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Common Sense Tips for Surviving the Job Search

Updated on October 10, 2010

The numbers are daunting. 9.6% of Americans are unemployed. The economy may be on an upswing, but the rebound has been slow. While it may be difficult to land a position in your field, there are thousands of jobs available. Sometimes, one has to take on a role he or she may not like to make ends meet. That’s an unfortunate fact of life. Ask anyone who has been blindsided by a layoff. I know because I have faced two within five years. Yes, it was devastating.

Finding a job is a job within itself. I have had six-month stretches of sending out hundreds of resumes and not receiving one interview request. I know the pain of landing an interview and having it go well only to never hear from that company again. I also know the agony of accepting a position only to discover a month in that I was not suited for the role. Below, I have provided three tips that seem to be common sense but, in these tough economic times, can be forgotten in our need to provide for our families and ourselves.

1. Don’t apply for positions for which you are either under or over qualified. I cannot stress this enough. Just because you possess the training and experience for three of six requirements listed in the job description shouldn’t be enough for you to send the company your resume. Someone took a lot of time and effort to clearly state the objectives and business needs of the company and we, the job seekers, should take them seriously. The company may not have the time or manpower to train you on something the position requires advanced knowledge of. They need someone who can jump right in and get the job done. By the same token, if the position states “entry-level” and you have ten years business experience, don’t be shocked if you don’t get a callback. Sure, you can do the job, but your level of experience is not meeting with the needs of the company, i.e., it’s not in their budget to pay you what you are worth. With that much experience, you will not be content with entry-level pay and responsibilities. The company knows that and, deep down, so do you. Only apply for positions that you feel your experience and talents will be an asset to the organization.

2. If you land an interview, inquire about timeframes. Ask the interviewer how long the company plans to interview for the position. This will keep you from checking your voice mail every hour on the hour and also from running to answer the phone only to discover a telemarketer on the line (at least’s he’s working). Knowing that the company plans to interview for the next three weeks can lessen your anxiety because you now know when to expect a call for a second interview. Also, ask for a business card. This is important for follow-up. After the interview, send the interviewer a short email thanking him or her for the opportunity. This is a nice touch and it shows that you are sincere about the position. It can also open lines of communication between you and the company. I once had an interview with a major telecommunications company. After the interview, I sent the interviewer an email thanking her for her time and requesting a return call if she had additional questions. Long story short, I didn’t get the job, but I did receive an email from her advising the position had been filled. What’s so great about that, you ask? If you have ever left an interview on cloud nine thinking the position was all but yours only to never again hear from the interviewer, then you know it is kind for a busy hiring manager or HR generalist to personally advise you of your application status.

3. Don’t accept a job you hate. This may seem to contradict my earlier statements about having to take on positions you may not like until you can do better, but it doesn’t. A job you don’t like is a drag. You hate to get up in the morning and face mind-numbing, repetitive tasks that bore, but you realize it is better than nothing and go about the rest of the day dreaming about the weekend. With a job you hate, however, the feelings are much deeper. This is the job that causes you emotional and physical distress. You actually begin to have panic attacks on Sunday evening just thinking about going to work on Monday. For me, a job I hate is being a call center representative. I remember driving to work and the closer I got to the office building, the more nauseous I became. I remember spending my lunch hour in the parking garage, reclined in my car praying for my splitting headache to subside. I knew I hated logging in to phone systems, strapping on a headset and taking call after call after call. To me, that is the height of working despair. Every time I have accepted a call center representative position (twice now), I have had to resign within the first year. So why did I accept them in the first place? Money. My bank account was dwindling and I needed the money. Looking back, my salary did not pay all my bills so not only did I have the stress of working in an industry I despised, I also had the stress of STILL not having enough money to pay my debts. Take my advice, which is steeped in personal experience. Hold out a little longer if you can. I know how painful it is when bills begin to stack up, but you will not do yourself or your family any favors by taking on a job that leaves you physically sick and emotionally drained. If you feel you must take on such a position, please make it a very last resort. No job is worth destroying your physical and emotional wellbeing.

These tips were culled from years of exhilarating highs and disappointing lows in the job search. I am currently employed, but know from experience that I may again find myself searching job boards and trying to impress hiring managers. That’s the new reality of working in America. Hopefully, following the above tips will make an already stressful situation less hard to bear.


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