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I have sent my resume to so many places. Why haven’t I heard from anyone?

Once you realize an approach is not working, rather than become discouraged, I suggest you treat the moment as both a wake up call and a great opportunity. Now is the ideal time to re-examine your job search strategy and look for improvements!

By Michelle Friedman

Michelle Friedman is founder of Advancing Women's Careers LLC a coaching and consulting firm based outside of New York City. Michelle Friedman is a certified executive coach, organizational consultant, facilitator and speaker with an expertise in women’s career paths. As Special Advisor to iRelaunch, she participates in a range of roles including developing and onboarding our coaching programs, facilitating iRelaunch corporate strategy sessions and reentry consulting engagements with employers, universities and professional associations, and at the iRelaunch Return to Work Conferences.

We all know that a thorough job search process takes a good deal of time, attention and emotional energy. These are valuable resources you’ll want to invest wisely. Once you realize an approach is not working, rather than become discouraged, I suggest you treat the moment as both a wake up call and a great opportunity. Now is the ideal time to re-examine your job search strategy and look for improvements!

The question posed here is very common. I find many relaunchers begin or primarily conduct their job search by spending countless hours behind their computer, responding to job postings they see online. This approach has been called the “spray and pray” approach, which gives you a hint as to its typical success rate! If you have been spraying and praying, I encourage you to ask yourself why. Could the reason(s) be:

  • It makes you feel like you are busy and actively job searching
  • It feels less threatening than being out speaking with people about what you are looking for, at a time when you might not be as clear as you’d like to be
  • This is what you think a job search looks like

While completely understandable, there are many problems with spending a majority of your job search energy sending out resumes. For starters, this activity is very time-consuming (especially if you are customizing resumes and cover letters for each listing), thereby crowding out the time and attention better spent on higher-value tasks, such as networking. In addition, online job listings are a numbers game to begin with, even for folks with a conventional resume. With the added complexity of a career break, your resume might be less appealing to someone who does not already know you or who has not heard about you from a friend or colleague.

But don’t get me wrong: I am not suggesting you stop sending out resumes altogether. There is a place for this activity in a well-balanced job search, one that includes (and prioritizes) various activities that get you out of the house and meeting with people. For the limited time that you do give to online listings, here are some tips on how to be most effective:

  1. If you are still in the process of clarifying what roles are most interesting to you, then clipping job descriptions and looking for commonalities in skills, responsibilities, etc. will likely be very illuminating. To go a step further, try cutting and pasting all text of the listings into an online “word cloud” generator to see which keywords are showing up most. Take a look at what a client of mine found out about herself:
    A sample Word Cloud of different adjectives, verbs and nouns that Michelle's client discovered with this exercise
  2. Get feedback on your resume and make sure it looks its best. If you hand your resume to someone and give him or her only one minute to scan it, what would they say about you as a candidate? Is it what you want them to take away? If not, invest the time in creating a resume that clearly gets your value proposition across.
  3. Make sure you have an equally compelling LinkedIn profile. Think of this as an online resume that recruiters will surely look at.
  4. When you see a job posting of interest, the next step should be to try and find someone inside the organization that can recommend you for this role. Many organizations have employee referral incentives, and candidates referred by an employee are more likely to be hired than other non-connected applicants. Try looking on LinkedIn to see if you know someone (or have 2nd degree contacts) employed there who can be an ambassador for you.
  5. Follow up on the resumes you do send. Again, identifying a helpful contact in the organization will enhance your follow up.

But most of all, my best advice is to get out from behind the computer and find the jobs that are only discovered through conversations. I encourage you to be talking as much as possible about your relaunch, to everyone. And encourage your spouse or friends to have it top-of-mind as well. I can’t tell you how often I have worked with clients who found the best opportunities hiding in plain sight. I know it will involve putting yourself out there in a bigger way, but I promise it will be worth it!

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