Unemployed but Focused

It took less than one week for me to get a job interview. That gave me a head of steam to push through and keep applying for jobs. After that first interview, though, it became a lesson in focused job hunting. CareerBuilder has a tool called "QuickApply" that allows users to submit the same resume to dozens of jobs at the same time. As soon as I got home after losing my job, I sat down in front of my computer and applied to every single position that had the word "marketing" in it. For someone in a freshly fired mindset, this tactic makes a lot of sense: cast a wide net, catch everything you possibly can. Unfortunately, the end result is wasted time and effort.

After applying to, according to my CareerBuilder account, 46 jobs, I closed the laptop and started making a few phone calls, tapping into my network to see if I could find any leads that way. Within fifteen minutes, I found out that (shocker!) the job market is tight and none of my contacts had much to offer. But those 46 job applications were hard at work, and by the following Monday, I'd lined up three phone interviews and an in-person interview. Unfortunately, I didn't have the first clue about any of the positions because I'd used that stupid QuickApply tool, and couldn't quickly or easily track down each job to get the description, and so fumbled my way through the interviews.

The in-person interview was an ordeal to say the least. It was for a position with an equipment manufacturing company. While I have plenty of marketing experience, I have virtually no exposure to that business sector. I'd taken some time to research the company, their products and their industry prior to the interview, but there's only so much that can be learned in a day. Couple that with my interviewer, who was a Russian engineer with the dead-eyed stare and humorless manner of Vladimir Putin, and I was walking a tightrope for an hour and a half. At the end, I left knowing the job wasn't right for me, nor was I the right person for the job, and Vlad the Impaler had no interest in hiring me (evidenced clearly by his declaration that I'm "lazy or stupid" for not having a master's degree).

What we have here is a lesson in efficiency. Casting a wide net did indeed get me interviews, and very quickly in times of such high unemployment. But it didn't get me a job, and the interviews I did get were for jobs that I would've most likely hated and performed poorly at. And that translates into wasted time and effort. It's a classic case of taking the path of least resistance, making the easy choice for the quick fix, and a repetition of the behavior that's delivered me to my current status. I spent fifteen minutes applying to 46 jobs, which landed me four interview opportunities. That sounds impressive for fifteen minutes of effort, until you consider that I also ended up interviewing for upwards of four hours, spent two hours driving and used gas, only to find out that none of the jobs made sense for me. I'd've been better off spending that time and energy focusing my job search with pinpoint keywords, diligently reading job descriptions, and applying to the ten that sounded like a good match to my skills and goals. Heck, it's not just a matter of the time and resources squandered now, it's also the months or years put into another job leading in the wrong direction if I were to get and accept a job offer.

Since that first week, I've worked much harder at narrowing down the jobs that are a good fit, and crafting my resume and cover letters for those positions. All of my effort has been focused on quality vs. quantity, and the results have been good. I've maintained a steady stream of interviews (at least one in-person interview a week), and only for jobs in which I'm genuinely interested and qualified to do. I'm concerned that this method may take more time to actually land a job, but that's tempered by the thought of derailing myself again by chasing down any job whether it's right or not. I should also mention that I'm not just searching for office and marketing jobs; I'm searching for less conventional jobs that I might also find rewarding. Community service positions, crew jobs, things I've always thought I should experience but have been too intimidated to investigate.

During that first week, I also took the initiative to meet with a career counselor at my local job center as a method of evaluating my career path, and developing some goals. Everyone should do this, if it's an option. For me, it was an opportunity for the obvious to slap me across the face, and sometimes people need that. It also opened my eyes to several resources I otherwise wouldn't have found. Something that's particularly interesting is O*NET Online. It's an incredibly interesting site with a wealth of information about careers, education, and guidance in goal setting. If you're even remotely quizzical about your career path, spend at least an hour on that site. It's well worth it.

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