The Seven Deadly Sins of a Job Search


You may think you’re ready to begin looking for a new job, but are you truly prepared?

You’ve decided it is time to look for a new job. Maybe you didn’t decide, but were downsized or right-sized or whatever the popular term is these days. Or maybe you’re unhappy in your current role and want something better. Whatever the reason, if you’re embarking on a job search, it’ll be far less painful and you’ll be far more successful if you can manage to avoid what I call the seven deadly sins of job search:

1. Skipping the “ready” and “set”, and going straight to “go”

Assertiveness is a virtue when searching for a new job, but moving right to execution mode is a mistake. You should first do some self-assessment, clarify your objective, and develop a strategy for your job search. A company wouldn’t put a product on the market without first taking those steps, and you shouldn’t put your product (you!) out there before you have your story and have a plan.

2. Not being clear with yourself, or others, on what it is you really want

It is critical to have a clear understanding of who you are, what you want and why you’re the right candidate for the job. Most people look at what jobs are out there, and then try retro-fitting themselves and their resumes into those jobs. Better to take control of your job search upfront, crystallize who you are and what you want, and then see what jobs fit you. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to sell yourself. And you’ll have a better chance of finding the right job for you.

3. Casting your net too wide because you believe that will increase your odds and opportunities

This is one of the most common mistakes: thinking the more open and versatile you are (“I can do anything”), the more marketable you’ll be. That sounds logical, but just the opposite is true. Job seekers who have the most success are the ones who have focus. Those who don’t are usually overwhelmed and never get any traction. No one can help you and no one will likely hire you if they don’t know, understand or believe what it is you do really well.

4. Keeping your job search a secret

It doesn’t do any good to keep your job search to yourself. If you’re in between jobs, let everyone and anyone know you’re looking (and specifically what you’re looking for.) If you are currently employed and need to be discreet, you still must let some trusted people know who can help and be on the lookout for you. The last thing you want to hear from a contact is “I wish I would have known you were looking. I knew about a perfect job for you, but now it’s gone.”

5. Thinking the job search, and the job market, is all online

I’m not suggesting you ignore the Internet, job sites or other online employment resources. But approximately 80 percent of people find jobs through word of mouth or referrals (aka networking). Prioritize your search time accordingly. Spending time on LinkedIn and other relevant job sites can be a big help when it comes to learning about the opportunities and companies that are actively hiring in your area, but spend time talking to people, too. Use online resources to identify opportunities and apply for jobs, but also try and find people or ways to help you get noticed or get in the door.

6. Believing a great resume will get you a get a great job

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I just need a great resume that stands out.” You definitely want your resume to be as good as it can be, but it alone will not get you a job, or even necessarily get seen, no matter how great it is. Make it good, but don’t expect it to do all the work for you.

7. Not giving your job search the time and commitment it takes

Looking for a new job takes time and commitment. People who do it sporadically or half-heartedly usually don’t get anywhere. Those who treat it like a project — with planning, organization and purposeful execution — get the farthest the fastest. It can be harder to find the time if you’re currently employed, but you’ll be more effective if you dedicate certain and specific amounts of time each week to your job search. After all, what could be more important?

Some of these mistakes are made because some people want to do what’s easiest, and some are made because of commonly held misperceptions about what works in search. If you can manage to not fall into these traps, you’ll experience less frustration, less floundering, and conversely realize greater productivity and success.

Jeff Wuenker

Jeff Wuenker is a strategic career advisor with The Bauke Group. He has over 15 years experience helping countless professionals seeking greater clarity, purpose and fulfillment in their work. Jeff has worked with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, including AT&T, Fidelity, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble, and has extensive experience advising and coaching CEOs, COOs, Directors and other C-level professionals