5 Things to Ask Yourself If Your Job Search Screeches to a Halt

Yes…I know the recession isn’t over. I know times are really tough. I know some of you have applied to countless jobs and received few or no responses.  And I know many of you think it’s just the bad economy – and maybe a plethora of stupid short-sighted employers – keeping you from that great new job. Well…for a good number of job seekers those answers may indeed be right.

But are other reasons causing your job hunting problems?

Yup. There very well could be a number of good reasons for not seeing results – even after all your effort! So let’s take a look at what you’ve been doing up to now and see what else might be going on to bring your job hunt to a screeching stop.

Do you waste time & energy on job search techniques that don’t work?

In her article Deceptive Targets in the Job Hunt: 5 Methods That Waste Your Time, Caroline M. L. Potter gives a great overview of things you might might want to think twice about since odds are they aren’t getting you anywhere nearer to that job you want.  I especially like her warning on resume fax-blast services (don’t waste your money) and on using the “spray and pray” method of shooting out resumes willy-nilly without at least first trying to make contact with someone who could help you.

Do you really want the job & are you even in the right field?

I know someone who has been looking for a new job for well over a year and although he’s had ample interviews, he never gets the offer. He says he’s resigned to just getting any job. But the problem is, employers are not looking for just anyone who sees their job as just any job. At the very least – even if you haven’t yet committed to finding work you really love  – you have to find reasons to get excited so it shows in an interview… even if the real excitement is being able to pay your rent again!

All that said…this could be an ideal time to ask yourself if you’re even looking for the right job.  Just because you’ve been doing something for years and years, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it. Career transitions take time and planning – and yes, in the meantime, you may need to go back to just a job job.  But if you don’t feel your heart in the hunt, it could be a great wake-up call to start looking elsewhere.

In her book Working Identity, Herminia Ibarra explains that career transition is a process. If you find your search going on and on and things just aren’t clicking for you, don’t be afraid to at least ask yourself if your heart is really in it. And if not, this might be a perfect time to start the exploration – for as long as it takes. A big bonus to choosing to go after what you really want is that interim jobs become useful means to a much-desired end – and so you might be able  to muster some real energy and determination when it comes to your interim job hunt and interviews!

Are you doing all you can to give yourself an edge in your job hunt?

We already talked about not spending time and money on ineffective techniques. So what should you do instead?

To help answer that, I found Cheryl Lynch Simpson‘s straight between the eyes  look at how to strategically “guerilla” market yourself:

7 Ways a Guerilla Job Search Produces Great Results

Job search is a daily job – but it’s only effective if you use techniques that get your brand out there to the right people. One way, according to Simpson, is “by weaving your personality and career-related values into your resume” and doing your best to access the “hidden job market” through consistent, highly targeted networking.

Yeah…that’s a alot of buzz words. But I can’t emphasize enough the importance of creative networking – and maybe even casting a wide net when you do so. You never know who might know someone who knows someone. So have a cohesive compelling story to tell folks as you attempt to engage them in your job hunt.

Use informational interviews to learn more and perhaps get pointers about where to look. And don’t forget that when you ask folks to help you, if they say yes, they become invested in you and your success! This is not the time to be shy. But it’s also important to network wisely and NOT go out there looking hungry for a job. People want to be listened to and valued, and so the best way to network is to actually ask good questions, listen and care about the other person. But if you can walk away with a name or a suggestion, all the better!

Could an objective third party help your job search?

If you think you’re doing all the right things, but fall flat again and again, maybe just maybe you need an objective third party to help you see what you can’t see.

If you’re getting interviews but no offers, perhaps your interview skills need work. Even if people seem to be responding well and showing signs of liking you, they may not be getting the message “this is the right person for the job I have now”.  It’s a good time to ask friends or family (or even a coach) to help with some practice interviews – maybe even recording yourself to see how you’re really coming off. Ask for honest feedback. This is about your future.

And it’s also a time to make sure your resume and cover letter are serving you well. I had a client once who had a terrific background and interviewed well, but her resume might as well have been a blank piece of gray paper – that’s how badly it undersold her!  But once she redid her resume and learned how to do a cover letter that did her justice, she got lots of interviews. And she got the job!

Have you pulled out all the job search stops?

Are you limiting yourself by thinking small? Where are  you aiming your search? Are you only applying to things you absolutely have the exact skills for? If so, I really want you to know you can get yourself into interviews for things you’ve never done before by packaging yourself well and reframing your transferable skills. Transferable skills are things you’ve done in other jobs that, when packaged slightly differently, can very easily fit into the job you want now.  It helps the employer see you in a different and highly useful light. 

And let’s not forget the already-mentioned power of creative networking. Sometimes non-linear networking can get you to where your plain old “who do you know” networking misses. As I said, you never know who knows someone who knows someone.  Do you limit your chances by compartmentalizing who can help and who can’t?

There was once a lovely homeless woman in my neighborhood named Shirley who I used to give a little money to and also chat with. She had had a tough life and for many reasons was probably not coming off the street any time soon. But she always had a friendly hello for me and a big smile. One day I mentioned that the reason I wasn’t giving her as much as i used to was that I was out of work.  Without even a pause, she offered to put me in touch with her brother, a successful business man. While I didn’t take her up on it, I use this as an example of why we need to be open to serendipity at ALL times.

So maybe it’s time to shake things up?

Now none of this is meant to criticize what you’re doing. I know how hard you’ve been working and how frustrating your job search has been. Just a reminder that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. 😉

So maybe…just maybe…it’s time to shake things up a bit? (Despite the words in the following song, this works for women and men!)


Good luck!

Some related posts from Work Coach Cafe:

Job Search Tips: 7 Ways to Rev Up Your Recession Job Search

12 Ways to Jump Start that “Impossible” Job Search

18 Things You Can Do to Ace Your Job Interview

How a New Resume Got Her the Job Interview!

15 Things I Look for When I Interview People

10 Impressions You Leave Behind After a Job Interview

The Simplest Job Networking Tip of All


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Thanks so much for writing this. Very helpful…great links. It was just what I needed to re-energize…onward and upward!

  2. Thank you so much, Susan! It’s comments like yours that make it all worthwhile for me. Yes… most definitely onward and upward. 😉

    Best of luck, Susan!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  3. Excellent article! The problem is, our institutins have eroded and in such an environment of extreme dysfunction you can’t practice the same search strategies. You can’t search job sites, yo7u can’t search classifieds. Rather, you7 have to create a job description for a dream job in organizations you’d love to work for THAT DOESN’T EXIST then find the people who you would be reporting to in that role then go sell yourself to those people specifically. Most job seekers are woeflly unprepardto achieve success in this new paradigm. We change careers 10X so we need to perfect this invaluable skill of lifelong self-promotion & branding.

    If you’re interested, Ethan let us know he just wrote about career transition strategies on his own blog, linked to his name.

  4. Thank you so much Ethan…not only for the kind words but for the excellent advice about self-promotion and branding being a lifelong thing. Although of course our brand may change as we transition for new things, we never stop needing to clearly communicate and promote who we are.

    Best wishes in your career!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  5. Quick question-is it unprofessional to hand a resume in in person?

  6. Hi Kelly!

    Not sure exactly what you mean, but if you’re asking whether it’s ok to walk right into a company and try to hand the resume to someone in person, the answer is not as quick as the question.

    A long time ago (although maybe even as little as 10 years ago), doing this showed you were not afraid to go the extra mile to make things happen. And often it could get you in the door.

    Now, with the internet telling everyone they have to do whatever they can to stand out – as well as for many other reasons – employers are not on the whole happy to have so many strangers walking in their doors trying to see them.

    That said…there are still some places this would work. And there are some places where this would be very unappreciated. So I can’t answer your question. And it also depends on the type of company, the industry, where you live, where you are in your career, etc.

    Certainly if you want to work for a fast foods place , walking right in and asking to speak with someone may work well. Could also be true for a small local doctor’s office, for example. But if you want to be considered by a major company, you’d probably have to leave it with the receptionist anyway and most likely gain nothing by the effort.

    You’d probably be much better off researching the company and looking for people on LinkedIn who you know who has contacts there. Or using your best networking ability to find people in common – even arranging informationals with folks there or in similar companies to help you find connections and good advice about how to get to a job in that particular industry.

    I hope that helps a little. You’ll have to use your own instincts to decide whether the particular job or industry you want would think it’s a professional idea. I can’ t answer that. And if you want to politely try it – I guess you’ll know when you get there how your approach is received. But in most cases – a really concerted networking effort will get you into more doors and help pave the way for an actual interview.

    You can find a few more networking tips here:

    The Simplest Networking Tip of All

    Good luck! And if anyone else has some good tips for Kelly – or a different opinion – please let us know!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

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