Unhelpful signposts: distractions
1. Job descriptions ranging from three-word phrases to six-pages of dense text requiring a graduate degree to parse. Somewhere in between you may find useful information that might help you create an intelligent application. Ask your networking contacts or whoever is working the HR desk to help you understand what the employer is looking for.
2. Jobs requiring experience that you don’t have and qualifying training and licenses that are either granted after years of coursework and arduous testing or purchased;
3. Job descriptions gently described as “Purple Squirrel” positions because they seek impossible candidates with seven years of corporate AND seven years of litigation, or patent lawyers licensed in USA, Greece, Argentina, and Hong Kong from a Top 10 US law school who are fluent in English and French with MBAs as an additional preferred qualification.
4. Jobs that appear to be filled by completely undeserving people who are hired through no skill or expertise of their own, perhaps through nepotism, blackmail, or lack of due diligence in the hiring system. (NOTE: Sometimes it just happens. I once was part of a team that hired a temp clerical person who filed candidates by their first names. Who would have thought to inquire or train for that?)
Helpful signposts: best bets
1. Jobs that are filled by friends, neighbors, and current or former colleagues and others who know you and know your work; or
2. Jobs that are filled because candidates make plans, work their plans, adjust their plans, and have injected networking (the polite kind) into their DNA.
Every career counselor knows someone who has gotten a job without dotting every “I” and crossing every “T.” When quizzed, most will reveal that the “lucky” candidates were diligent networkers who had built skill banks, taken time to understand the market for their skills, and made it a point to be where they could be found by potential employers.
Every job seeker needs to make a plan which starts with self-assessment, follows with common sense-based market research, and moves on to a gut-suckingly realistic review of the credentials and behaviors needed to get hired.
Why Make A Plan?
If I give someone $600 plus airfare to the Mall of America and two hours to shop, who knows what she might buy?
If I give another person the same $600 plus airfare and two hours, AND an assignment (buy a blue suit), what might it look like? Whether it turns out to be a light blue, navy, black, gray, stripes, plaid, pants-or-no-pants, vested or not, it will likely be an interview-ready garment.
A job search may contain completely unfair surprises, and here is the one for this example: Both parties must wear only their Mall of America purchases for their next interviews. The first candidate bought an amazing, expensive purse which alone will make a memorable interview outfit. The second may show up looking like a 1980s car sales manager in a blue plaid suit, but he will be wearing a suit.
That’s why you plan.