How setting specific goals and reading job descriptions can save you hardship in your career search.
By Ken Sundheim
Can you think of people in your personal life who seem to be their own worst enemies? You know the ones -- you may even be one. They're the folks who have grand plans that never seem to come through… and for whom failure feels like a mystery or bad luck. But looking in from the outside, you have a pretty clear view that it's actually due to their own personal failings and lack of knowledge on what needed to be done.
When it comes to finding a job, plenty of people carry over that same unproductive tendency. When job searches simply don't gain steam, most recruiters can tell you that it often boils down to one thing: the bad habit of never setting a firm, specific job goal.
What's the big deal about specific goals?
In your job search, time is money and energy and happiness all rolled into one -- both present and future. The importance of setting a specific, firm goal for your job search is about using your time in the most productive way possible. If you go into your search with a goal of "being in marketing," you are going to waste time applying to jobs and companies that in no way align with what you actually might enjoy doing. The role of "communications associate" for an industrial safety services firm is 180 degrees removed from "marketing specialist" at a digital publishing company.
There's keeping your options open, and there's being realistic about where you will not only be happy, but also further develop the skills that will serve you best down the line. You’ll also avoid some of the mental stress when application after application gets ignored.
Let job descriptions guide you
Our marketing and sales recruitment teams at KAS Placement always notice that the most focused job seekers are the ones who utilize our job descriptions as their main resume-writing guides. By reading a job description closely and matching each and every resume you send out to that description, you get a feel for how well you realistically might be able to step into the position; and you take the opportunity to immediately and quickly communicate that to the recruiter or hiring manager.
Our sales headhunters tend to see that an in-depth reading of the job description also allows job seekers to get a feel for the company itself and whether they fit its culture. Then, by following the language and energy in the description, the job seeker can leverage that knowledge to alter their resume keywords and highlights and tailor the cover letter with mirroring language.
People are drawn to those whom they perceive to be on the same wavelength, and demonstrating this immediately in your job application dramatically ups the odds of achieving an interview.
The siren song of one-click applications
If it sounds like the above makes it harder to just shoot over your resume to every LinkedIn or mobile one-click application you come across, it's because this is absolutely supposed to be harder than that. The exception is graduates from the Ivy Leagues who can one-click-apply all over LinkedIn and will likely get a quicker response than you will – unless you have a dead-on, perfect resume.
So as applications flood in with inappropriate, one-click resumes, employers get more and more likely (at least in the short-term) to pursue applicants who may not end up interested in the job or company anyway because they’ve one-clicked their way through tens, if not hundreds, of jobs.
What this means for you is that you must steer clear of the lure of the too-easy application process. Don't get lazy and break the rule about tailoring each and every resume and cover letter you submit.
In the end
It's human nature to lose steam when you feel like you’re going endlessly uphill, and it's human nature to get energized by even a small success. Set yourself up for the latter by holding yourself to a firm goal for your job search, and following through on the necessary steps to achieve that goal. It won't be smooth sailing the whole way, but if you hold yourself accountable to specific goals instead of being your own worst enemy with no sense of direction, you’ll have an easier time finding the right job.
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Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement Recruiters, an executive search firm based out of New York City specializing in sales and marketing recruitment of all levels. Follow Ken on Twitter at @Ken_Sundheim and through his blog.