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Job Seeker Complaints

By Marty Nemko

When job seekers call my office or radio show, here are their most common complaints and how I respond.

I’ve applied for a dozen jobs for which I’m qualified, and I haven’t even gotten one interview.

You have three options:

1. Stay in contact with all those employers. After learning what you can from the organization’s website, explain that you’re excited about the prospect of working there, describe how you might benefit the organization, and ask if the employer would keep you in mind, if not for the advertised jobs, for upcoming ones. Unless an employer insists you leave him alone for now and evermore, follow up monthly with all these employers until you’ve landed a job. Meanwhile, keep answering on-target ads and writing compelling e-mail to target employers that have not advertised jobs. Even if you get no response, keep following up.

2. Tell everyone who likes you that you’re looking for a job. Ask if they can get you an inside connection.

3. Expand your job search to less competitive areas. In most metropolitan areas, the job market is most competitive for jobs in brand-name companies, the arts, non-profits, and the media. Things may be better in the government sector and in non-glamour industries such as transportation, law enforcement, business-to-business services, and in sales. You will also find the job market stronger in certain areas of the country. The states with the lowest unemployment rates are South Dakota (3.2%), North Dakota (3.5%), and Nebraska (3.9%). In the last 12 months, Florida created the most new jobs: 80,000.

I’m getting interviews but no job offers. The most likely reason is that you did poorly in the interviews. Did you research the organization and the position? Did you describe why you’re excited about the position? Did you tell success stories that show you’re likely to help the organization? Then there are the intangibles. Videotape yourself in a mock interview with a friend or counselor. Would you hire you? Sometimes, your interviewing skills can be fine but you simply don’t have the expertise to put you top-of-the-heap. Do you need to upgrade your skills? Should you find a career that better uses your strengths and avoids your weaknesses? Finally, a trusted reference can turn out to be not so trustworthy. So speak again with your references and ask, “Honestly, do you believe you’re in a position to provide a strong reference for me?”

I want to change careers but no one will hire me without experience. Especially in a tight job market, this is understandable. Why hire someone who’ll have to learn the job while you’re paying him, who will make the inevitable beginner mistakes, and who won’t have a Palm full of contacts? If you’re changing careers, the person most likely to hire you already knows you and likes you enough to endure the hassles of hiring a novice. Don’t know someone like that? Consider starting at the bottom (that could mean receptionist) and impress the higher-ups with your aptitude and attitude. Or become self-employed. Self-employment is a terrific option for people who don’t have the credentials to impress employers but who are quick-thinking self-starters, and who are good at selling themselves.

I can’t find the time to look for a job. I understand, especially if you’re working full-time, if there’s no private place for you to talk at work, and if you have family responsibilities after work. Alas, for all but star candidates, looking for a job is normally a few-month 20-hour a week effort. If you spend much less than that, your job search can drag on for a year or longer. Remember, much of the job search can be done at night and on weekends: resume preparation, posting your resume on websites, answering ads, phoning and e-mailing your personal network, participating in online discussion groups, and researching potential employers. A job search, however, does usually require cutting back on TV, playing golf, and chatting with Aunt Susie.

But the effort can be worth it. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far away, life’s best gift is the ability to work hard at work worth doing.”

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