Why Job Hunting Is So Hard, and How to Make It Easier

WorkCoachCafeMillions of people are struggling with their job search right now.  Even if your last job search was fast and easy (the proverbial “piece of cake”), this job search is probably very different.  But, millions of people in the USA land new jobs every month (4,361,000 in June, 2012) .  If they can do it, so can you!  Seriously!

3 Basic Reasons Job Hunting Is SO Hard:

1.  Most people aren’t prepared for a job search.  

Losing a job usually takes people by surprise.  The new job seeker, who wasn’t planning a change, doesn’t know what job they want next, where they want to work next, what to put on their resume (and what to leave off), what to say about the former job/employer, and much more.  They just aren’t ready.

2.  Most people don’t have much practice at job hunting.  

“Practice makes perfect” as the old saying goes, but most people don’t job hunt often enough to be good at it.  It’s something that is done a few times in a career, not usually even annually.  

So, we aren’t prepared, and we don’t have much practice.   Then, to make things more difficult…

3.  The job-search process has changed substantially since that last search.

For most of us, that last job search was at least 2 years ago, often longer if you don’t count changing jobs with the same employer.  But, the whole process has changed substantially in the last 2 years and dramatically in the last 5 years with the increasing use of search engines by employers to check out applicants plus the growing popularity of social networks.

If your last job search was in 2010 or earlier, you are probably not up-to-date in what works in 2012, and you need to do quite a bit of catching up.  Many of the “rules” about effective job hunting have changed.

5 Things You Can Do About It

1.  Get support for your job search.

A solitary job search can be a very difficult, confidence-destroying experience, and it limits your methods and reach to what and who you know yourself.  Find a good job search support group to join.  Check in with your local public library, your local state CareerOneStop Center, your place of worship, or perhaps your college or university offers advice to alumni as well as to new grads. Look around for support.  

Avoid pity-party groups – look for groups or people who can help you with networking, improving your resume, leveraging LinkedIn and other social media, polishing your interviewing skills, and all the other aspects of job search that can impact the success of your job hunt.

If you can’t find an existing group, form your own with a couple of unemployed friends, neighbors, or former colleagues, or – at a minimum – find a job search buddy.  Meet once a week or even more often, if that is helpful.

2. Focus!

Next to a solitary job search, lack of focus is the biggest mistake I see job seekers making!  Ask these unfocused job seekers what they are looking for, and they respond that they can “do anything” or something equally vague.  A vague response is not helpful because it is not memorable for networking (leaving people wondering later, “What is it she said she wanted to do?”), and it sounds like the job seeker is unprepared or just plain doesn’t know what they want. 

Pick one to three jobs that you want next, and identify ten to fifty potential employers.  Then, focus your job search on those jobs and those employers.  

I’m looking for a job as an administrative assistant or social media assistant for a marketing manager in a large local bank or in Company A, Company B, or Company C, based on my 3 years of experience working in administration in Company Z.  I am skilled with Microsoft Office, including PowerPoint as well as Word and Excel, and I helped my last manager establish and maintain the corporate FaceBook pages and the LinkedIn Company Profile.

Ah!  Short, but specific and memorable!

3.  Stay in touch with – and expand – your network

Do always keep in mind that networking works best as a “2-way street” where you give as much (or more) help than you receive.

  • LinkedIn
    If you don’t have a LinkedIn Profile, create one immediately.  You can use parts of your resume as the basis, but don’t stop there.  And also, don’t confuse LinkedIn with a job board.  While LinkedIn does have job postings, the real purpose of LinkedIn is professional networking.  So setting up your Profile is just the beginning, not the end. For more on effectively leveraging LinkedIn, read this free ebook about Personal Branding and Your LinkedIn Profile and also LinkedIn for New Grads has excellent advice for anyone starting their LinkedIn presence.  Be an active member!
  • Former colleagues and coworkers –
    So often when I ask a newly hired person how they landed their new job, the answer is “a guy I worked with in my old job called me” or “my former boss moved and called me when she had a good opening for me.”  LinkedIn Groups have many Groups for “corporate alumni” particularly of large organizations, but also of small ones, and Job-Hunt.org’s corporate (also government and military) alumni group directory has more than 200 groups in it. 
  • Family and friends –
    Reach out to everyone.  It’s nice to get back in touch, and you may be able to help someone with their job search (or something else) as well as getting help with your job search.

4.  Manage your reputation.

The age of anonymity is gone!  We can still have a degree of privacy, but anonymity is over for most of us.  

If a Google search on your name shows nothing (interpreted as you are old fashioned and out-of-touch with how the world works now) or, worse, shows something awful about someone else who has the same name you do (yikes!), consider yourself at risk.

What to do:

  • Providing Social Proof –
    Employers verify what is on your resume with the “Social Proof” they find about you online. This is where LinkedIn becomes critical for a successful job search. 
  • Defensive Googling –
    Is just what it sounds like – checking Google frequently to see what is associated with your name. 

5.  Be prepared for next time.

If you have a good network, a solid online presence (particularly a good LinkedIn Profile), you will have less need for job search skills in the future.  Jobs will find you in the future.  Recruiters LOVE LinkedIn – they are the source of more than 50% of LinkedIn’s substantial revenue.

So, don’t drop all the connections you have made in the process once you have a job.  Stay in touch, and keep that network alive so you are prepared for your next job search (or so you never need to job search again).

In the future – ALWAYS be prepared for a job search.  Most of these 5 strategies, above, are not temporary things to do until you find a new job.  They are permanent, or nearly permanent, for as long as you want an active career.

More About Succeeding at Job Search:

7 Habits of Highly Effective Job Seekers

Why Isn’t LinkedIn Helping My Job Search? 

Job Search Success Strategies (Job-Hunt.org)


© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .


  1. Great tips for how to get ahead on your job search and actually succeed. As you mentioned, job hunting is hard and it’s not something most workers are prepared for. Managing your online presence is extremely important in this increasingly digital age. If your online footprint is full of misspellings, inappropriate language, and negativity, this is not going to look good to employers. Instead, make sure your online brand reflects the candidate you’d like to be seen as. Write an industry-specific blog, connect with people on Twitter, even record a professional video resume to send along with your traditional paper resume. You’ll be showing employers you’re on top of your personal brand and excited for new opportunities.

  2. Good article! I agree that it is important to create a social media network, particularly on Linked In when in career transition. Although you may be “in between” employment ops, you can be let people know you are available for consulting gigs or contract work. I’ve had several clients who shifted from job seeker status to being happily self employed once they started getting contract work.

    I have found that joining several of the Linked in groups provides a great forum for learning as well. If you want to stay current in your profession, mine the Linked in groups for content and do the same on Twitter. Whether you are looking for a job or launching a business, you want to be perceived as having professional credibility and being current in your knowledge base.

    • Thank you, Dee!

      Yes, “mining” LinkedIn Groups is great for learning as well as networking – love the term!

      Excellent points about consulting and contract work between jobs. Very good for employment-gap-management on a resume, as well as starting a career as self-employed.


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