As a professional résumé writer for the past 30 years, I have counselled numerous clients throughout their job search process. Knowing of the many difficulties they are likely to face, I advise them to be proactive.
‘Being aware of possible obstacles you may come across during the job-seeking journey, and how to overcome them, can certainly give you an edge over the competition and help you get that dream job of yours,’ says Tom Winter, the HR tech recruitment advisor and cofounder of DevSkiller.
So, what challenges are you likely to face when looking for a job?
We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common job search difficulties – and, most importantly, how you can overcome them.
1. You’re pressed for time
As we all deal with the ever-increasing complexity of modern life, there seems to be no end to the demands on our time – and looking for a job is just one more. So, how do you squeeze a job search into your already overcrowded schedule? How much time should you allot to this activity?
Well, there’s an old expression that says looking for a job is a full-time job. Now, this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the fact of the matter is that the employment process can be extremely complicated and time-consuming.
As with any complicated and time-consuming activity, the solution is to get organised.
‘Carefully tracking the job search process, including documenting where you are with each company, can help cut down on the amount of time you have to spend each day on your job search,’ says Laura Spawn, CEO and cofounder of Virtual Vocations.
Another option is to designate a certain time of day to looking for a job. Don’t allow yourself any other distractions during this time or, conversely, shoehorn your job search activities into other parts of the day.
See also: How to Write a Job Application Letter
2. You lack a strong online presence
This issue seems to be more prevalent among certain groups. For example, individuals re-entering the job market after being out of work for some time for whatever reason (like raising a child or taking care of a loved one), people who have held the same job or worked at the same company for a long time, and older individuals who may not be tech-savvy. Individuals in these groups, and others, have likely never developed a professional online profile.
This one is an easy fix. If you don’t have a strong online presence, create one. This may seem like an oversimplification, but creating an online presence is easier than ever, given all of the resources available.
Now, I’m not talking about a Facebook page or Instagram account where you post your vacation photos. However, sites like Indeed and LinkedIn allow you to easily create a professional profile, upload your résumé, post articles and presentations, and to make it all accessible to employers.
One word of caution: be very careful what you post online, both on your personal and professional sites. Although most people use separate sites for each, you should be aware that anything that you post anywhere online can easily be accessed. These days, employers dive deep into the online profiles of potential employees, and so all your posts are fair game.
3. You don’t have a network
The saying ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is particularly relevant to the 21st Century job search process. More often than not, the attainment of an interview, or even a job, is greatly facilitated by knowing someone in the organisation to which you are applying, or at least someone who can put in good word for you.
But what do you do when you don’t have a professional network with such valuable connections?
There are many ways to develop a professional network for yourself, and the most effective is to utilise social media.
The appropriate use of social media, in all of its forms, will allow you to reach the widest possible audience, as quickly as possible. This will also provide an effective showcase for your social media proficiency, an important skill set to employers these days.
Another option is to join professional organisations, especially ones directly related to your field, where you can develop a network of individuals with similar professional backgrounds.
4. You’re not getting interviews
Sometimes, it seems no matter how many résumés or CVs you put out and no matter how many jobs you apply for, you just cannot land that elusive interview.
I once had a client who was a senior manager in the publishing industry. She had many years of professional experience and accomplishments in her field. However, she was having great difficulty getting an interview, even though she was applying for jobs for which she was more than qualified.
If you’re not getting interviews, the most likely culprit is your résumé or CV. Therefore, the solution is to have your résumé redone by a professional résumé writing service. Now, you can of course do it yourself, but this is really not the time. The fact of the matter is that most people cannot be objective enough about themselves to properly present their education, experience, accomplishments and qualifications in a résumé or CV.
In the case of my client in publishing, I created a results-oriented résumé for her, one which fully emphasised her skills and accomplishments. Sure enough, she began getting interviews, and was told by several employers how impressed they were with her résumé.
5. You’re getting interviews but no offers
It’s extremely frustrating to continually interview for positions you know you’re qualified for, and yet not get any job offers. You wait and wait, and your frustration mounts, and you begin to wonder if anyone will ever hire you. At this point, you might even consider applying for jobs for which you are overqualified. But don’t let desperation rule the day!
If you’re getting interviews but no offers, it may be that you’re not following up. Once your interview is over, the follow-up should begin.
The first step is to send a brief ‘thank you’ letter, whether by mail or email, to everyone you interviewed with at a company. This could be the difference between getting called back for a second interview, or even being offered the job, and not.
And if you still haven’t heard back from the company after sending your ‘thank you’ letters, it’s perfectly acceptable to reach back out to them, after an appropriate amount of time has passed.
For example, let’s say an employer tells you they’ll make a decision in two weeks. You send your ‘thank you’ letters, wait two weeks, and nothing happens. You should then call or email the individuals you interviewed with. In most cases, the hiring manager simply got busy and did not have a chance to get back to you and, therefore, will be glad you took the time to follow up with them.
6. You don’t know where to look
This is a problem often encountered by first-time jobseekers, as well as individuals who have been out of the job market for an extended period of time. On the one hand, you have a limited amount of time and don’t want to waste it chasing down a dead end. On the other hand, you want to be sure to track down every possible job lead you can find.
Given the seemingly endless job listings and other resources available online these days, this is an easy fix. If you want to conduct a broad job search and reach multiple companies, use a job posting website like Indeed, LinkedIn or Monster. Using these sites will allow you to easily apply to dozens of jobs.
Meanwhile, if you have specific companies you wish to apply to, simply go to their website and navigate your way to the ‘Careers’ section. There you’ll typically find a list of available positions, and how to apply for them.
7. You’re competing with too many people
When the job market is healthy, and companies have more positions than they can fill, there’s little competition, and so this is not an issue. However, when the job market is slow, there are fewer positions to fill and the competition can become fierce. Furthermore, the ease of applying online translates into much more people applying for the same positions.
One solution, as previously indicated, is to make sure that you have a professionally prepared résumé or CV – one that will help you stand apart from the competition.
It’s also a good idea to get to know the type of people you’re competing with. If you’re familiar with, and fully understand, your competition, then you can figure out how to beat them at their own game.
Lastly, be sure that you’re using every strategy you can to successfully market yourself so that you keep in line, or one step ahead, of your competition.
8. You lack confidence
Lacking confidence is a problem which is by no means limited to your job search. However, given the urgency and importance of finding the right job, one can easily become overwhelmed by a lack of confidence.
Once again, this issue can be more prevalent among first-time job seekers and those who have been out of the job market for a while. Nevertheless, anyone looking for a job can always use a string boost to their confidence.
The best way to overcome a lack of confidence is to arm yourself with knowledge, because knowledge equals power. Therefore, it’s time for a little job search research. You need to start exploring specific companies, the job market in general, hiring trends and the job search strategies which have proven to be successful. The more knowledge you gain about the task of finding a job, the more your confidence will grow.
Another method of building, and maintaining, your confidence, is to tap into another source of power: your own support network. ‘My suggestion to clients is to find an accountability buddy and a cheerleader amongst their group of friends,’ says Dawid Wiacek, a certified career coach, résumé writer and the founder of Career Fixer. ‘Find 1–2 pals who can help keep you motivated.’
9. Companies prefer internal referrals
Oftentimes, companies have open positions that, for any number of reasons, they simply do not want to advertise or recruit for openly. One of the most common reasons for this policy, which would seem contradictory on the surface, is that they simply prefer to find an internal candidate for the position.
So, what do you do if you really want to work for a certain company but there appear to be no openings available, at least to the general public?
This is a situation in which you need to explore the hidden job market. This is a term used to describe positions that are available but not advertised to the public at large, and there are numerous strategies which you can utilise to tap into it.
The simplest, and most effective, is to contact the company you’re interested in directly. Reach out to their HR department, by phone or email if you can get an address, and inquire about any available positions.
10. You’re unaware of your strengths and weaknesses
It’s a given fact that you will be asked questions about your strengths and weaknesses in a job interview. It’s one of the most common topics brought up by potential employers.
Therefore, it’s vital that you’re able to provide an acceptable answer; in other words, not to just provide a list but to also demonstrate that you understand how best to utilise your strengths and how to improve on your weaknesses.
Performance reviews are an excellent resource for self-discovery. An effective evaluation will list your strengths, weaknesses, performance goals and progress towards achieving those goals; in other words: your accomplishments. If, however, you don’t have access to performance reviews, there are plenty of career aptitude assessment tests available online to help you assess your strengths and weaknesses.
On average, it takes between three and six months to find a job, even when you’re actively looking. And that’s often because of the many challenges you’re likely to encounter. But, armed with the tips we’ve shared here, you’ll be able to cut the length of your job search in half, as you’ll easily be able to identify the challenges you’re facing and work your way around them.
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Have you encountered any of these – or any other – difficulties when looking for a job? Most importantly, how have you resolved these issues? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article published on 10 December 2018.