Applying for a job is a journey, an adventure and a game. As you travel the path to that job you need to be alert to the traps and dead ends, and know the rules of the game. Otherwise the journey can be more painful than it needs to be.
Here’s seven traps that can stymie your progress. They can stop you moving forward. They can block your path to getting results. They can increase your stress levels. Avoiding them means you can have a more pleasant, manageable, informed journey.
Trap 1. Not taking a project management approach Applying for a job is a mini-project. Like any project, there’s a deadline. There’s also several stages in the project – preparation, delivery, selection processes to attend, results. If you skip a stage you can reduce your chances of success. For example, if you skip preparation, then your application or interview will likely be of poorer quality than the person who puts in the time and effort to prepare.
Action: Write down the stages. Set deadlines. Prepare.
Trap 2. Not asking There may be things you don’t know or don’t understand about a job or organisation. Not asking means you remain ignorant or confused and this will have a negative impact on your application. You might leave out information or under sell yourself because you weren’t fully informed. You could even get details wrong.
Action: Ask if you don’t know or don’t understand.
Trap 3. Assuming It’s easy to assume what things mean or that you already know what a job is about. This is dangerous as your assumptions may be based on out-of-date information, hearsay, or simply wrong information. The result of assuming may well be that you don’t move past first base in the jobs game.
Action: Check your assumptions.
Trap 4. Not knowing your skills Part of being prepared is to know what you have to offer an employer. If you don’t know then it will be hard to sell yourself. You need to know the full range of skills, knowledge and qualities you have to offer. Not all of them will be relevant to a given job. But if you don’t know what they are you may well rely on the same set of information each time and overlook some really vital details that could swing the employer’s interest in your favour.
Action: Spend some time identifying all your skills.
Trap 5. Not knowing your strengths As well as not knowing your skills, not knowing your strengths can stymie your application. Strengths are those skills you can use easily and can deliver a consistent quality result with. Strengths can be subjects you have in-depth knowledge of, skills that are finely tuned, qualities that you are well known for. Knowing them means you can then make a link between your strengths and what the job involves.
Action: Scan your skills list and identify those that are strengths.
Trap 6. Leaving things till the last moment For most journeys we take we don’t just wake up and leave. We do some planning and packing and this usually isn’t done the night before. Same with a job application. If you leave it till the last minute you’re unlikely to produce a quality result. Then you’ll be competing with people what have allowed time for their application to evolve and be fine-tuned.
Action: Identify your deadline and work backwards to schedule time so you can produce a quality application.
Trap 7. Not asking for help If we are lost it’s a good idea to ask for directions. Or at least study the map. If applying for a job is not your strength, then seek help. If you then start thinking that that’s an expense you don’t want to pay for, think of it this way. You’re not getting a job with what you are doing now. If you keep doing what you are doing, why would anything change? If getting a job, or winning a promotion, means you then have money in your pocket, wouldn’t a one-off investment of a few hundred dollars be worth having thousands of dollars in your pocket every year? You decide if it’s worth it.
Action: The job journey is competitive. Increase your chances of winning a job by asking for help.