To land a job, focus on what you want, and what you already have.
If you've just graduated or are seeking your first entry-level job, the job search can feel overwhelming - especially since most employers don't advertise dates for job openings, interviews and timelines for the decision making process.
In order to make it manageable, define your targets and area of focus.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in looking for a job is to apply to large numbers of jobs. While this may sound counter-intuitive, think of it as a variation on the law of attraction.
Searching for a job is similar to dating: Your chances of success go up when you know what you are looking for and seek out opportunities to meet people who share your interests – and who are also in the market.
Here are three steps you can take to narrow your interests and increase your chance of success.
An easy way to increase your odds of success is to narrow your focus on where you should apply.
If you don't know what you want to do yet, check out the Department of Labor website, MyNextMove.org. My Next Move offers a simple interest assessment and provides job descriptions that include training requirements, average salary and employer demand by state.
If you know the type of job you want to perform, apply for the job at multiple employers. When you find an employer you want to work for you can search for similar organizations by using a tool available in Indeed.com, the largest job board in the world.
If you know the type of job you want to perform, apply for the job at multiple employers. When you find an employer you want to work for you can search for similar organizations by using a tool available in Google.
For example, let's say you want to find a job working for the Marriott hotel chain.
Search Google for Marriott.
When you find the Marriott entry in the Google search results, click the down arrow to the right of the web address for that entry.
Select "Similar" from the options listed, and you will see a list of related organizations, like the one below.
This will give you a list of other places where you can also look for additional job openings (and more "Similar" lists).
Evaluate job descriptions carefully before you apply. If you meet less than 70 percent of a job description, you will likely not get called for an interview.
Even if you get the job offer, you should ideally only accept work that you feel you can do or learn to do. If you don't have the skill and if training is not provided, you will likely not get strong reviews, good salary increases, or have the possibility of a promotion.
Just as it is easiest to write with your dominant hand, you have natural strengths and talents that can be further developed and help you shine on the job. A proven recipe for success in work and life is to assess your strengths, identify employers that can use those strengths, and market what you can do.
To identify your strengths and get ideas on how you can apply them, check out the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath and take the included assessment.
Even if you could apply to four jobs in the time it takes to do these three steps, refining your search strategy is the equivalent of rowing with the wind instead of against it. Searching for a job can be an arduous process, why make it harder? Think of your job search as an independent research project in which you have the freedom to choose what you want to study and your area of focus. You may not get to choose the interview questions or how you will be evaluated, but you always get to decide where to apply.
E. Chandlee Bryan, M.Ed.(@chandlee) is a career advisor at Dartmouth College. A certified career coach and resume writer, Chandlee's experience includes working as a recruiter, facilitating one of Manhattan's largest job search meetups, and serving as the resume expert for a national Microsoft campaign. She is a co-author of The Twitter Job Search Guide (JIST 2010).