The #1 thing holding back job-seekers

I have had the good fortune to work with over 500 clients who are or were going through transition in the last few years. As a result I’ve seen what makes some people successful in job search, while others remain out of work for extended periods. I’ve also experienced job loss and search myself on 3 occasions and on one of those spent 8 months out of work, so I can speak on this topic from a personal perspective as well.


The number 1 thing that holds job-seekers back from success in search is themselves. Not the market, not hiring companies, not recruiters, not the economy, not Human Resources, not the government, not the time of year, not your career coach or any other thing we can easily place blame on. It’s us. Now that’s not to say the other areas don’t play a part because clearly they do. But in terms of priority, we take the lead; we have pole position when it comes to success in job search.

When we are frustrated and not getting anywhere in job search, whether that be invitations to interviews or job offers, someone or something else is conspiring against us and keeping us from getting a job. We tend to forget about or overlook the fact we are not 100% focused on a thorough job search and we spend more time feeling sorry for ourselves and doing anything else but job search because it makes us feel depressed. The number of times I have had clients say they are ‘doing everything’ to find a job when in fact they are doing far less than everything is staggering…

I recently met a client who was so despondent and immersed in self-misery at his unemployed status he was belligerent. I could tell that he blamed me (among many other scapegoats I’m sure) for his situation. But guess what? He’d pretty much given up! He had sent out a few online applications, done some networking (within the same circle of contacts) and now that he did not have a job after 5 months the world was ending! I am not making light of his situation, but the point is that it was all of his own doing. He CHOSE to put himself in this frame of mind and surprise surprise, he was not getting any results or even progress in job search. If he does not change his mindset and approach, I have no doubts he will spend many more months out of work…

During my 8 months spell on the sidelines, I became so despondent I never thought I would work again such was my state of mind and sense of being self-defeated. I look back on this now and feel slightly ridiculous although the feeling was very real at the time. It was easy to shift blame and feel like I had done everything to get a job. The truth was, I had not done everything to land my next job. After numerous negative experiences and let downs, I simply slumped to an emotional low point and it all became too difficult.

Most job-seekers suffer through several rounds of rejection and don’t want to have to face it again. Why put our hands in the flame once we have been burned? We then revert to ‘safe’ or passive job search approaches via online job boards and withdraw from interacting with others, despite the fact this is proven to be the most productive way to find a job. Any distraction that takes our mind off the negative feelings associated with job search and unemployment becomes imminently attractive.

So, Mr Know-it-all career coach, what is the answer?

There is no easy answer, but if you are feeling down-trodden and defeated, YOU need to pick yourself up off the canvas and YOU need to get busy. Not just busy with more online applications sat behind your computer in the safety of your home, but busy with activity in ALL facets of job search, namely:

  • Online search – Use LinkedIn, SEEK, Indeed.com and others. Simplify your life and set up and save searches for your desired roles.

  • Recruiters – Establish relationships with 3-4 good recruiters you have been referred to and who operate well within your profession or industry. Engage with recruiters you have met, have being interviewed by and who ‘get you’ and are therefore able to better market you (while appropriately representing your brand).

  • Networking – Get out there and meet people! Learn about their companies, their jobs…Explore how they hire people and what sort of people they are looking for. Outline your skills, experiences and achievements appropriately. Ask for referrals to meet others and continually expand your network. Most jobs are found via networking so you should spend most time here. Not only is this practical in terms of finding work, but it is also a great way to stay busy, meaning there is less time to feel sorry for ourselves…

  • Balance – Dedicate several quality hours to job search each day, but also balance your time with friends and family as well as time for yourself. Once you start back at work – and you will start back at work – you will have less time for those close to you and any hobbies, pastimes or interests you have.

Persistence is critical. If you go days, weeks or even months without a job, stick at it. While I wanted to slap people that said that to me during my lengthy transition, it is actually true. You get up each day and go again. You don’t give up and you don’t throw in the towel. You get up and get busy! You are sending off applications, meeting recruiters, networking, learning new skills, going to interviews, spending time with your kids, getting fit and so on and so on.

No one can ‘do’ job search for you. No one can go to an interview, attend a networking meeting or call a recruiter for you. You may ask your mother or spouse, but hopefully they will decline and give you the kick in the rear-end you need (I have had some clients jokingly ask if I could attend an interview with them which conjured up images of me crouched behind them in the interview room whispering answers to them!). However, career coaches can work with you to provide further skills in job search techniques that can facilitate your job search.

It all comes down to YOU! So stop feeling sorry for yourself and get out there and represent yourself in the best possible light. You have the skills, experiences, knowledge and insights no one else has and which organisations want, but without relevant effort and promotion, they will never know…

For assistance in all aspects of job search, contact Paul Di Michiel (The Career Medic) by clicking here. Paul provides services around resumes, cover letters, interview skills, and LinkedIn and fear-free networking.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

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