What’s Worth (and a Waste of) Time in Your Job Search

by | Last updated Apr 7, 2020 | career advice, Job Search, job search tips

I just got back from Glacier National Park, where nature provided a feast for my eyes, adventures for my soul, and memories that will last a lifetime. Hiking, rafting, paddling, and eating aside, my favorite thing about the trip was chatting with other park visitors from all over the globe.

We’d occasionally have to decide whether to (literally) go the extra mile to get the most out of our experience.

I’d ask others about their experience and noticed a common catchphrase:

“You should definitely hike the extra 1.2 miles for that view. It’s worth it.”

“You really should drive the extra 4 hours round trip to see the whole park. It’s worth it.”

“You should rent a convertible, so you get can get really feel the expanse and grandeur of the park. It’s worth it.”

It’s worth it” became the theme of this trip. And people were so very convincing each time. But, like job search, you only have so many hours in the day and need to pick and choose the activities that will yield the highest return on your investment of time (and in my case, money).

Here’s where you should go the extra mile (and where you can slack off):

Polish and Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter

Don’t wait until you have an imminent opportunity and rush the process. Take your time to thoughtfully update and modernize your resume and tailor it to every single job. Before you submit, compare it against the job description for keywords and ensure you prioritize most relevant achievements at the top of each position on down. You can use an online tool to check your keyword hit rate, but ensuring you’ve included the high points using your own eyes works well.  If you’re pursuing two different tracks, for example, one as a manager and one as an analyst, then create two different resumes highlighting relevant achievements for each area of expertise. Omit achievements that don’t apply, and don’t include more than 15-20 years of career history. Less is more!

Perfect your Profile

Refresh your LinkedIn profile and make sure it complements your resume. Make sure your profile photo is a clear, head and shoulders shot with a plain background. No shadows or cropped-out friends. Include a descriptive headline (versus the default company and current position) and compelling summary in first person voice. Unlike your resume, you can’t tailor your profile by job, so make sure your headline, summary, and experience sections most closely reflect your target roles.

Build Your Messaging and Network

Invest about 85% of your time actively networking through meaningful informational interviews and meeting people at strategic group events to uncover valuable insights, additional contacts, and unadvertised jobs. Before you start connecting with people, get very clear on what it is you’re looking for, the problem you solve, the value you add, and your superpowers. “I’m open to anything” is the fastest way to shut down someone from keeping you in mind as they think of networking contacts or positions. Connect the dots and be specific with the people you’re talking to.

Practice Interviewing

Most job seekers spend a lot of time perfecting their resume, and then decide to wing it in the interview. Source your resume—which should include several specific, quantifiable achievements—to create a portfolio of stories you can share, and then practice telling those stories within a 2-minute timeframe. Cover the basics like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why do you want this job?” Know your key strengths, explaining why they’re strengths. Mock interview with friends, family members, or a professional and get actionable feedback to improve your delivery and nonverbal communication.

Update Your Wardrobe

The first thing anyone will notice is how you’re dressed. Audit your wardrobe. Do you have something to wear to professional networking events? What if you were called to interview in 2 days? If the answer is no to either scenario, then shop for a few new pieces—solids are best for interviews—that can be dressed up or down according to the setting, industry, company, and job level.

If you invest your time in those 5 areas, you can spend less time doing this:

Online job applications

This is everyone’s go-to job search activity because it’s the easiest path. But consider this: On average, a corporation receives 250 resumes for an open position, 4-6 people are called for an interview, and one person gets the job. Online job postings should be integrated into your search (using the tailoring strategies described in #1) and are a good research tool to learn “what’s out there,” but don’t use this as a central part of your search. And if you’re really excited about a position you see online, access your network to find an inside contact so you can bypass the masses.

Which job search strategies can you spend more (and less) time to ensure you’re in a great job sooner?

dalena bradley job interview coach career coach

I’m Dalena Bradley, job interview coach and career marketer dedicated to helping you communicate your value, stand out from the competition, and win the job!

Contact me to discuss how we can collaborate.


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