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How a False Sense of Security Can Doom Job Seekers

If you're looking for work, disabuse yourself of these four myths

By Jayne Mattson

It’s great to have a positive outlook if you’re an unemployed job seeker. But being unrealistically optimistic, assuming you’ll get hired immediately, is just setting yourself up for gloom.

Here are four scenarios that give some job hunters a false sense of security, what’s likely to happen as a result and better ways to search for work:

Scenario No. 1: Friends and colleagues asked for your resumé to send it to their contacts, probably with a note, “My friend is looking for a job. If you hear of anything let me know.” 

Hear of what? Did you tell your friends and colleagues exactly what you are looking for? The specific role, responsibilities, level, skills, industry and experience?

(MORE: What Career Experts Say You Need to Know Now)

Many job seekers think that if their friends assist in their job search and send out their resumé it will help them find a job since getting hired is just a numbers game. They assume the more people who see their work history, the greater their chances of landing work.

Contacts who aid your job search get that warm ‘I helped a friend out’ feeling, which is nice. But in reality, a resumé sent without you behind it usually doesn’t yield strong results.  

The better way: Ask for the names and contact information of the people your network has reached out to on your behalf (confirming with your friends that it’s fine for you to follow up with them). Then, email each contact a relevant article that could help them in their industry.

It’s always better to give than to receive and this gesture is a great way to open the door to an informational interview, an email conversation, or an offer to connect on LinkedIn.

Scenario No. 2: When you left your company, your former boss said: “I know some people who could use your skills. Let me make a few phone calls.”

In this case, your boss probably genuinely does want to help you, so you might think his offer means it’ll be a cinch that you’ll get a new job soon.

Problem is, even though your boss may know people who work at places where your skills could be appropriate, he likely doesn’t know if they need your skills. There has to be a need before someone can generate a job for you.

The better way: See if your ex-boss can reach out to a short list of people to find out if their employers’ current needs match your skillset. This provides a useful reality check and gives your former manager a manageable, limited ask.

(MORE: When an Interviewer Thinks You're Overqualified)

Scenario No. 3: The last time you looked for a job, it only took you a few weeks to land one. So you think it will now take the same amount of time and you’ll find work find it the same way.


In truth, there’s a good chance the hiring process has changed since you last went through it. So the strategies you used in the past might not be effective today. And you may have never used ones you now need.

For example, did you spend serious time on LinkedIn and Twitter to make yourself visible in the job market when you looked for a position in the past?

The better way: If you answered "no" to that quetion, you’d better start using LinkedIn and Twitter in your job search or you could find yourself losing out to other candidates who know how the 21 century job market works. 

Maybe you aren’t a social networker and aren’t sure how to become one. If that’s the case, talk to friends, family members (maybe your adult kids) and former colleagues who use social media regularly. Ask them how they do it and to give you a 10-minute tutorial. 

Scenario No. 4: You see many advertised jobs on career boards looking for people with your qualifications, title, responsibilities and experience. So you think, ‘These jobs have my name on them!’

Maybe so. Or maybe you’re actually overqualified, with more skills, experience and higher wage demands than the employer is looking for. It could also be that hundreds of other job seekers also have backgrounds that align perfectly with the posting you’ve seen.

In today’s job market, the success rate of finding work through an ad is only 10 to 15 percent.

The better way: It’s fine to go after jobs you see listed online, in the paper or in trade publications. But be realistic.

In short, expect to spend three months to a year looking for your next position and develop a job search strategy that works for 2014.

Jayne Mattson is Senior Vice President of Keystone Associates, a leading career management and transition services consulting firm headquartered in Boston, Mass. She specializes in helping mid-to-senior level individuals in new career exploration, networking strategies and career decisions based on corporate culture fit. Read More
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