The Best Job Search Strategy? Stop Applying!

Inside: Not getting the job after dozens of applications? Use these job search strategy tips from a career coach to change your luck and reset your job search. Start here with the free video training.

Are you actively pursuing a career change but it’s not going anywhere? Are you applying all the time, but you’re not getting the job? Want to stop getting rejected from job applications after job applications? Here’s what you should do.

Stop applying.

I’m quite serious, actually. Cut it out, right now.

Take It from a Photographer

To be clear, I’m not telling you to give up. That would make me a pretty terrible coach, perhaps a worse mom. I’m not big on “give up.” But I am big on focus, and that’s why you need to pump the job application brakes and change your job search strategy.

In 2019, I took an Introduction to Digital Photography class to learn how to use the fancy camera we bought before my son Jack was born. I had used it plenty, but only in auto mode. Everything else was crazy intimidating.

During the class, our instructor told us that if we wanted to be better photographers then we had to stop taking crappy pictures.

Thanks, Walter… helpful.

Get Yourself Focused

But here’s the deal, my new friend Walter was actually giving perfect advice. He meant that non-professional photographers have a tendency to overshoot and it’s a waste of time.

If you watch a professional work, they take their shots and move on because they know they got it. They understand their light, have adjusted their cameras appropriately, and have chosen the right place to stand. Sure, when photographing people you can’t predict their every movement, but pros know how to set themselves up for success.

Amateurs, on the other hand, take five million photos and only a handful are any good. That’s the beauty of the delete button in the digital world, but it’s also a downfall. The stakes are low (no film, plenty of storage), so the amateur keeps hitting the shoot button as little Jimmy runs through the sprinkler without really thinking it through. Then they look back at the pictures and realize little Jimmy’s feet are cut off and those shadows are totally unphotoshoppable.

I’ve done this plenty. My camera is full of indoor pictures with harsh fluorescent lighting and poor composition that will never see a photo album. So what I should really do is take a pause to understand what aperture and shutter speed mean, step into the shade instead of direct sun, and focus my shots to take less of them.

how to reset your job search strategy

Take YOUR Job Search Shots

You know where I’m going with this when it comes to job search strategy, right? If you are not getting the job and the rejection letters are piling up, it may very well be that you are taking too many shots and not enough good ones.

There are millions of job postings out there. LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, your college job board, etc. If you take a scattershot approach and apply to everything with (insert your keyword here) in the title, you’re inevitably going to hear a lot of no. Or a lot of radio silence.

But, if you do the work to set your focus, your chances of success increase. Setting your focus in the job search is a little different than working on your camera settings, but there’s still a pretty straightforward instruction manual.

Job Search Strategy 1: Set Your Vision

The first and most important part of a successful job search strategy – set your vision. Do you want a job in the tech industry, or do you thrive in product management specifically? Would you be willing to move anywhere, or is your family firmly settled in Boston? Do you want to manage people, work at an established firm, be part of a start-up, travel, or work from home? Answer all of these questions first before you put fingers to keyboards and start shooting off resumes.

Then, if and when you hear back from a job with a positive response, it will be from something you’re genuinely interested in pursuing.

Need help with your vision? Start here!

Job Search Strategy 2: Get Your Resume in Shape

Then, make sure your resume is in good shape.

When was the last time you updated it? I’m not talking about adding your most recent job and calling it a day. I mean took a hard look at what is still relevant, modernized your format, or tailored it for a specific role.

A big mistake people make in their job search is firing off resumes without considering how the employer on the other side will perceive it. What about your background will be helpful to them as a company?

It’s important to tell the truth on your resume – of course! But before you send another application review the qualifications of a job and make sure your matching qualifications are highlighted. 

Read more on resumes here.

Need more resume help? Get your professional templates here.

Job Search Strategy 3: Focus on Networking

Lastly, let’s make sure you are using your time wisely. Sending out resumes is not the most effective way to get a job. It’s one way, but having conversations is way more productive. 

Take the time you were spending sending resumes and use that to search LinkedIn for connections at companies you are interested in. Instead of sending off three applications, send three emails asking for 20 minutes of someone’s time for an informational conversation about their company, career progression, or industry. 

People love talking about themselves, let them! Then make sure you express your interest in potential roles with the company and ask if there is anyone else you should speak with.

After submitting a ton of applications to various roles and not getting the job over and over again, I landed my role at Harvard Business School through two informational conversations. The real kicker is that I had these conversations well before I submitted a resume.

From Not Getting the Job to You’re Hired!

The job search is super hard. It’s easy to get frustrated, to feel down on yourself, or want to throw in the towel when you are not getting the job you want.

But the very fact that you’re reading this means you are willing to put the work in to make this happen. Just make sure you’re doing the RIGHT work.

I’m realizing that I made zero jokes in this article, which isn’t my style. So how about a knock-knock from my 3 year’s joke book to close us out?

Knock knock
Who’s there
Ken who
You Ken Do it!

I should have just skipped the joke. I know that now.

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