if that’s your ambition!
Yes, there is ageism and bias out there. That’s something we can’t control, at least not in the short-term. But I can help clients overcome those challenges. If you feel like there is a bias – and some biases are stronger in some industries and countries than others – you have to be aware, acknowledge that, and build that risk into your job-hunting strategy or your career plans. Please don’t shy away from it. Don’t leave it out of your plan as the “elephant in the room” that shall not be spoken. No, you bring it to the forefront, and you tackle it:
- Continuously learn: Don’t shut down from innovation. Never stop learning. You are going to be in the same sandbox with younger people. You’re going to be in the world, working with different generations. And you will need to empathize and be compassionate and understanding towards different ways of thinking that are different from how you were raised and educated and so forth. And you need to evolve continuously.
- If you are younger and struggling to find your mojo, follow someone who is a few steps ahead of you. Look up on LinkedIn somebody in your sector, industry, somebody you can get inspiration from who is maybe ten years ahead of you to understand how to move and do that career progression. The idea is not to romanticize the outcomes and not look at people 20 to 30 years ahead of you because it is harder for you to develop strategies and do a step-by-step path to reach that goal. But if you find people along the way between your preferred future and where you are now, you can start identifying what your next steps could be.
As a coach, I can’t fix your age. You can’t fix your age! But I can certainly give you tips and ideas that will help you overcome the mindset that keeps you from presenting yourself in the best light.
Renata Bernarde is a Career Coach and Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. You can listen to the podcast in all available podcast apps. Download Renata’s Optimized Job Search Weekly Schedule to create the perfect job search routine to suit your needs, no matter how much (or little) time you have.