Think about any skill… playing the piano, for example. To master that skill, you must practice for hours, days, weeks… even months or years.
As good as you want to be right now… you start with “Chopsticks”, not Tchaikovski. Progress is tough at times; to improve, however, you must maintain your focus. Gradually, you see small improvements… then begin hitting big milestones. Eventually, you look back and see how much you’ve improved; how you’ve mastered the skill.
A job search works the same way.
Few successful job seekers who get called for interviews, and get hired, are born with some innate job search talent. The job search is just another skill to master – one that will take some time, practice and patience.
Look at your job search as a learned skill. With that mindset, you’ll see results in the form of more interviews… and, sooner rather than later, that elusive job offer.
Mastering the Job Search Takes Practice
“Practice?! I don’t have time for that. I need a job now!”
You might look at a job search merely as a means to an end… a set of frustrating steps to be gotten out of the way to achieve the end goal – a new job. So rather than focus on improving the caliber of your job search talents, you keep struggling along with what you know; what falls within your comfort zone.
As the expression goes: “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”
Practice may not make perfect, but it creates significant improvement. And the only way to practice… is to leave your comfort zones… and do.
Don’t Expect Something for Nothing
Think about your job search practice in these terms…
Your football team is behind on the scoreboard. Do you look at the ref and think “Why won’t the referee just give us a chance?” or “Why won’t the defense just let me score a touchdown?!”
Well before you take the field, you have to work hard to win. You must hit the weight room to be faster and stronger than your opponents. You need to study the playbook to understand your role. You must cover every possible scenario so you’re mentally prepared. And you must do all of this… in order to compete!
The amount of effort you put into preparing to compete… is just as important as the competition. And make no mistake: a job search is a competition… just like any sport.
Expect and Accept Gradual Improvement
Have you seen the viral video of Karen Cheng – the woman who wanted to become a great dancer? She recorded herself dancing every day for a year. Take a moment to watch the short video. You’ll see that at first she was a bit rough… and watch what happens.
From her experience she started a website called “100”. The site “prompts people to take a 100 day challenge, where every day they dedicate a certain amount of time to learning a skill and post a 10 second video showing their progress.”
You’re not likely to be awesome at first. In fact, when you first start you’re probably going to suck. You may feel nervous when you start networking. Your LinkedIn profile, as well as your cover letter and resume templates will take several versions to get just right. You will make mistakes in your first job interviews.
Realizing and accepting these facts – and expecting gradual and consistent improvement – is the best way to avoid frustration and keep focused on your goals.
Set Goals and Milestones
The best way to speed up your progress is to set goals and milestones. For instance:
- Read 10 job search-related, and actionable, blog posts each day
- Make appointments for at least three informational interviews per week
- Connect with at least 20 new people on Linkedin and 20 on Twitter every week
- Contact at least five of your current contacts each day; make sure those relationships are in good health
- Get your resume reviewed frequently by a professional resume writer or mentor
You’ll quickly start to feel your networking and interviewing confidence grow over the course of the days and weeks of your practice. Remember though… like Karen Cheng’s dance video shows… consistency is the key.
Don’t Re-invent the Wheel
You don’t have to learn on your own… no need to start from scratch. Speed up your skill development by learning from experts. To learn a new language, you’d practice with a fluent speaker or perhaps purchase language learning software, right? To get better at a sport… golf or tennis, let’s say… you might hire a coach, yes?
There are many high-quality job search experts out there, easily accessible to you right now.
Their collective knowledge in everything from resumes to networking, cover letters to job interviewing is available to you in the form of blog posts, online classes, mentors sessions, webinars, university career fairs… the list goes on. Take advantage, and dramatically speed up your learning curve.
At times job search success may feel as though it’s ruled by something external… perhaps fate or just dumb luck; some people have “it” and some don’t. The reality though is much more optimistic.
We all have “it”… we can all master the art of successful job search!
About the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and is instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Content and Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!