When you feel like you aren’t making progress on the job search

Many seniors, alumni and graduate students actively on the job search have been visiting my office. One common thread?  This comment: “I’m not making much progress and I’ve been tailoring my resume and cover letter.”

What is good job search progress?

  • Maintaining a mix of job search tasks in each week: online job searching, networking conversations, attending events and researching options
  • Including at least one structured, non-job search activity in your weekly plan
  • Refining your understanding of skills and jobs week by week

What isn’t good job search progress?

  • Only applying to jobs online without any conversations with alumni or professionals in your target field
  • Stopping the job search when you get an interview, rather than continuing to look and apply for jobs while moving through an interview process (even with your dream company)
  • Assuming that big companies are the only places to look for jobs
  • Applying to dozens of jobs each week outside your area of interest and skill

How can I make more efficient progress?

  • Prioritize talking to people, whether in-person, over the phone, or online. This takes more preparation and planning but is the most common way I see students and alumni get “unstuck”
  • Limit your time with online job boards to quick stints (like 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week) rather than all-day browsing sessions
  • Focus on making small steps each day, rather than planning to apply to a dozen jobs. This might mean polishing your LinkedIn summary one day and then looking for LinkedIn groups the next day. Small steps will build momentum over time
  • Expand your employer horizons. If you have focused on big companies, look at smaller employers. If you have been prioritizing startups, check out slightly larger companies.

If you have been networking intensively and applying to jobs but have not received an interview after several weeks (4-5) of searching, it could be helpful to meet with a career counselor to strategize on what might be affecting your progress. Remember that job searches almost never progress along a straight line. Rare is the student who applies in week one, interviews in week three and gets an offer in week four. It is much more likely that you will have some highly productive or successful weeks followed by a week of less activity. The key is to keep taking small steps and reviewing your strategies along the way.

By Catherine Basl
Catherine Basl Career Counselor Catherine Basl