Are you making mistakes in your job search? Chances are, you’re making at least one or two — if not more! Run through this list and identify which mistakes you’re currently making — and then follow the suggestions to learn how to stop making that mistake!

Top 10 Job Seeker Mistakes

  1. Looking for a Job vs. a Career. Wait, I shouldn’t look for a job? Don’t just look for a job — look for a career. A calling. What are you meant to do? How can you use your skills, education, and experience for maximum benefit? You may not see that position advertised in a job posting. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. What kinds of problems could you solve for an organization? What kind of organization needs those problems solved? Investigate how you could solve that problem for that kind of organization.
  2. Not Targeting Your Job Search. What kinds of jobs are you interested in? What kind of organization do you want to work for? If your answer is, “I don’t care, I just need a job,” your job search is less likely to be successful than if you spend some time thinking about where you want to work, and what you want to do (and how to get there!).
  3. Not Making It Easy for an Employer to See How You’d Fit In. Generic resumes don’t attract employer attention. Instead, you need to show an employer how you can add value to their organization. You need to customize your tool for the job. You wouldn’t use a hammer to tighten a screw, would you? You can’t use the same resume to apply for vastly different jobs — for example, an Information Technology (IT) position and a job as a budget assistant. Figure out what the key components of the job are, and then showcase how you can do those things in your resume.
  4. Confusing Activity With Action. Are you confusing “busywork” with progress? Are you spending a lot of time researching jobs online and applying for lots of positions? While it’s recommended that you spend at least an hour a day on your job search if you are currently employed (and two to three times that if you are currently unemployed), make sure you are tracking how much time you are spending, and what you are spending it on. Spend your time on high value tasks — like identifying and researching organizations you’d like to work for, and trying to connect directly with hiring managers, and having coffee with someone who works for the organization you’re applying at — and not just simply spending time in front of your computer.
  5. Paying Attention to Other People’s Opinions. “You have to do this,” “Never do that,” “My cousin’s best friend got a job by standing out in front of the organization wearing a sandwich board.” Everyone’s got an opinion about how to conduct a job search. Some of it is confusing, some of it is just plain wrong. Your friends and family can be wrong about how the job search works, and it might hurt your chances to get your dream job. Trust your instincts. Don’t believe everything you read online, and remember that one person’s opinion is just that — one person’s opinion.
  6. Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results. “I applied for six jobs and haven’t heard anything back.” Well, then something’s not working. Either stop applying for advertised positions, start following up on the applications you’ve already put in, or figure out a different way to connect with your dream job. It’s been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something different!
  7. Not Paying Attention to What Worked For You Before in Your Job Search. This is the opposite of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This time, we want you to achieve the same result as before — a great job. So look at what worked for you the last time you landed the job you wanted. Were you networking at a professional association meeting? At your child’s basketball game and struck up a conversation with the person next to you? Or did you apply on an agency’s website? Consider doing more of what worked for you last time and see if it works for you again.
  8. Putting All Your Eggs In One Basket. “But this is my dream job!” While that may be true, you will have a better chance of getting a better job if you don’t rely on a single opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to have two or three job offers to choose from? That’s only going to happen if you diversify your job search. Apply for multiple positions — even a couple you think you wouldn’t necessarily accept. You never know — you might learn in the interview process that it really is your dream job.
  9. Not Spending Enough Time on Your Job Search. You’ve probably heard it said that looking for a job is a job in itself. That’s partially true. Yes, some people will hear about an opportunity from a friend and get hired (sometimes without even applying). But for the vast majority of jobseekers, you’ll have to invest time in getting your resume prepared, applying for positions, following up, and more.
  10. Spending Too Much Time on Your Job Search. On the other hand, it is possible to spend too much time on your job search. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your job search and, the next thing you know, it’s 1 a.m. Remember, one of the best ways to find your next job is talking to people you know. So give yourself permission to “stop working” on your job search and hang out with your friends. (And maybe make some new friends while you’re at it!)

Also, don’t overlook the following common mistakes:

  • Networking The Wrong Way. Second only to not using your network at all is using it incorrectly. Your network is comprised of all the people that you know and also all the people that they know. Don’t just think that because you don’t personally know anyone who works for Organization ABC that you’re out of luck using your network. Ask the people you know who they know. But remember that networking requires relationship building and relationship management. If you haven’t talked to someone for five years, don’t let your first contact with them be, “Hey, can you help me get a job at your organization?” Author Harvey Mackay has a great book on this: “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.”
  • Being Unprepared For Your Job Search. You need tools to help you succeed in your job search. An updated, targeted resume. A “complete” LinkedIn profile with at least 150 connections. Cover letters. Thank you letters. Answers to the top 20 interview questions you might be expected to answer. You wouldn’t go into battle unarmed; don’t go into a job search unprepared.
  • Not Thanking People Who Have Helped You Along The Way. Once you’ve successfully landed your new job, don’t forget to go back and thank those people who helped you with your job search. That will help ensure they’re willing to help you the next time you’re looking to make a move.

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.