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The 6 Biggest Mistakes People Make 

 when looking for a job or changing careers.  

                                             ---by Michael Mataraza     



1) They don't take the time to decide what type of work is truly suited for them and will make them         happy --- they just look for what's available.


Many of my clients, before they started working with me, made this mistake --- Their only standard for deciding on whether or not to accept a job is "they were willing to hire me" so they end up working at a company where they are unhappy.


Think about it this way:  If you were starting a romantic relationship and your criteria was "I will go out with the first person who is willing to date me and who is decently attractive to me regardless of whether or not our personalities, values or lifestyles match" you probably wouldn't expect that relationship to work out unless you were very, very lucky.


Well jobs and companies have personalities too and it is important to pick one that matches you.  I can't tell you the amount of times a client has said, "Oh my gosh this job seems great!  It pays more than I wanted,  I get more vacation time than I wanted and it is only a 10 minute commute!" and I have been able to confidently tell them, "Yes it sounds good on paper but you will hate it."  Why would I say that?  Because the personality of the company doesn't match the personality of the applicant.


As an example I had a client who had come from a Tech Startup background in Silicon Valley and was offered an extremely well paying job for an old, traditional, very corporate firm in New York.  On paper the job was great but he only lasted two months before he wanted to quit.  He had come from a friendly, collabrative, creative environment and entered into a company with an ultra-traditional, highly competitive, very stringent environment.  A great job for someone else, just not him.


It is important to know what type of environment, culture and work situation would most suit you BEFORE you start looking.  That way, once you start getting offers, you can properly evaluate and decide whether the job simply "looks good on paper" or if it is truly a good fit and a place you can be happy.






2) Their resume is just a sheet full of facts.


As a career coach I can tell you that most resumes that come across my desk, even those that my clients have had professionally written, have one glaring problem....they are simply a list of times, dates and accomplishments.  


I tell my clients that they have to see a resume as a personal marketing piece.  It can't just describe you it must sell you.


Yes the resume should still look professional but it should employ what I call "juicy language"  language that creates a feeling of interest and even excitment in the reader.  The hiring executive looking at your resume has seen dozens, possibly hundreds before yours.  Your resume must stand out, be engaging and create a desire to meet you.


Can a resume be exciting?  Absolutely.  Think about this small change (one of many I made in a recent client's resume)


Before:  "Managed a staff of 10.  Was responsible for tracking and reviewing performance and evaluating bonuses."  


After:  "Was responisble for leading and motivating a staff of 10.  Tracked and reviewed performance with an eye towards rewarding them in a way that would increase productivity."


*** If you were the hiring executive which person would you call?   






3) They don't realize the true size of their personal network & often think it's much smaller than it is.


I can't even count the amount of times a client has come to me and said "I don't know anybody." or "I only know a few people." or "The people I know aren't the right people they can't help me get work."


If I've said it once in my 15 years as a career coach I have said it a hundred times.... You have more and better contacts than you think you do!   


Every person you know is more than just them.  They are who they know, who their friends are, who their co-workers are and even who their family is.


I recently had a client of mine who wanted a job as a legislative aid put together his contact list.  Initially he only had ten people on his list.  then we did a 'question and memory jogger' session and by the end of it his list had expanded to thirty six!  I gave him some homework and had him ask his contacts for assistance and within a week this person with "no contacts" had lunch meetings with a city supervisor, a state legislator and the head of public relations for the city district attorney's office.  


Within three weeks he had been hired for exactly the job he wanted.  Pretty good for someone who thought he had "no contacts."






4) They apply the same way everyone else does --- they go in the front door instead of looking 

     for the side door.


Look online, find a job, fill out an application and/or upload a resume, click submit.


This is what I call the "click and pray" strategy.  Click "submit" and pray someone calls you back.  Here's the problem...that is what everyone does.  If you do what everyone else does you'll get the same results everyone else gets and these days that can mean months and months of being unemployed.


I tell my clients "Don't go in the front door go in the side door."  Find people at the company to advocate for you and get your resume in the right hands.  Don't know anyone at the company?  An easy problem to solve if you know how.  


Recently I had a client who was a biochemist researcher at a university and wanted to work in private industy.  At the time she knew no one at the company that she was interested in working for.  So we used some special coaching tricks and she made contact directly with the Vice President of Green Energy Development.  He liked her on the phone, walked her resume right into the office of the Human Resources Director and told the HR director to call her in for a round of interviews.


Even though about a dozen others had applied and were in line for an interview, my client skipped

the line and she got the job.






5) They rely on luck or personal charm to interview well.


A professional athlete would never get on the field without practicing and coaching ahead of time so why would you go into something as important as a job interview, for example, without practicing first?


It only makes sense to go into your interview prepared.  With my clients I focus on 3 things:  


First come up with a list of hard questions you are worried about being asked and brainstorm some great answers to them so you are ready if they are asked.


Second do two to three mock interviews before you start interviewing.  Again athletes don't just jump on the field and start playing, they warm up and so should you.  Have someone act as the hiring executive and interview you.  If you are not self-conconscious about doing so, record the interview and watch it. That way you can see yourself from the perspective of the person on the other side of the desk.


Finally have a "warm up routine."  I give my clients specific exercises and I have my clients mentally and emotionally prepare the night before the interview as well as right before the interview.  I tell them to get to the parking lot 15 minutes before they need to be in that office so they can pump themselves up right before they walk in .  That way you go into the interview radiating confidence and positive energy. Trust me the interviewer will notice and they will be impressed by it.






6) They negotiate badly and end up with less salary or benefits than the employer was willing to give.


When you make it to the final round of interviews there is a high likelihood that you will be made an offer.  Ultimately the questions come up:  "What are your pay expectations? "benefit expectations?" "vaction time expectations?" etc.


The biggest mistake people make, especially if they have been out of work for a while and are nervous about it, is that they ask for far less than the company is willing to give.


I tell my clients there is one antidote to your research, do your research, do your research!


Use websites like to find out what the working conditions at a particular company are like and what the average salary for the position you are interviewing for is.  Look up the national average for your type of job.  


Ask yourself "What is most important to me?"  For example if a company was paying you 5k less than you wanted but was willing to give you an extra two weeks of vacation time would that be worth the trade off to you?


Ask yourself    "Do I have leverage?"  For example is the position you are being hired for a specialty skill that few people have?  Are they asking you to relocate in the middle of the year which would mean your kids need to change schools midyear?  If so you can use that to your adventage when negotiating.


Finally consider, "Am I living in a higher priced area than average?"  If you are living in, or moving to, an area with a high cost of living often companies already expect to pay you more for the same position than they would in a city or state with a lower cost of living.


As an example in San Francisco, Ca. the cost of living is quite high at the moment so the average salary is $80,000!  That is 40% more than the national average but companies know that if they want to attract talent to the San Francisco Bay Area they have to make sure those people can afford to live here.  One person I know is getting paid $120k for a position that the company only paid $65k for when they were based in Minneapolis (which has a much lower cost of living).




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